Just thought I’d share this great photo of Steve Martin—long before his hair turned gray—circa 1970. Martin had been a staff writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour which had been canceled by CBS the year before.
AJ Weberman is infamous, if he is known at all, among Dylan aficionados for being the obsessed stalker who Bob Dylan physically assaulted in 1971 because he had been harassing his family. Weberman picked through their trash (he calls his stinky style of sleuthing the science of “Garbology”) and staged demonstrations (with the “Dylan Liberation Front,” the students of his “Dylanology” classes) outside of Dylan’s MacDougal Street brownstone, apparently with the aim of convincing Dylan to, uh, join the revolution, man… but having the result of really pissing him off.
Bob Dylan vs. A.J. Weberman is the title of a much-sought after Dylan curio, a bootleg LP made from recordings of Weberman and Dylan talking on the telephone. It’s a fascinating conversation—indeed it’s what got the filmmakers interested in such an odd character in the first place—but it’s baffling why a superstar like Bob Dylan would have given such a freak his phone number in the first place (Weberman taught a class in “Dylanology” and had interviewed Dylan for the underground press before he got weird on him).
Here’s what Weberman told Rolling Stone’s Marc Jacobson, years later, about the time Dylan beat him up:
“I’d agreed not to hassle Dylan anymore, but I was a publicity-hungry motherfucker. . . . I went to MacDougal Street, and Dylan’s wife comes out and starts screaming about me going through the garbage. Dylan said if I ever fucked with his wife, he’d beat the shit out of me. A couple of days later, I’m on Elizabeth Street and someone jumps me, starts punching me.
“I turn around and it’s like—Dylan. I’m thinking, ‘Can you believe this? I’m getting the crap beat out of me by Bob Dylan!’ I said, ‘Hey, man, how you doin’?’ But he keeps knocking my head against the sidewalk. He’s little, but he’s strong. He works out. I wouldn’t fight back, you know, because I knew I was wrong. He gets up, rips off my ‘Free Bob Dylan’ button and walks away. Never says a word.
“The Bowery bums were coming over, asking, ‘How much he get?’ Like I got rolled. . . . I guess you got to hand it to Dylan, coming over himself, not sending some fucking lawyer. That was the last time I ever saw him, except once with one of his kids, maybe Jakob, and he said, ‘A.J. is so ashamed of his Jewishness, he got a nose job,’ which was true—at least in the fact that I got a nose job. . . .”
I’ve had my own (one-sided) run-ins with the notoriously prickly Weberman: In April of 1997, only a matter of a few months after Disinformation was launched on the Internet, I posted an innocuous enough item there about Aron Kay AKA “Pie Man,” another aging Yippie holdover like Weberman who was known for his habit of “pieing” people he thought deserved ridiculing like Anita Bryant, William F. Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt and Andy Warhol.
Kay and Weberman are old cronies and I guess what happened is that he told Weberman about this counterculture website that had written about him and Weberman took a look, noticed a collection of links to various JFK assassination sites that I’d prepared, saw that his JFK assassination site wasn’t listed there and promptly started leaving long, hateful, spiteful messages (three in all) on my answering machine. Someone I’d never met was fucking furious at me, over something that I didn’t do. My sin was one of omission—I didn’t know about his website—but it seemed to leave the guy utterly unhinged.
I didn’t hear from him again for ten years until my wife signed me up for Facebook. One day soon afterwards she asked me: “Do you know some dude named AJ Weberman? He’s saying shitty things about you and trolling you on your Facebook wall.”
“Oh that guy. No, I don’t know him, but he’s done this before to me, just ban him, will you?”
That’s the end of my AJ Weberman story, although I suspect he’ll read this post and have something to say in the comments.
Via email, I asked the filmmakers, James Bluemel and Oliver Ralfeabout getting tangled up with Weberman:
I know that both of you are big Dylan fans. How did you stumble across AJ Weberman and decide to make a film about him?
We first came across Weberman in various biographies of Dylan. He was and probably always will be portrayed as a persistent nuisance in the extreme. The way people wrote about him was purely hateful which stuck out. We then heard the bootlegged phone call him made to Dylan which made for fascinating listening and we thought, ‘I wonder what this guy is doing now?’
What do you make of his “Dylanology”?
Weberman has an incredible analytical brain. His conclusions maybe off kilter but the ride is entertaining and sometimes illuminating. While many scholars interpret Dylan’s work within the vernacular of the blues or folk music traditions, it’s interesting to read Dylan from a street slang, streetwise level, which is where Weberman places him. And some of his insights, the way he sees those songs are fascinating. However, I feel Weberman has an agenda which often shapes his interpretations and distorts them. Some of his conclusions I disagree with, some anger me, some amuse me. It’s important to note for those that haven’t seen the film, that it’s not just a mouth piece for Weberman’s insights and wild fantasies about Dylan – there’s plenty of that you can read for yourselves on the web if you want to.
