November 26, 2014
Exhuming Bob 31e
A Review Of
Another Side Of Bob Dylan
There’s nothing left for me,
I live in memory among my souvenirs.
Some letters tied with blue,
a photograph or two,
I see a rose from you
Among my souvenirs.
A few more tokens rest
Within my treasure chest,
And though they do their best
To give me consolation
I count them all apart and
As the teardrops start
I find a broken heart
Among my souvenirs.
As sung by Ferlin Husky
There is now an interregnum of a decade or two where Victor goes off to New Mexico to live his life without Bob nursing his bad memories among his souvenirs.
Dylan has left a memory over the years of cruel and vicious behavior to friend and foe alike. While his victims endured his insults and injuries during the high tide of his fame some are now coming out to denounce him. Joni Mitchell, a competitor for top folk honors, has denounced Bob as a plagiarist and all around fraud. Al Aronowitz registered his complaints long ago in now unavailable books and ignored articles. Jacob Maymudes has taken this time to release his father’s list of complaints.
Victor’s life was so entwined with Bob’s that he still wished to conceal the depth of his grievances not wishing as he said to write a tell all book. More’s the pity. He did relate his worst stories to Al telling him to use them. Not necessary, Al had enough complaints of his own to fill volumes. Even then Al’s respect for Dylan’s talent was such that he too restrained himself relating only his most hurtful remembrances among his souvenirs.
The amazing thing is that Dylan couldn’t even restrain himself with his Madonna, Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, and wife Sara. One is astounded that in her own home he allowed her to come downstairs one morning to find him dandling another woman on his knee in the kitchen. Sara promptly filed for divorce astounding Bob: ‘People in my family just don’t get divorced.’ he complained uncomprehendingly.
Either that is embarrassingly naïve or perhaps in his parents troubled relationship something similar had happened and he was only acting naturally. Some sort of repetition compulsion such as happens, as Bob’s heart was broken he left a trail of broken hearts behind him. Certainly the root of his behavior can be found in his hometown of Hibbing. Apparently Bob suffered unbearable humiliations at home thus venting his anger on those around him throughout the rest of his life. During the Sixties ‘what goes around comes around’ was a common expression. It was a long winded way of saying karma, so once he was in power he made everyone look out. ‘Trouble in front, trouble behind’ as Bob Hunter wrote. Man, woman and child beware, Bob’s chugging on down the line.
Al, who hung around with Bob the longest relates a situation or two with Dylan at the Isle of Wight Festival in England shortly after Woodstock. Al was in Levon Helm’s dressing room when Dylan came in. Dylan glowered at Al snarling ‘What are you doing here? Get the fuck out of here.’
You can imagine the effect that had on Al who hadn’t yet figured out the imperial Dylan. Al stifled himself and left. Astonishingly he was able to endure such an insult as he continued his duties while remaining loyal to his idol.
Perhaps Dylan was just trying to get rid of Al who was in reality an eternal presence while I’m not sure he was invited or just stringing along. As a journalist his presence could be explained as pursuing a story. If Al didn’t take that hint Dylan gave a stronger one that Al managed to surf also.
This is a rather amazing story. Al tells it well too.
It isn’t clear whether this was a setup to humiliate Al or not but if not then it was a major testing of the audience to see what they would take. The show had been going on all day a roaring success. The time of Dylan’s appearance was scheduled for about ten o’clock at night. He was to be preceded by The Band. The Band’s technical expert decided that the sound was not quite to his liking although according to Al it had been excellent all day. The technician began checking the cables, crawling around in the equipment and what not taking a very long time. Al was in Dylan’s camper so Bob ordered him to go find the reason for the delay.
Al didn’t really have official status so he had to be especially courteous. He explained to the tech that Bob was getting irritated at the delay wanting to get the show moving. The tech fobbed him off.
Bob was even more irritated when Al reported back abusing him further. After a while, the delay was getting to be quite long, Bob sent Al forth again this time to see Robbie Robertson, prod him to get his guy moving. Robertson merely turned his back on Al walking away.
