Exhuming Bob 31d

A Review Of Victor Maymudes’

Another Side Of Bob Dylan

by

R.E. Prindle

 zzzzVictorMaymudes3

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.

 

Victor and Bob

Victor and Bob

Exhuming Bob 31e follows.

Exhuming Bob XXVIII

Visions of Johanna Decoded

by

R.E. Prindle

This is an attempt to place Visions Of Johanna in a context of Dylan, Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick.  In this interpretation Louise is Edie, Johanna is Dylan’s mother, Louise’s lover is Andy Warhol and the narrator is Dylan,

Visions of Johanna

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?

We sit here stranded though we’re doing our best to deny it.

I.e. we’re alone in the night of the universe doing our best to pretend we aren’t.  A night without dawn and we find the situation intolerable.

And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it.

Rain is a symbol for the misery of life that one finds inescapable. ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head.’  etc.  Louise/Edie who is a bearer of pain mixed with love offers a handful of rain to Dylan  essentially saying take it or leave it.  If Bob takes it he has to find a way around the pain of loving Louise/Edie.

Lights flicker from the opposite loft

In this room the heat pipes just cough

The country station plays soft

But there’s nothing really, nothing to turn off.

It looks brighter in the opposite loft, greener grass on the other side of the fence, but it is freezing in Dylan’s room where no heat comes from the pipes that just cough.  ‘Seems like a freezeout.’  C&W is a lot of songs about love gone wrong so let it play softly in the background.

Just Louise and her lover so entwined

And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind.

Dylan has a real problem with his mother who he says in his movie Masked and Anonymous rejected him because he upset her life by being born.  Thus his love for his mother was turned to dust and his life made miserable.  He has confused Edie with his mother who he thinks she resembles.  Edie after seeming to be found as a mother surrogate in the first quarter of 1965 then seemingly abandoned him for ‘her lover’ Warhol with whom she is ‘entwined.’  In his confusion and resentment of Edie he sees ‘these visions of Johanna that conquer his mind.’  He looks at Edie and sees his mother.  His resentment at his mother’s rejection then turns to hatred of Edie.  As a son he can’t revenge himself on his mother but he can on Edie who has become his mother surrogate.

After his father’s death in 1968 Dylan is able to step into his father’s shoes as his mother’s  support.  Pleading poverty, which was probably real, shortly after her husband’s death Dylan wrote her a five figure check to tide her over.  There’s more, but…I’ll save that for the review of Masked And Anonymous.

 

The Ghost Of Electricity

In the empty lot where the ladies play blind man’s bluff with the key chain

And the all night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train

We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight

Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane

Verbiage setting up the next six lines that get to the heart of the matter:

Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near

She’s delicate and seems like the mirror

But she just makes it all too concise and too clear

That Johanna’s not here.

Here the physically delicate Edie is present but she seems like a reflection of Johanna/Dylan’s mother.  Dylan has so identified Edie/Louise with this mother/Johanna that Edie makes it ‘too concise and that too clear’ that Mother/Johanna is not here.

The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face (Edie’s)

Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.

Ghosts of electricity is ambiguous but may refer to the traces left by the electro-shock treatments which undoubtedly scarred Edie’s mind indelibly while Dylan has now completely blended Edie/Louise and Mother/Johanna into one.

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously

He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously,

This obviously refers to Warhol of whom it’s a pretty good description.  Living dangerously probably refers to the hoodlums hanging around the Factory.

Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall

How can I explain?

Oh, it’s so hard to get on

And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past dawn

 

Dapper Andy

Dylan mutters small talk at the wall where he is placed outside the relationship with Edie in the hall ‘while visions of Mother/Johanna trouble him into the small hours of the night.

Verses four and five seem to be verbiage that sounds meaningful and may be to Dylan but escape me.  The song is copyrighted 1966 which would be after Dylan had taken his vengeance on Edie so the lines of the last verse:

But like Louise always says

“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”

As she herself prepares for him

And Madonna, she still has not showed

We see the empty cage now corrode

Where her cape of the stage once had flowed

The fiddler, he now steps to the road

He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed.

