Exhuming Bob 23b of a & b: Bob, Andy, Edie And Like A Rolling Stone
January 27, 2010
Exhuming Bob 23b
Of a & b.
Bob, Andy, Edie
And Like A Rolling Stone
The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether
All the fags and dykes they boogien’ together
Leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.
The FBI dancin’ with the junkies
All the straights are swingin with the funkies
Cross the floor and up the wall
Freakin’ at the Freakers ball,
Freakin’ at the Freakers ball.
Oh no! Must be the season of the witch.
It may be true that the answer was blowin’ in the wind but, if so, as Donovan said: You might as well try to catch the wind and nobody did. Nobody even had a clue as the inmates poured out their cells and seized the asylum. Even then it wasn’t so easy to tell the nuts from the Docs.
His parents brought a seventeen year old to the asylum to be cured of homosexual tendencies. The psychiatrists had an astonishing method for a cure. Strapping the kid to the torture rack they fixed a couple of electrodes to his body and sent some serious voltage coursing the through his existence rearranging a few brain cells on the way. As his body arched when the juice hit him one is reminded of the prisoner on death row when the steel cap was lowered on his shaved skull. As maximum voltage coursed through his body he too convulsed but when the skull cap was removed the temperature of his blood in his brain was 212 degrees. They’d boiled him to death.
The kids temperature didn’t rise that high but they still managed to scramble his brain. His memory was so blotted he got lost trying to walk around his own block. The cure was worse than the disease. The cure was in fact, no cure as he remained a homosexual. And they call that medicine.
As soon as the kids eyes uncrossed he picked up a guitar and began to wail. Then he formed a band and began to formulate what he would call Metal Machine Music. He hooked up with Doctor Filth who ran an asylum called The Factory that he filled with mental cases. Unlike the psychiatrists Dr. Filth intended to create mental cases.
The kid picked up a whip, donned his leathers and began to boogie. Those leather freaks. Uncomfortable in their own skins they wear the flayed skins of cows, a feminine skin not their own. A guitar and a spike all anyone needed. Jamming his spike in his arm the kid flew from the asylum Factory out to the Cuckoo’s Nest in Keseyland.
Now known as the Velvet Underground, the kid, going by the personal of Lou Reed landed in a disused bowling alley where he and his three bandmates gave a concert. there were perhaps a hundred fifty people in the audience of which a hundred had been let in free by one of the promoters. Imagine a promoter opening the back door for free.
The audience in the bleachers stepped up to the ceiling where the top row required them to stoop to seat themselves edged into their seats. Keep your eye on the right top corner, that’s where the action will be. This was the first concert the promoters had done. The band stood on the floor two thirds of the way down the alleys. The spotlight was on their right directed across the group rather than down on them. I thought it was an interesting effect. The Cuckoo’s Nest had never seen anyhthing like this. A girl drummer had what appeared to be a single snare drum with a mallet underslung so it hammered the bottom of the snare while she banged away at the top with the sticks. Not exactly a beat more like a steady unvarying rumble, an effect almost as interesting as the lights. The two guitars and the bass of the leather clad crew began to hammer out the sound which was just like what became Metal Machine Music although more articulated. Not exactly as continuous am MMM but close.
Then the singer began to chant something about heroin. This wasn’t The Factory this was the Cuckoo’s Nest. A disquieting murmur underscored the machine music. Then some local agitators had a guy stand up to shout out incitements to a riot. The light guy got uneasy. The Velvets twitched, a note of panic came into Reed’s voice. Without so much as a change of tone he incorporated ‘Turn off the light’ into the lyric as the crowd began to think of rushing the Velvets and they gave every indication of bolting.
Turn off the lights, hell. I knew who the agitators must be so I swung the light from the Velvets across the crowd to the right corner where I picked up the agitators. I left the spot on them steadily. Their anonymity stripped from them the crowd recognized them and quieted down. The Velvets hadn’t missed a beat but they did get a little wobbly.
I quickly picked out the ‘mastermind’ , who was who I thought he was and his stooge who had been loaded up with something. With the spot on him he thought he was the star continuing to orate as Reed intoned on while the band chugged along like an assembly line gone berserk.
The ‘mastermind’ now ordered me to turn the light off him. The noise was too loud for him to hear me laughing. At last he got his stooge to sit down and the light swung back to the Velvet Underground and they continued their chaunt to the glories of heroin as though nothing had happened. Nothing had, just a variation on the show down on Desolation Row. They left the Cuckoo’s Nest finding their way back to the Factory and Dr. Filth.