Al reported back to be abused further. More time passed, Bob sent Al back to the tech. The tech told Al that The Band wasn’t going on until he was satisfied with the sound. Al returned for a torrent of abuse from Dylan. Enduring the abuse must have been a deep humiliation. It was probably meant to send Al packing but Al hung in there. Eventually the show got on the road; Bob made his appearance.
Over the years many people have noticed Dylan’s seeming contempt for his audience so it may be that he was combining an opportunity to see how much Al could take while testing his audience.
Of especial significance here is Bob’s use of the phrase ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ He would also use this phrase in dismissing Victor’s daughter from his coffee house. Victor of course could not allow Bob to talk to his daughter using such language putting forth a mild protest although the incident precipitated his final break with Dylan.
It seems pretty clear that in his career Dylan was acting out his resentment of the way he had been treated back home in Hibbing. It is not improbable that someone had used the same phrase to him back in Hibbing so that Bob reacted in his life by setting up situations in which he could shift his burden onto someone else.
Dylan could be emotionally quite violent in venting his anger and making it public too. The really hate filled rant Ballad In Plain D directed at Carla Rotolo and her mother is really quite astonishing. He would vent his rage over incidents more than once on record over quite trivial things although they may have represented more serious disturbances in his psyche. Most notable of course is his hate filled rant against Edie Sedgwick in Like A Rolling Stone.
Bobby Newirth had taken Edie Sedgwick to meet Dylan in late ’64. Dylan was taken with her even though he was in the midst of several affairs including Suze Rotolo and his future wife Sara. Edie and he had a meeting the next month in January of ’65 where some sort of understanding was apparently reached. Bob then left on tour including England where he tried to establish a relationship with Marianne Faithfull, returning in May of that year.
In the interim Edie met Andy Warhol. Edie was living on an inheritance that she was quickly consuming thus she was seeking some way to earn money. Teaming up with Warhol seemed promising so her magic summer of ’65 was about to begin.
Dylan returned to find his own plans for Edie disrupted. They had it out at a party in June during which Edie explained her financial situation to Dylan.
In a towering rage at his seeming rejection Dylan sat down venting his emotions in what turned out to be Like A Rolling Stone. While none of us record buyers had a clue of what the song was really about, we devised all kinds of fantastic explanations that make us look ridiculous now. The hate anthem was merely about Dylan’s situation vis-à-vis Edie and Andy. Thus the lines:
You used to ride on the chrome horse
With your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it was at.
After he took from you
Everything he could steal.
In the context of Bob, Edie and Andy then Dylan is excoriating Edie who may or may not have gotten the reference. Bob’s technique was to make a sort of dream displacement from the fact to the image. Thus he makes Andy Edie’s diplomat while Andy did have a Siamese cat. The term chrome horse is merely a motorcylist’s term for his bike although it seems like a tough image to crack for those of us who took it symbolically.
Edie had opted for a relationship with Andy but that was not working out well as Andy, while using her in his movies, was not providing her with income. Hence he really wasn’t where it was at, money being the issue whether with Bob or Andy.
In his effort to woo Edie from Andy to get his revenge Dylan and Grossman would promise to put Edie in a movie with Dylan. Perhaps that was the crux of the meeting in June.
Edie who was of old stock New York society, the Sedgwicks were socially important, had introduced Andy into a society to which he could never have been admitted on his own. Thus while he benefited Edie’s reputation was destroyed by her association with him hence she was out on the street where she couldn’t function. Andy had taken everything from her that he could steal and then dropped her.
Of course, the same would have been true with Dylan who was not exactly a society icon and never would be. Having lured her away from Warhol Dylan then dumped her while writing another vicious song about her, One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later).
This viciousness was part and parcel of Dylan’s personality. Somewhat miraculously he writes that he has a clear conscience down among his souvenirs. I truly hope he has but I don’t see how.