Edie/Louise is preparing for ‘him’ who might be Warhol or Neuwirth but it isn’t made clear.

Dylan referred to Sara as a Madonna so she is probably the Madonna referred to.  ‘Empty cage’ is personal to Dylan, no idea, anyway he was already married to Sara.  So having crushed Edie as his mother had crushed him and passed her to Neuwirth he thinks he has settled his score with Mother/Johanna.  ‘Ev’rything’s been returned which was owed.’  Edie has repaid his mother’s debt  but he apparently feels some guilt ‘as his conscience explodes.’

After the ball was over, after the dance was through’ these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.’  So, if the song means anything, written in 1966 it must refer to Edie who Dylan has confused with his mother in his mind.  While songs like Like A Rolling Stone and She’s Your Lover Now read clearly once you have the Edie key, Johanna is a little more ambigious but while I con’t guarantee this reading as yet, I think it is on whole accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations With Robin Page 4.

Conversations between R. E. Prindle and Robin Mark

Concerning certain musical questions.

 

     Robin:

     Sorry to be so remiss but I was really involved with writingt Exhuming Bob 23 a and b:  Bob, Andy, Edie and Like A Rolling Stone.  I got them up a couple days ago and then I was really exhausted.

     I think they’re really good work, real Sherlock Holmes stuff.  The feud between Dylan and Warhol with Edie Sedgwick as their pawn is very important althougth Dylan has been very effective in shuffling it under the carpet.

     I’ve always been amazed that no one came after Dylan because of the savage badgering he and Neuwirth put people through during what was apparently his Acid phase.  Anent that I’ve always been suspicious of the back wheel of his bike locking up, obvious sabotage to me.  Of course the reuslt would be flying over the handle bars that did happen.  A probable result of that would be damage to the head neck and/or back with a very good chance of being paralyzed from the neck down much as Christopher Reeve did from his horse jumping accident which was also contrived.

     Who would take that exact means to attempt to paralyze Dylan, I don’t think murder was intended.  Warhol is my first choice.  In addition to other humiliations Dylan publically insulted him in both Stone and Street using motorcycle imagery.  Of course, it is now clear that chrome horse refers to a motorcycle so the line reads:  You used to ride on a bike behind your diplomat…. Warhol had a bike and was Edie’s ‘diplomat’ so stripped of an obscure term the meaning is clear-  Edie and Andy.

     In Street Dylan sings:  You know you’d like to see me paralyzed…so the bike accident is prefigured in the imagery of the two songs that have references to Warhol.  If and when you read Part b of Bob And Andy the inference that Warhol’s crew were the perpetrators will become more evident.

     That was hard work pulling all those details together but rewarding.  Still, I’m going to have to take a week or so to recover.  Research goes on of course.  I think next I’ll tackle Exhuming Bob 24:  Bob, Jack and Allen.  I’ll start working on the ton of the period some.

     Part of Elvis’ problem was that the ton shifted so dramatically after he was drafted.  He began his career in the post-war ton of the late forties and early fifties actually causing the shift or, at least, abetting it.  Then he was removed from the flow for two crucial years.  when he came back the Kingston Trio had already shifted the ton toward the Folk genre that made Dylan possible but made Elvis an anachronism.  While I don’t believe Elvis was part of any Illuminati type thing earlier or later it is quite possible that some such sort of conspiracy found him a useful tool.  Of course, Parker, who was in the country illegally, could easily be manipulated to betray his and ‘his boy’s’ interests.

     By the time of the return from the military Presley’s career was obviously being directed by Hollywood.  So, who was getting what from mismanaging Elvis’ career?

     Just thoughts.

 

Exhuming Bob 23a of a and b

Bob, Andy, Edie And Like A Rolling Stone

by

R.E. Prindle

If Tomorrow Wasn't Such A Long Time

     As concerns the oeuvre of Bob Dylan through 1966 Andy Warhol astutely remarked that the first phase that  established Dylan’s reputation was social protest while the latter half was personal protest.  Warhol should have known.  That’s what the Jews call kvetching and American’s whining.  It was from this latter period that a pure kvetches like Positively Fourth Street and Like A Rolling Stone would be written.