Back home in The Factory the fags and dikes were cracking their whips, blowing their whistles and banging their gongs while the necrophiliacs were looking for dead ones.
As we left them in part a, Dr. Filth had been castigated by the Man Of The Hour over the air for all to hear if not recognize in his musical rants, Like A Rolling Stone and Positively 4th Street.
I’m not prepared to say it’s so but others have suggested that a few lines in Desolation Row refer to the Factory and Andy Warhol. As Desolation Row was recorded on August 4th a few days after Stone and Street it is quite possible ill feeling lingered and found expression in Dylan’s lines.
The lyrics are purposely written in obscure language meant to imitate poetry and mystify. Without a key one can speculate all day ending up where you began. Dylan does give us a clue as to his imagery in Chronicles where he says Pound and Elliot were fighting it out in the Captains’s tower. The Captain’s Tower refers to Dylan’s brain and the discussion of the two poets.
There is a very large discussion of this stuff on the internet if anyone wants to go through it. Anyway the lines thought to refer to Warhol are these.
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Locked inside his leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up.
Now, his nurse, some local loser,
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
She also keeps the cards that read
“Have mercy on his soul.”
They all play on the pennywhistle
You can hear them blow
If you hang your head out far enough
From Desolation Row.
I think most commonly people take Dr. Filth to refer to Freud. Multiple meanings are possible while the cast of characters in Row appear to be well known historical figures or characters from literature. At the same time, as Warhol points out, the songs of this period are personal protests so the figures can stand in for people Dylan knows. He changed their faces and gave them brand new names.
On the other hand Dr. Filth could refer to Warhol whose reputation was suffering by mid-’65. The society people had begun to avoid the Factory leaving Andy only the derelicts.
As I said I can’t find anything totally convincing to pin Dr. Filth on Warhol but the next verse isn’t applicable to Freud and the verse after depending on how you interpet pennywhistle and blow might apply to the Factoryites.
And then there are these lines:
Now, at midnight all the agents
And the supernatural crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do.
Then they take them to the Factory…
Like I say, it’s up to you. What is clear is that there was serious competition between Dylan and Warhol and that Sedgwick was a bone of contention.
As the late fall and summer progressed then, Dylan worked hard to draw Edie from Warhol. This made Andy very, very jealous and he turned from Edie spurning her from him ‘with his foot.’ There is a possibility that in some weird homosexual way Warhol loved Edie. According to the movie Factory Girl Warhol took her home to meet his mom. It might mean that that was an actual declaration of love and that he considered her his girl.
By this time Edie was broke having gone thorugh her inheritance whnile even having her stipend from her parents suspended because of her association with Warhol and the Factory crowd. ‘In her prime when she dressed so fine’ she refused to use taxis having a white limo waiting at the curb for her use. Now that she could no longer afford one Dylan rented a black one for her use. Thus when she rode around town in Dylan’s limo she would be known as Dylan’s kept woman. This would also have been a direct insult to Warhol who was penniless in comparison being unable even to pay Sedgwick for her roles in his films or even, her rent. Thus as the Dylan figure in Factory Girl tells her: You’re just one of Warhol’s props.
Now, Dylan in his first English tour had Donn Pennebaker do a film verite that would be released in 1967 as Dont Look Back. Dylan and his entourage who all had parts in the film just like the Factory crew did in Warhol’s would have been talking up the film thus actually becoming direct competitiors of Warhol. As an enticement to Edie Albert Grossman threatened to become her manager while promises were made to her that she would be Dylan’s co-star in a planned movie and even be paid for her services. Remember she was stone broke at this time being desperately in need af an adequate income. Rather than being Dylan’s girl friend she was passed to his gofer, stooge, right hand man, Bobby Neuwirth who became her possessor while she was living at the Chelsea.
That November of ’65 Dylan married Sara Lowndes. According to Bob Spitz in his biography Dylan met Lowndes in 1963 installing her in Grossman’s apartment where he ‘lived’ with her which I suppose means visited her from time to time as among his other duties he was living with Suze Rotolo and heavy with Joan Baez.
Dylan attempted to keep his marriage secret, it was publicly revealed in April of ’66 but Warhol got word of it in December spitefully revealing the news to Edie. The news was devastating to Edie who was nurturing her fantasies of being Dylan’s woman and future co-star. Apparently at that time she was told that any movie role was in some very distant future. At any rate with her relationship with Andy broken Dylan no longer had any use for her. She was just a pawn in his game.