Victor left Dylan’s employ mid-1966 going off to live his own life until he rejoined Dylan a few years down the road.
We will examine those years in Exhuming Bob 31f.
November 16, 2014
Exhuming Bob 31d
A Review Of Victor Maymudes’
Another Side Of Bob Dylan
I’ve got a tangled mind,
I’ve got a broken heart,
I got a gal somewhere,
I guess she thinks I’m dead.
I’d go back home if
I could clear my head.
Cryin’, cryin’, all of the time,
I’ve got a broken heart,
I’ve got a tangled mind.
-As sung by Hank Snow
In Exhuming Bob 31c I said I was waiting for a copy of Al Aronowitz’s book Bob Dylan And The Beatles. It arrived and I read it. Like Victor’s book it is a first hand account of Dylan. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, Al like Victor wanted to be Bob. Dylan epitomized their hopes and vision of themselves. Couldn’t be improved on.
However not being Bob the next best thing was to be as close to being his shadow as possible. Amazingly, or perhaps not so amazingly, both men were glorifying Dylan at the same time during those magic years of the Sixties Bob. Al once asked Bob why he wanted to perform. Bob replied simply: I want to be exalted.
There may be a key to Dylan. He wants you and I, the country, the whole world to make him feel exalted and he achieved that goal in spades. In that context one can only imagine how crushed Bob’s feelings must have been when he was booed and booed and booed when he went electric in 1965. No exaltation there.
As a side note Murray The K in his book says that one reason Dylan was booed, especially at Forest Hills was because he was switching to rock and roll which the folkies considered pimple music. Murray who MC’d part of the show was also booed but because he was considered a bubble gum disc jockey. So Dylan was perceived as switching from serious folk to teeny bopper rock n’ roll.
It must have been a period of profound fear that perhaps he would be rejected and never be exalted again. It must have been quite similar to when he did his Little Richard act during assembly to an uncomprehending student body and faculty back in Hibbing. The principal wanted to pull his plug that day just as Alan Lomax would want to take an axe to the cables in ’65.
Bob persevered, overcame resistance, or elected a new body of fans, and then crashed in ’66 from the strain. He laboriously and falteringly rebuilt his career after ’66. And this is important, he would make his audience exalt him no matter what he did. I saw his October ’14 Portland show and he had taken electricity to a new level of voltage. I would have said he took electricity out of Arkansas but I don’t know how many have heard or remember Black Oak Arkansas’ When Electricity Came to Arkansas. Dylan remembered it because his sound was close to lifted from that performance; spectacular for the early seventies.
Dylan’s show was fabulous; perhaps the finest rock show I’ve ever seen. The band was the thing. Dylan’s performance truly being peripheral. He no longer sings per se but gargles along in tune with the band; if you catch his drift not bad at all. As a composer and conductor is where he excels.
Bob however has been in pain all his life. He acquired a tangled mind, tangled up in blue. Never a fashion plate, for the show he came out in some godawful gauche and need I say outre version of a Southern planter’s suit while he acted as though we of the audience were slaves on his plantation down in Dixie. As is well known Bob studied the Southern plantation systems in the New York City public library while he was waiting for stardom to strike him. Apparently he learned his lessons well. So, I’m from Dixie too. I got it.
Although from a distance he looks pretty frail he stood at the mike and in front of a wall of sound that Phil Spector would have envied lectured us on how he wasn’t as stupid as us living humdrum lives, the very idea of which he had renounced from the first time he heard Accentuate The Positive on the radio before he could walk.
Something happened along the way as Bob hasn’t accentuated the positive since he was five.
Perhaps Victor and Al had also been slapped down hard along the way becoming those of the ‘abused, misused, strung out one’s or worse’ Bob materializes in his song The Chimes Of Freedom. Back in the old days he says that was the audience he was reaching for and that’s the audience he got. It was that appeal that brought the ones who felt abused and misused into his sphere. Either I outgrew the feeling or Bob left the hall in ’66 for another show. He forgot about us after that.