In the infamous recording of his phone conversation with Dylan, I couldn’t for the life of me understand Dylan’s own motivation in bothering to accommodate an asshole like Weberman. Most people, let alone someone as famous as Bob Dylan, would have told Weberman to go fuck himself or let the police deal with him, but Dylan, even after insulting him, continues to speak with him—albeit warily—and even agrees to a future call. Do you think Dylan was thinking “Well this guys a kook, but he’s a fan, so I owe him politeness” and just trying to deal with him on that level or WHAT? (My wife remarked during that part of your film “Why does Bob Dylan stay on the phone with this creep?” as well. It bothered her!)
I think perhaps Dylan was trying to work out how much of a nut Weberman was. This is a good few years before Lennon was shot but I bet part of Dylan’s receptiveness to Weberman was to try to work out if he was dangerous. By the time of the phone call however, Dylan had met Weberman a number of times and probably worked out that he wasn’t a psycho, so I think there was something else going on. I think in some way Dylan enjoyed the banter. Weberman does not kowtow to Dylan, he doesn’t let him get away with anything on that call, he challenges Dylan and when Dylan counter attacks these challenges, Weberman comes back at him with more. Perhaps Dylan found this refreshing to the hordes of people that fell over themselves to agree with him and praise him.
I’ve never had any personal interaction with Weberman, but he’s called my apartment in NYC and left abusive messages for me and some nasty posts on my Facebook wall. However, I must say, he doesn’t seem nearly as crazy in your film as I imagined he’d be in real life. Do you reckon he was on his best behavior because there was a camera on him?
Not really. Weberman has a nasty streak in him which I think you see in our film but it’s not the only aspect of his personality.
Near the start of the film he admits to getting physical with his wife resulting in a retraining order and also of spending some time in jail. How long was he actually incarcerated for dealing pot?
I forget now – I think the sentence was two years.
How does Weberman make a living these days?
It’s a good question. I believe he does a bit of work gathering information for the Jewish Defense League. He also writes books – the Dylan to Englishdictionary, his book on who really killed JFK and Homo Thug which was about Giuliani. I don’t know how much money he makes from these however.
How did he react to your film? Did he throw a tantrum and call your voice mail repeatedly? Nasty emails?
He never really commented on the film. In fact, he has never really asked us any personal questions about our lives at all. When we meet up with him these days, it’s just straight into whatever is on his mind. So no, he’s never let on what he thought about it. He probably would have preferred it if we used more of his Dylanology rants and kept in some of the more outrageous conclusions he comes up with. There was one point while shooting he said he would prefer it if we stopped filming, then he immediately changed his mind and said fuck it, lets keep it in the style of cinéma vérité. I liked that.
Have you ever heard if Bob Dylan saw your doc? I’d imagine that he’d get a real kick out of it.
I really hope he has seen it. I gave a copy to the producer of No Direction Home who promised he’d pass it on to Dylan. Who knows if that happened? If he has seen it, I hope he liked it.
It’s Bob Dylan’s birthday - Happy Birthday Bob. But rather than the usual cake, candles and documentary clip, here’s a slightly different birthday card: 2 versions of Dylan’s “Masters of War” slowed down by 400% and 800% by Angel Musicfication.
Oregon -based artist Kay Petal makes these whimsical sculptural needle-felted rock star dolls. Kay says, “Using single, barbed felting needles I sculpt wool fibers into solid felted wool characters with heart and soul. My characters are soft and flexible yet strong and durable.”
And guess what? Kay will even make one of YOU! You can contact her on the website Felt Alive for more information.
Famous visitors and “beautiful people” with “star potential” who visited Andy Wahol’s Factory studio in the 1960s were often shot for Warhol’s “screen tests,” his silent “parodies” of the Hollywood studio system. No one was really auditioning for anything, it was just an excuse to run a single reel of 16mm film through his Bolex camera and engage someone in a staring contest with it, one they normally lost (after a minute or so of trying to look “cool,” the mask was normally dropped and the simple portraits become quite revealing). The two and a half minute reels were then slowed down and printed.
Some of the more notable subjects included Italian model Benedetta Barzini, model/actrress Marisa Berenson, poet Ted Berrigan, Salvador Dalí, Donovan, Marcel Duchamp, Mama Cass, Allen Ginsberg, Beck’s mother, Bibbe Hansen, Baby Jane Holzer, Dennis Hopper, actress Sally Kirkland, Nico, Yoko Ono, Lou Reed, photographer Francesco Scavullo, Edie Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, artist Paul Thek, Viva and Mary Woronov
When Dylan stopped by the tin-foil covered Factory, he is alleged to have taken an immediate dislike to Warhol and the “phonies” of his entourage. It has long been suspected that the spitting lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone,” in part, describe Dylan’s feelings about Warhol—was he “the diplomat on the chrome horse”?—and how he felt about the artist’s perceived exploitation of Edie Sedgwick, who Dylan was at one point romantically involved with (and who was his muse for some of Blonde on Blonde).