     There is absolutely nothing prophetic or profound in songs of this type by Dylan.  They are simply complaints.  In this early phase the finger pointing was directed at society; in the later at people.  John Lennon, who was heavily influenced by Dylan analyzed his method, said the notion is to seem to say more than you are saying.  So Dylan disguises his kvetches in obscure language while the subject remains simple.

     Thus the subject of Like A Rolling Sone is Dylan’s relationship with the woman, Edie Sedgwick.  Edie is a sore point with Dylan because

Andy Warhol

he has been blamed for her death in 1971 some six years later.  Doesn’t seem likely but he’s sensitive to the accusation.  So sensitive that he obscures whatever relationship he had.  When questioned he doesn’t deny it saying instead that he couldn’t remember one.  Well, Dylan’s always had a ready hand with the ladies so it is quite possible he’s forgotten a few of them.

     But I think Edie would have been one of  the Big Four and he remembers her quite well.  Dylan then had four women on the string at one time.  The first was Suze Rotolo, a long time girl friend and live in dating back to his arrival in NYC in 1961; the second was Joan Baez who he met a little later.  The third was Sara Lownds who he was keeping at the Chelsea Hotel; the fourth was Edie Sedgwick, of whom he wrote at least three songs.

     Of course there were many other women married and unmarried that he ‘comforted.’  One or more of these might have been ongoing relationships.  Dylan married Sara Lownds in November of ’65 without mentioning the fact to any of his other women.   His relationship with Suze Rotolo blew up in 1964 when Suze’s sister Carla and her mother grew tired of Dylan’s abuse of the relationship ordering him away.   Dylan maintained a relationship with Suze even asking her to be his mistress after he married.  He records the dispute with Carla in Ballad In Plain D when he heard Carla scream out the famous imprecation:  Leave my sister alone.  Goddamn you, get out.  In his usual way Dylan makes himself the aggrieved party as though there were four Bob Dylan’s in town and he had nothing to do with the other three.

     He must have known something of the other three because the Dylan of Bob and Sara offered Suze a role out on the side.  Hep. Hep.

     To Edie Sedgwick:  I’ve read several versions about Dylan and Edie.  In one both Dylan and Bobby Neuwirth knew Edie in Boston where she attended Radcliffe and whose eccentric behavior had already made her notorious.  Both Dylan and Neuwirth were in Boston at

Edie Sedgwick

times so that is possible.  It was in Boston Dylan met the folksinger Eric Von Schmidt who he admired greatly.  Some say he met Edie only in December of ’65.   Whether he first met Edie in December of ’65 or renewed the acquaintance it seems clear that Edie became involved with Dylan personally or with the Dylan organization.

     Remember that Dylan arrived in NYC in 1961 with nothing, no money, no reputation.  he was a hick from the sticks.  It might have been deadly to admit that he was just another kid from Podunksville come to the big city, so, to give himself glamour and mystery he invented a preposterous past, claiming to have been an orphan, the babe in the bullrushes, just like Sargon or Moses, Romulus or Remus out in the woods feeding off a wolf.  Undoubtedly a very wise move.  He gained credibility and he was to a large extent granted his glamour and mystery.

     Four years later he was a pinnacle in the NYC underground.  As ’65 was ending he seems to have been in competition with Andy Warhol for the top spot.  Warhol had been a successful commercial artist in the fifties.  Beginning in 1960 almost as the same time as Dylan he made his move into fine art being one of the innovators in the move to Pop Art.  Unlike Dylan’s career in Folk Warhol had had a diffiucult time breaking into the fine art world.  Having succeeded he remained an outsider running an atelier he called The Factory populated by bums, drug addicts and losers.  Like Dylan everything he touched he wanted to destroy.  He wanted to destroy the concept of fine art and largely he did it.  By 1965 he fancied himself a filmmaker.  One of his stars was Edie Sedgwick. 