Victor and Al, as I say, obviously knew the feeling, bonding to Dylan like a Siamese twin.
Al, by the way, corroborates everything Victor said. He really did say into a tape recorder rather than write in text. So in Chapter five Victor relates how he and Bob turned on the world. Victor must have been sidelined after the August ’65 meeting with the Beatles because the period from August ’65 through the ’66 motor bike accident he merely summarizes his relationship few details. No mention of Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick or even Bobby Neuwirth. Nothing about the ’66 tour on which he was the road manager.
In point of fact after picking up Neuwirth in SF Bobby replaced Victor as Bob’s sidekick and confidant. It was the arrival of Neuwirth that completed the fearsome putdown act of him, Dylan and Grossman.
While Neuwirth is a hazy figure in the biographies, Al Aronowitz gives the fullest profile of Neuwirth that I have read. According to Al Neuwirth was an excellent performer and prolific songwriter. Dylan had first met him in Boston where he sang in the folk clubs around Harvard. Unfortunately Bobby was a psychopath which prevented him from ever recording successfully or having a career. Al says that there were efforts to get him on record. Twice he recorded material but snuck into the studios and destroyed the tapes. The record for David Geffen that he did complete is quite a story among Al’s great stories. After running up studio costs of nearly 200,000 dollars he delivered product that Geffen said would sell only six copies. He appears to have been a prophet. If the record was actually ever released try to find a copy now. Perhaps a key to Neuwirth’s psyche is the song of Don Gibson he recorded for Geffen , A Legend In My Time. Key lyrics,
If tears and regrets
Were gold statuettes
I’d be a legend in my own time.
In his way then his relationship to Dylan was the same as Victor’s and Al’s. Neuwirth could see or sense that Dylan would get the gold statuettes, be a legend in his own time, tears and regrets Bobby’s lot. Dylan had the ego and the drive. Neuwirth had the fear of success (there’s no success like failure and failure’s no success at all, perhaps that line of Dylan’s was written with Neuwirth in mind) or perhaps as accurately, fear of failure. Probably also he realized he would never equal or surpass Dylan. Paralyzed his will. While Bob could and would realize his dream of success Neuwirth could never have been able to measure up to that. Like Victor and Al then Neuwirth lived his fantasy through Bob.
There was no place for Neuwirth in Bob’s life after the ’66 accident so he drifted off doing other people. According to Al he drifted around attaching himself to people with money. Al admired him greatly, considering him much hipper than Dylan. His account, his thumbnail of Bobby, is really worth reading. Al has been neglected as a source by the biographers but both his own career and account are significant Not a lot of copies of his book around though, mine came with Al’s autograph although made out Michael Gross whoever he may be.
So, during this crucial year in Bob’s life Victor seems to have been marginalized but he still makes himself central to Bob’s life showing him how to be cool.
Victor says, p. 115:
Bob and I searched for an identity in the clothes that we bought; granted, it was only after Bob started to have an income that we really dove into fashion. He and I would go shopping at thrift stores together, searching for new identities when the one we were using started to get picked up by those around us. This cat-and-mouse game pushed us to wear increasingly outre clothes. We would try on every odd ball outfit we could find, trying to stay one step ahead of our social group. On tours around the country, we would seek out the salvage clothing stores and pick out the wild stuff. I found polka-dot shirts with Bob, and I made that a big deal. Polka-dots would become our contribution to the fashion of the sixties I look back on it now and I think it’s pretty funny how ridiculous we looked and how everyone around us took us so seriously. Bob and I shared this together, but I didn’t have the spotlight on me the whole time as he did.
Note he heavy use of I, we, us. Sounds like they were joined at the hip with Victor in control guiding Dylan on the path to higher achievement. Al wanted to be Bob and in his way so did Victor but they chose different paths. Probably because Victor was six years older he assumed what is really a patronizing attitude. Must have irritated Bob.
