About 15 years ago, Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour came through my town again. I went though the motions of requesting an interview through his label, knowing full well he wasn’t about to waste a second of his time talking to a halfwit reporter from a second-rate paper in a two-bit prairie burg. So I did the next best thing: I cobbled together a bunch of his quotes from other sources, made up my own silly questions and filled the space. Ironically enough, a lot of people enjoyed it. With Rough and Rowdy Ways — his first new studio album in eight years — arriving this week, it seemed like a good a time as any to pull out this sucker. Truth be told, it’s probably about as revealing as any actual interview he’s given in the past couple of decades. Enjoy.
You may call him Terry. You may call him Jimmy. You may call him Bobby. You may call him Zimmy. You may call him R.J. You may call him Ray. You may call him anything, but no matter what you say, you can’t call Bob Dylan for an interview.
At least, I can’t. As usual, the reclusive singer isn’t doing any press to promote his latest national swing on his so-called Never Ending Tour, which brings him back to the Winnipeg Arena. But thankfully, Dylan isn’t always so tight-lipped. Every now and then, he lets slip with a bon mot — sometimes from the stage and occasionally with a member of the media. And a lot of the things he’s said lately answer a lot of the questions I wanted to ask him anyway. So I took all those quotes from other sources, put my questions in front of them and voila! It’s my very own completely exclusive — and completely fabricated — Bob Dylan “interview.” And I didn’t even have to negotiate with a publicist …
First, why won’t you talk to me?
“You can’t achieve greatness under media scrutiny. You’re never allowed to be less than your legend.” (USA Today, September 2001)
Well, you are a legend. You’ve influenced generations of musicians.
“Well … you know, you can influence all kinds of people, but sometimes it gets in the way — especially if somebody is accusing you of influencing somebody that you had no interest in influencing in the first place. I’ve never given it any mind at all, really. I don’t really care to influence anybody at this time, and if I have influenced anybody, what can I say?” (Guitar World, 1999)
But wouldn’t your intentions be clearer if you were more available to the public?
“People can learn everything about me through my songs, if they know where to look.” (Unknown, 1990)
True. But your songs mean different things to different people, and change meaning over the years.
“Thank you! Many of you probably don’t know that (All Along the Watchtower) is the theme song of Czechoslovakia now. Yeah!” (Onstage in Winnipeg, 1990)
Oh, so you’re a comedian now? OK funny man, know any good jokes?
“We went out for some seafood, and (my drummer) asked them ’Do you serve crabs?’ ‘Sure do, sit right down,’ they told him.” (Onstage in California, 2000)
That’s not funny at all. Want to try again?
“(My guitarist) hurt his foot today, we had to call a toe truck!” (Onstage in Minnesota, 2000)
What, did Milton Berle leave you his jokes in his will? OK, I’ll give you one last try.
“You know, I was talking to Neil Young yesterday and he said to me, he said, ‘Bob, you just can’t hear cool music on the radio anymore…’ and I says to Neil, I says, ’Sure — you just need to stick your radio in the refrigerator.” (Onstage in Phoenix, 1999)
Please stop. How about some of your more serious statements through the years? Can you remember them?
“I have no idea what I said back then. Don’t you worry about it. It’s like something you wrote five years ago, who cares about that now?” (Rome interview, July, 2001)
Yeah, it must be tough to be Bob Dylan all the time.
“You can’t be who you want to be in daily life — I don’t care who you are, you are going to be disappointed in daily life. The cure for all that is to get up on stage and that is why performers do it. But in saying that, I don’t want to put on the mask of celebrity. I’d rather just do my work and see it as a trade.” (Sunday Mirror, July 2001)
You seem to have a humble view of your art.
“This is what I was put on Earth to do. Just like Shakespeare was going to write his plays, the Wright Brothers were going to invent an aeroplane, like Edison was going to invent a telephone.” (Time/USA Today, 2001)
OK, maybe you’re not THAT humble. Let’s switch topics: What do you think of music today?
“Everything on the radio sounds hideous.” (Time/USA Today, 2001)
What about back in the ’60s, when everybody tried to sound like you?
“People who came after me, I don’t feel, were ever my peers or contemporaries, because they didn’t really have any standing in traditional music. They didn’t play folk songs. They heard me and thought, ’Oh this guy writes his own songs, I can do that’. They can, of course, but those songs don’t have any resonance.” (Time/USA Today, 2001)
What causes resonate with you these days?
“WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is a good cause, I support them, and am proud to lend my music to this effort. Early on, animals were the only ones who liked my music. Now it’s payback time.” (Unknown, May 2001)
You’ve been on your Never Ending Tour for years now. How do you do it?
“A lot of people can’t stand touring but to me it’s like breathing. I do it because I’m driven to do it. At times in my life the only place I have been happy is when I am on stage.” (Sunday Mirror, July 2001)
Did you always want to be a musician?
“I didn’t really choose to do what you are seeing me do right now. It chose me. If I had any choice I would have been a scientist, an engineer or a doctor. That’s the kind of people I look up to. But I’m an entertainer. I’m in light entertainment.” (Rome interview, July 2001)
Any parting words?
“That which ties everyone together and which makes everyone equal is our mortality. Everything must come to an end.” (Rome interview, July 23, 2001)
Oh, that’s cheery.
“As soon as you enter this world you’re old enough to leave it.” (Rome interview, July 2001)