After the screen test was shot, Dylan grabbed a large silkscreen (as “payment”) that Warhol was going to give him anyway and headed for the door (before allegedly strapping the canvas to the roof of a station wagon). Such was his dislike of the artist that he later traded the piece to his manager, Albert Grossman, for a couch. That silkscreen, “Double Elvis,” is now part of the permanent collection at MOMA.
Here’s Factory photographer Nat Finkelstein’s account of what happened:
“Andy gave Bobby a great double image of Elvis. Bobby gave Andy short shrift. Shooting and plundering finished, the Dylan gang headed for the door, me and my Nikon on their heels. They left as they had entered…‘Bobby the Waif’ emerging as ‘Robert the Triumphant’. They departed having tied the Elvis image to the top of their station wagon, like a deer poached out of season. Much later, Bobby told me he’d traded the Elvis (now worth millions) to his manager Albert Grossman for a couch!”
Bob Dylan and the Band caught on b&w half-inch open reel videotape at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 31, 1969. Dylan had rejected an offer to play at Woodstock to headline the festival.
Allegedly this was shot by a friend of John Lennon and Ringo Starr (who can be seen in the audience here). This makes sense because a) only someone relatively wealthy would have had access to a half-inch open reel video-recorder at the time and b) whoever shot this was right up front.
Beatle George Harrison died ten years ago on November 29, 2001.
Below, you can watch the entire historic Concert For Bangladesh performance featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Badfinger, Jesse Ed Davis, Klaus Voorman and Mother of Invention Don Preston.
Harrison walks onstage at 22 minutes in—after a fiery opening set by Ravi Shankar—and the supergroup (led by bandleader Leon Russell) launch into his blistering anti-Macca number “Wah Wah,” one of the best songs on his sprawling All Things Must Pass album.
(You might not want to wait too long to watch this one, who knows how long this is going to last on YouTube…)
In January 1964, Bob Dylan released his classic third album The Times They Are A Changin’. As part of the promotion for the record, Dylan was offered a half-hour slot on Canadian TV’s arts series Quest. The loose form of the show suited Dylan and allowed him to showcase 3 tracks from his new record and 3 from previous album, Freewheelin Bob Dylan.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
“Talkin’ World War III Blues”
“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”
“Girl from the North Country”
“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”
It was momentous piece of television, one that firmly established Dylan as “the voice of his generation”, as he sang his most radical folk songs, which, in light of Occupy Wall Street, are still as relevant and as important today.
Yesterday on NPR, there was a segment where Los Angeles Times music critic Ann Powers was asked if a “new Bob Dylan”—or at least a new “name” singer/songwriter—had stepped forward with a song that really crystalized what the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are all about. Powers answered that, no, it hadn’t really happened because of the leaderless, un-amplified nature of the movement’s setting, and she was was right, but I’m guessing that she hasn’t heard the music of 23-year-old London-based soul singer Michael Kiwanuka... yet.
Why should we expect that the “Blowin’ In The Wind” of 2011 was actually going to come from Zuccotti Park, anyway? For me, Michael Kiwanuka’s new song, “I’m Getting Ready” could be the song that best sums up the historical moment we’re in. It’s not as if he’s addressing “revolution” or Occupy Wall Street or any other specific location or uprising around the globe with the song’s simple lyrics. There are no grievances aired, no complaints or demands made. But what he has done is compose and perform an “anthem” level song—it’s gorgeous and uplifting, almost a hymn—that makes the case for standing up for yourself. It’s beautifully of the moment.
I haven’t been this knocked out by a new talent since I got hip to Laura Marling. With “I’m Getting Ready,” Kiwanuka takes the whole Nick Drake/Nico’s Chelsea Girl thing and really makes it his own. His voice is strong—Bill Withers-level strong—and he’s a cool-looking motherfucker, too. Dig his Tappa Zukie fashion sense! I have a feeling Michael Kiwanuka is going to become a very big star in the coming months.
If anyone is organizing a benefit concert for Occupy Wall Street, Michael Kiwanuka would be an absolute must for that bill.
See what you think:
After the jump, “Tell Me A Tell,” which is a much different sounding song altogether than “I’m Getting Ready,” but equally gorgeous!