Perhaps in competition or emulation of Dylan’s recording career Warhol decided he wanted to manage a band thus recruiting the
Velvet Underground. To assist the Velvets he picked up on Nico who had just arrived from Europe. As fate would have it Dylan had already had a fling with her during his 1962 visit to England when he worte I’ll Keep It With Mine for her. Warhol now insisted she front the Velvet Underground, thus the Velvets first LP with Nico and the famous Banana cover.
Apparently forgetting Edie Dylan renewed his acquaintance with Nico showing up with songs to give her. Lou Reed of the Velvets is a great admirer of Dylan but I don’t believe any of his songs made it to the record. In any event Nico was gone by the time of the second Velvets LP. Possibly as part of the Dylan-Warhol feud.
Dylan wasn’t finished with Edie yet nor was Warhol finished with Dylan.
In the Spring of ’66 Dylan recorded his ultimate record Blonde On Blonde. the songs of personal protest as Warhol pointed out revolved around this period. There are two songs that are pointedly about Edie Sedgwick- Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat and Just Like A Woman while other references seem to be scattered about. The two songs were unnecessarily cruel.
In the Spring of ’66 Warhol began a film titled The Bob Dylan Story. This was a derogatory depiction of the Folk Singer that Warhol thought better of releasing. Giving Dylan’s reaction to Factory Girl, Warhol’s pockets weren’t deep enough to take Dylan on who by ’67 when the film first could have been released Dylan was worth millions while warhol was still essentially penniless.
Anent the Bob Dylan Story I quote from the web site http://www.warholstars.org/ :
Sterling Morrison speaking:
“Dylan was always around, giving Nico songs. there was one film Andy [Warhol] made with Paul Caruso called The Bob Dylan Story. I don’t think Andy has ever shown it. It was hysterical. they got Marlowe Dupont to play Al Grossman. Paul Caruso not only looks like Bob Dylan but as a super caricature he makes even Hendrix look pale by comparison. This was around 1966 when the film was made and his hair was way out here. When he was walking down the street you had to step out of his way. On the eve of filming, Paul had a change of heart and got his hair cut off- close to his head and he must have removed about a foot so everyone was upset about that. then Dylan had his accident and that’s why the film was never shown.”
Although sterling Morrison suggested that the Bob Dylan film was never shown because of Dylan’s motorcycle accident, the accident occured at the end of July 1966 and Susan Pile was filmed for the movie in October 1966.
Susan Pile speaking:
“Andy filmed The Bob Dylan Story, starring Paul Caruso…Ingrid Superstar and I were folkrock groupies who rushed in (to the studio), attacked his body and taped him to the motorcycle… Paul Morrisey suggested all of Paul Caruso’s lines be from songs, but Andy, knowing it was a good idea (this is a direct relay from Paul Morrissey) vetoes….My one line (which I wasn’t supposed to say; I was to remain mutely sinister) was: “You’re just like P.F. Sloane and all the rest- you want to become famous so you can get rid of those pimples.” (accompanied by quick slaps to P. Caruso’s acne-remnanted cheeks)…
The psychology is clear but noteworthy is the taping of Dylan to his ‘Chrome horse.’ When Dylan had his bike accident the rear wheel locked throwing him over the handle bars. Thus taping him to the bike would prevent that. Now, the animosity between the two was real and deep. It may have seemed to Dylan that he had trumped Warhol. While Warhol may have passively taken the humiliation it is also quite likely he would have retaliated. The wheel locking would seem to indicate someone tampering with the bike. Either Warhol had the bike tampered with and was gloating over Dylan here in his movie or else it is a cruel joke. Whether Warhol was responsible for the bike accident or not he was certainly gleeful about it as evidenced here. If the bike was tampered with then someone wanted to see him paralyzed.
Thus matters stood at the end of ’66. In 1971 Edie Sedgwick in circumstance of total degradation, shamefully abandoned by her parents and both Dylan and Warhol who both disclaimed any responsiblity died.
In closing I quote Andy Warhol from his Philosophy Of Andy Warhol From A To B:
“(Edie) drifted away from us after she started seeing a singer-musician who can only be described as the Definitive Pop Star- possibly of all time- who was then first gaining recognition on both sides of the Atlantic as the thinking man’s Elvis Presley. I missed having her around, but I told myself that it was probably a good thing that he was taking care of her now, because maybe he knew how to do it better than we had.
Snide, very snide.
There’s gonna be a Freaker’s Ball, tonight at the Freaker’s Hall
Ya know you’re invited one and all.