In this year covering mid ’65 to ’66 then Dylan had three intense buddy associates to deal with, Victor Al and Bobby, all three of varying types of servility. Of the three Aronowitz would last the longest while Victory and Bobby were followed by Robbie Robertson, who, by the way was born Jaime Robert Klegerman. He was the son of a Jewish father and a Mohawk mother, an interesting combination.
Bob treated these guys quite contemptibly. Both Victor and Al have very bitter memories and both were dismissed in the rudest of manners. I don’t know the situation with Robertson but I imagine he and Bob aren’t talking either.
And then Victor may have been perceived by Albert Grossman as a troublemaker. Anent that, Victor on p. 127:
I called Albert the “brain” based on the fact that he looked like a potato and the only muscle he used was his brain. For me, he was a very powerful person. I respected him like my big brother. But we had our issues because I would tell Bob the truth, about anything. Even if it was just my hunch someone was trying to manipulate him I would make sure Bob was aware of what was going on. Albert felt threatened by my transparency, and my criticism of his management.
Albert was an asshole who bent over for quarters when dollars were flying by
And then Victor says he clued Dylan to how Grossman was appropriating revenues from song rights. Little wonder that Grossman felt threatened or any surprise he fired Victor after the accident thus ending that relationship for several years.
If we are to believe Victor about this first phase of Dylan’s career he was the guiding light for Dylan. Thus he makes it sound as though he nearly was the author of Dylan’s success. He wouldn’t have been Bob without Victor by his telling.
Nevertheless Bob always came out on top and Victor, Al and Bobby and Grossman were left in the dust. Bob began his career with a tangled mind, beginning his second phase in the same mental state.
Exhuming Bob 31e follows.
Exhuming Bob 31c
Another Side Of Bob Dylan
It becomes clear at this point in Victor’s memoir, Chaps. 4 & 5, that he has such great admiration for the ‘genius’ of Dylan that he begins to meld his personality into Dylan’s person and persona. Being six years older and considering himself more worldly wise thus a guide to the younger more naïve Dylan he feels actually superior to Bob, or at least compensate for his felt inferiority. He thus becomes protective and paternalistic. Dylan must have found the attitude annoying.
In Chapter 4 that concerns Dylan’s 8/22/64 meeting with the Beatles in New York City, he actually does displace Dylan assuming his role.
This meeting is perhaps the most famous incident in rock and roll history. This ‘summit’ meeting arranged by the journalist Al Aronowitz of whom more below is when Dylan is said to have introduced the Beatles to marijuana. The below is Victor’s gloss on the story.
Victor’s relationship with Dylan has almost supernatural aspects. While he realizes that Bob has the gift and he doesn’t his admiration and perhaps envy is so great that as time goes by he seems to be melding his persona into Bob’s almost to the extent that he becomes an incubus attempting to inhabit Bob’s mind and body almost like an internal double.
Aronowitz arranged the meeting between Dylan and the Beatles but his account is truncated on the website. The Blacklisted Journalist offers only a teaser of the story referring you to his book Bob Dylan And The Beatles, now out of print. A used copy is costing me 75.00 and it had better be worth it. I will probably rewrite this section when I receive it; but for now Victor’s version and, really, this is Victor’s story.
This is a great moment for Victor and he does it justice in the telling. He borrowed Bob’s muse to write it. You should probably read Victor’s account for the full flavor. It will suffice here to show how Victor elbowed Bob out of the story.
His account begins with their arrival at the Delmonico Hotel where there is an immense crowd blocking the entire street and gathered beneath the windows of the Beatles’ suite. If you were checking in as a guest at that time it would have been one of the major events of your life, if the police had allowed you through to check in. The roar as Victor describes it begins as persistent white noise like the ocean surf as Dylan’s group approaches mounting in volume to a tremendous roar at the hotel door.