A new series of drawings and paintings by Bob Dylan that form a visual diary of his travels in Asia last spring will be on display at the Gagosian Gallery in New York beginning September 20. The gallery says that this will the first time ever that Dylan’s art will be exhibited in NYC:
The gallery said in a news release that Mr. Dylan’s works would offer “firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape” with evocative titles like “Mae Ling,” “Cockfight,” “The Bridge” and “Hunan Province.” The release added: “Conversely, there are more cryptic paintings often of personalities and situations, such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Opium,’ or ‘LeBelle Cascade,’ which looks like a riff on Manet’s ‘Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe’ but which is, in fact, a scenographic tourist photo-opportunity in a Tokyo amusement arcade.” Mr. Dylan’s paintings have previously been shown in Chemnitz, Germany (where the exhibition “The Drawn Blank Series” opened in 2007), the Statens Museum in Copenhagen (where his “Brazil Series” was shown in 2008) and any rec room where the cover of his “Self Portrait” album has been prominently displayed.
Novelist and folk singer Richard Fariña is the missing link (or “Kevin Bacon” if you prefer) connecting author Thomas Pynchon (the best man at Fariña’s wedding to Mimi Baez) and Bob Dylan. Some have called Fariña an out-sized influence on the young Dylan, who allegedly aped the older man’s world-weary bohemian attitudes and persona. (It was also Fariña who allegedly suggested to Dylan that he hitch his horse to a then-rising star Joan Baez (his sister-in-law), ditch the folk thing, and start a new genre of music: poetry that people could dance to).
Richard and Mimi Fariña (along with Bruce Langhorne on tambourine), recorded this vaguely Near East-sounding dulcimer drone on their 1963 album Celebrations for a Grey Day, as a tribute to Pynchon’s first novel, V. Fariña said of the song, which seems like it was inspired by the Alexandria of V‘s chapter five, in the liner notes:
“Call it an East-West dreamsong in the Underground Mode for Tom Pynchon and Benny Profane. The literary listener will no doubt find clues to the geographical co-ordinates of Vheissu, the maternal antecedents of the younger Stencil, and a three-dimensional counter-part of Botticelli’s Venus on the half-shell. May they hang again on a western wall.”
Fariña, whose claim to fame was the “road” novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, died tragically on April 30, 1966, in a motorcycle accident. It was his wife’s 21st birthday. Fariña was just 29. Thomas Pynchon later dedicated his classic 1973 novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, to Richard Fariña.
An interview with Bob Dylan dating back to when he was working on the Hollywood movie Hearts of Fire, in which Dylan played a retired rocker called Billy Parker. Hearts of Fire co-starred Rupert Everett, Ian Dury and Fiona, and was written by overblown Hollywood scriptwriter, Joe Eszterhas. The film bombed, and was sadly the last feature from director Richard Marquand (best known for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Jagged Edge and Eye of the Needle), who died not long after completing the film.
This interview with Dylan formed the basis for a rarely seen BBC Omnibus documentary called Getting to Dylan (1987), directed by Christopher Sykes.
I guess when you’ve reached 70-years-old, and certain things come out about your past, you can brush if off a lot easier when the events in question have a vintage of 40+ years. Yesterday, the BBC reported that a previously unheard interview with Bob Dylan reveals that he was once addicted to heroin.
After a concert late one Saturday night in March 1966 Bob Dylan, while on tour in the US, boarded his private plane in Lincoln, Nebraska bound for Denver with his friend Robert Shelton.
Over the next two hours Shelton taped an interview with Dylan which he later described as a “kaleidoscopic monologue”.
At one point, the singer, who turns 70 this week, admits he had been addicted to heroin in the early 1960s.
“I kicked a heroin habit in New York City,” he confesses. “I got very, very strung out for a while, I mean really, very strung out. And I kicked the habit. I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it.”
There have been rumours that Dylan was involved with heroin. But Mick Brown, a writer on The Daily Telegraph who has interviewed Dylan, says he has never heard the singer confirm the speculation.
“It’s extraordinary that he should be talking about it quite so candidly,” he remarks.
Elsewhere on the tapes, Dylan reveals he contemplated suicide after people started calling him a genius.
“Death to me is nothing… death to me means nothing as long as I can die fast. Many times I’ve known I could have been able to die fast, and I could have easily gone over and done it.”
“I’ll admit to having this suicidal thing… but I came through this time,” he says.
Shelton describes Dylan as “twisting restlessly” during the interview - animated at times, despondent at others.
Dylan, who turns 70 today also says on the tapes, regarding his songwriting talents:
“I take it less seriously than anybody. “I know that it’s not going to help me into heaven one little bit, man. It’s not going to get me out of the fiery furnace. It’s certainly not going to extend my life any and it’s not going to make me happy. You can’t be happy by doing something groovy.”