     Dylan himself takes credit for destroying Tin Pan Alley because they had no place for him.  While he didn’t destroy folk music he transformed it along with others.  Of course by 1964 folk artists had about exhausted the genre.  The same songs were being sung while the artists had stylized the genre to boredom.  Who wanted to go see trios in loden green Robin Hood outfits?  If anything Dylan escaped a dying scene.

     Dylan and Warhol were nearly identical while both were vying to be King of the Underground.  Perhaps Edie Sedgwick became merely a pawn in their game.  She became the prize that would determine the winner.  That contest raged between December ’65 through February ’66. 

     The competition between the two- Dylan and Warhol- went back further.  Perhaps Dylan’s screen test with Warhol in the summer of ’65

The fabled Silver Elvis

 crystalized the conflict.  Dylan went down to the Factory, Warhol’s atelier for the screen test claiming a copy of Warhol’s silk screen, the Silver Elvis, as his price.  Warhol is reported to have been outraged by the appropriation.

     While both men tried to maintain their cool the underlying hostility was apparent.  On Warhol’s part he said that he heard that Dylan was using the painting as a dart board so maybe he, Warhol, should be worried.  While Dylan may have been doing so he showed his contempt for Warhol by trading the Silver Elvis with his manager Albert Grossman for a sofa.

     Now, as Warhol correctly said, after Another Side, Dylan edged into personal protest.  That means that the songs of the personal trilogy- Home, ’61 and Blonde, were written about specific events or people.  Both of Dylan’s two most irate kvetches were written back to back.  One should compare them to Ballad In Plain D for intent.  First was Like A Rolling Stone directed at Edie and then Positively Fourth Street directed at Warhol.   Both obviously written around the Factory.  Stone evinces a sexual scream of perhaps the rejected lover addressed to a woman while Street is a sneering putdown of a man.

     It may be true that Stone began as a twenty page vomit of pain as Dylan says but the catalyst to distill the actual song from the kvetch was Sedgwick.

     To take the second song, Positively Fourth Street, first.  The sixth verse terminates with the line, what HE don’t know to begin with, so the song is directed at a single man, a he.  This is not a generalized he, a philosphical rant but a putdown of one specific guy.

     The first verse states the HE wasn’t around when Dylan could have used him, the second verse states the HE is merely an opportunist, the third verse addresses a kvetch by HIM that Dylan disappointed HIM, the fourth verse claims a loss of faith in Dylan that Dylan scoffs at, the fifth verse acknowledges that HE defames Dylan behind his back, the sixth verse derides him as a poseur who ‘tried to hide what he didn’t know to begin with’, the seventh verse accuses HIM of insincerity, while the eigth verse say that HE wishes Dylan ill luck.

     Coming to the ninth verse we have this telling line:  No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace.  Warhol filled the Factory with drug addicts, losers and nutty street people of all kinds so that it actually sickens one to read about them much less see or mingle with them.  Then Dylan adds, Perhaps if I were a master thief I’d rob them.  Well, Dylan was a master thief and he did steal the only superstar Warhol had who was Edie Sedgwich so perhaps the struggle for her body and soul began that summer of  ’65.

     Next Dylan adds the verse:

And I know you’re dissatisfied

With your position and your place

Don’t you understand

It’s not my problem.

     OK, that describes Warhol to a T and warns him not to use Dylan as a stepping stone.   The last two verses describe how Dylan is revolted by Warhol

     So, rather than being some allegorical complaint the song is a description of Dylan’s kvetch against Warhol.  If one bears that in mind the song reads like a letter rather than an allegory.

      Having solved that problem let us turn to Like A Rolling Stone.  this song too reads like a letter if you bear in mind Deylan’s relationship to Warhol and Edie.

     By mid-sixty-five Dylan had become a success.  At this stage in his career Dylan’s success consisted of his publishing royalties brought about by the efforts of his manager, Albert Grossman.  Grossman’s first effort was to create and establish his folk group, Peter Paul And Mary.  As this was astonishingly quick and easy one believes that Grossman was well connected.  As PPM were on Warner Bros. run by Jews his connections most probably originated in Chicago where he had established The Gate Of Horn as the premier folk club.