On the Beatles’ floor, which is sealed off, the glitterati being more privileged than the hoi polloi replicate the scene below as they crowd the hallway. PP&M, the Kingstons, everybody is there, everybody. Probably Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. It staggers the mind that four unknown musicians could create such an uproar. One imagines the glow of importance on Victor’s brow as he surpasses all the glitterati to enter the Beatle’s suite with Bob and Al. One of the chosen.
Introductions finished, the pot comes out. This is the first time the Beatles were to get high on pot although with a knowing wink Victor explains that they have smoked some inferior stuff before with little TCP content.
Bob undertakes to roll a joint but bungles the job. Now here’s were Victor takes over Bob’s role. He reaches over and takes the papers and weed from Bob’s hands. I would have fired him on the spot. Victor then rolls perfect numbers for all concerned. Bob takes a couple swigs from a bottle and then passes out on the floor. From that point on in Victor’s account he is the show; he has become Bob or Bob has become him. The Beatles are suitably impressed becoming Victor’s great friends.
For a brief moment Victor and Bob were one in Victor’s mind.
His account is a fully detailed extended account well worth reading. I will compare it later with that of Aronowitz.
Aronowitz himself was a journalist, the music and entertainment reviewer with the New York Post. He seems to have had Victor’s need to become those he reviewed. He had a long and illustrious career breaking Billie Holliday among others in music and the movies as he says. When the Beatles landed, recognizing the next big thing he moved in on rock and roll. Being able to deliver Dylan to the Beatles was his big coup hopefully establishing him with the two biggest pop acts ever.
After the Beatles-Dylan encounter however his career went into decline. As he says on the Blacklisted Journalist neither Bob nor Victor would talk to him anymore. It seems as though the whole rock world rejected him. Perhaps he appeared to be an opportunist from another era or generation and wasn’t wanted. And then he did something to cause him to be blacklisted as a journalist.
Chapter 5 concerns Bob, Victor, Paul Clayton and Pete Karman’s cross country tour from New York, down through the South and out to San Francisco.
Victor gives a very nice sketch of Paul Clayton one of the premier folk musicians and musicologists of the period. I will highlight the visit to Carl Sandburg here as Victor gives the fullest and best account that I have read.
Carl Sandburg was of course the Chicago poet- Chicago, Hog butcher to the world, tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads…city of big shoulders, etc. etc. as well as the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Abraham Lincoln. Also he was the compiler of the American Song Book, published in 1927, a collection of songs roughly from the turn of the twentieth century that contains nearly the whole of the sixties’ repertoire- Midnight Special, Stack-o-lee, alternate versions of St. James Infirmary, Nearly everything that has been attributed to Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter. I think most people think Ledbetter wrote The Midnight Special. I did until acquiring a copy of the Son Book at an estate sale. Apparently he must have had an early copy of the Song Book.
Bob says that he wanted to talk to Carl about the collection.
Victor gives the fullest and best account of the encounter. Bearing in mind that this gang of four burst upon the Sandburg’s unannounced they sprang on the Sandburgs’ like a summer squall. Mrs. Sandburg who was sitting on her porch greeted them graciously going in to get her husband. Remember this is 1964 and this rag tag bunch with wild hair, manners disordered by drugs, sort of exploded from the car onto the lawn. Perhaps Mrs. Sandburg was terrified.
Sandburg himself being an old trooper from the hog butchering capitol of the world rose to meet the challenge. According to Victor Sandburg spent an hour with them. In this scene Victor hung back while the bumptious Pete Karman shouldered Bob aside trying to monopolize Sandburg.
Sandburg, pushing ninety, tired, excused himself and returned to his nap or whatever, perhaps practicing banjo licks.
Victor’s account clarified this situation that has always puzzled me. Sounds about right.
Victor gives a good account of Bob in New Orleans and the trip West through Colorado to San Francisco.
Altogether two very worthwhile chapters. Good enough for general reading in my opinion.
Exhuming Bob 3d follows.