This got me to look up the Letterman performance, and here's a YouTube comment posted three weeks ago. It's Dylan-related, so it could just be an imaginative tall tale. (I cleaned up some of Henry's quotation marks and spacing.)
Henry Edwards3 weeks agoTHE REALSTORY BEHIND “HARMONICA-GATE”. I was the person who handed Bob Dylan the harmonica during this performance on David Letterman. My name is Ed and back in the day I worked for one of the biggest rock and roll production managers in the country Michael Ahern who in turn worked for Bill Graham. At the time Bill Graham was doing production for Bob Dylan. I got a call from Michael saying Dylan was appearing on the David Letterman show the following week ( I think it was a Thursday) and could I take care of his “back line duties.” Backline means setting up the drums, amps, guitars etc. and taking care of whatever technical needs the band might have. Bob was scheduled to perform two songs on the show that night. On the second song he told me to have a harmonica in a certain key sitting on his Marshall amplifier so he could pick it up and play it towards the end of the song. He used it and everything worked out perfectly. At that point I figured my job was pretty much over for the night, you know wait for the show to finish pack up the gear and go home. Then all of a sudden I was told (by Bob’s son) that Letterman asked Bob to do a third song to close the show and I should have a harmonica ready again. He said it should be in the key of D (if I remember correctly). Now Bob’s son was still a teenager at this time and I was a little wary of the messenger so I took it upon myself to backstage to the dressing room to ask Bob personally. When I got there he was really busy speaking with friends and industry types and I said something to the effect of “hey Bob your son said you need a harmonica in the key of D for the last song”. Bob turns to me and says “ah yea that’s right”. So I figure great end of story, but no not end of story because Bob mistakenly (because he was busy with his guests) told me “ah yea sure”. So I set up everything the way I was told and the third song started. Halfway through the song Bob takes off his guitar hands it to me picks up the harmonica starts blowing immediately stops looks left to me and says “what the fuck it’s the wrong key”. I say “what key do you need?”. He says “G”. I think to myself oh shit that harmonica is on the other side of the drums, so I go running (on camera) behind the drummer to fetch the right one. It took about twenty seconds but seemed like a fucking lifetime! After the song was over I turned to Bob and said “what happened what happened”. He said “I got mixed up”. All of a sudden Bob’s manager Mick Brigdon was all over me saying “what the hell just happened?”. I said Bob asked for the wrong harp”. He said “don’t you move, wait right here”. He came back two minutes later and said “never mind”. I started to pack up the gear thinking shit these guys are never going hire me again! A month later I got a call asking me if I would go on the up coming European Tour as his guitar tech.
― clemenza, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 11:44 (two years ago) link
― Yanni Xenakis (Hadrian VIII), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 13:40 (two years ago) link
Great story, thanks! Came back to say that I think punk period also incl. John Wesley Harding, challenging sentimental and escapist elements of folk, proto-Americana, etc: "Note to self and others: back to roots incl. back to assholes," although he leaves plenty room for inference that it's the whole, not just boondocks, American-to-AmeriKKKan corrupt, good-ul' boy status quo he's got his eye on (and some confessions of complicity in there too). Jon Landau's review: "Dylan has felt the War"---he meant Vietnam, but in Chronicles, D talks about going to the New York Public Library early on, and reading way back in the newspapers, from Revolutionary times maybe, certainly the Civil War and what led up to it and "away" from it, incl, stuff talked/written around in the papers.Also in Chronicles, he claims he made Self Portrait to get the worshipful crazies off his back (also off his porch at 3 am, he said in the book or elsewhere), and it's extreme enough (always was, but we now know from Another Self-Portrait[ and related sessions on Travelin' Man, that the original SP could have been a lot better), to count it as a big fat hock-a-loogie fuck you.
― dow, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:51 (two years ago) link