     Once PPM was a big hit Grossman had them record Dylan’s songs which then allowed him to place Dylan’s songs elsewhere.  Thus Dylan was known outside NYC as a songwriter while not so much as a performer.  But he was a songwriting sensation thereby receiving substantial royalties making him the richest and most powerful folkie.  The future promised to be even more golden once he got into touring.

     Now his mind disoriented by success and even further disoriented by his massive intake of drugs Dylan and Grossman needed to flex their muscles lording it over the scene.

      Dylan apparently wished to have a sexual relationship with Edie Sedgwick who was being billed and the next Marilyn or America’s ‘It’ girl because of her role in Warhol’s trashy films.  She too was another drug abuser and unstable personality.  Whether she and Dylan did get together is unclear.  Edie is dead, of course, and can say nothing while Dylan neither denies or affirms.  He says that he can’t remember having relations with Edie and you’d think he’d remember if he had, wouldn’t he?  Given the drugs, who knows, but saying you can’t remember such a desired object as America’s new ‘It’ girl is the same as saying yhou didn’t, while saying you would remember if you had is expressing regret or resentment.

     I will write on the assumption that at least by the time of writing he hadn’t and Like A Rolling Stone is a frustrated rant of rejection not too different than Ballad In Plain D.  For the time Dylan ony vents his anger at both Sedgwick and Warhol while he begins plotting his revenge against both.

     Edie had come from a wealthy California family but a difficult home environment.  She was pampered, having a Mercedes to drive around campus in Cambridge so she went to the finest school and now would have to learn to live out on the NYC streets as the song says.  She also had an 80,000 dollar inheritance in 1964, the equivalent of 300 to 500 K today that she went through in a few months leaving her only a stipend from her parents although living in her grandmother’s penthouse’ in NYC.

     The first verse of Stone then describes Edie perfectly.  There is nothing allegorical about it.  No abstruse meaning, this is pure kvetch.  It should  be read only as a spiteful rant against Edie.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you.

     Edie had spent a large part of her fortune on clothes, as Dylan asserts, dishing out the change to the bums as she went along.

People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”

You thought they were all kiddin’ you.

     Born to wealth she couldn’t conceive not having money.

You used to laugh about

Everybody that was hangin’ out.

     Like, for instance, Bob Dylan.

Now you don’t talk so loud

Now you don’t seem so proud,

About having to scrounge for your next meal,

     Self explanatory, then comes the chorus:

How does it feel,

How does it feel,

To be without a home,

Like a complete unknown.

Like a Rolling Stone.

     Here Dylan, the rejected lover, compares Edie’s fall to his own situation when he arrived in NYC.  Like a Rolling Stone seems to be an inept comparison but my corespondent, Robin Mark, (see Conversations With Robin on I, Dynamo) points out that Stone was Dylan’s mother’s name.  Robin, also Jewish, points out that descent is matriarchal  in Judaism so that Dylan would consider himself more a Stone than a Zimmerman.   Given his psychology then Bob Stone is a footloose rolling stone without a home.  That makes the term make more sense than ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss.’   The latter meaning has no application to the song.

     The second verse continues the description of Edie:

You’ve gone to the finest school (singular in the lyric) all right, Miss Lonely

But you know you only used to get juiced in it.

     The school was Harvard’s Ratcliffe and Dylan implies that that doesn’t make her any better than himself who didn’t attend any university as she only partied and never studied.

And nobody has taught you how to live on the street

And now you find you’re gonna have to get used to it.

     The second line especially indicates that this is an immediate situation Dylan is referring to : you FIND you’re gonna have to get used to it.  Edie is now out of her familiar environment no longer protected by her money into Dylan’s, who said he once hustled Times Square, where she had better make some rapid adjustments, beginning now.

You said you’d never compromise

With the mystgery tramp, but now you realize

He’s not selling any alibis

     Mystery Tramp is Dylan’s romantic term for himself- Rolling Stone= Tramp- and he’s turning a deaf ear to any excuses she’s offering.

As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes

And ask HIM do you want to make a deal?

      The roles are now reversed, Dylan has a lot of money coming in the future while Edie is all but broke.  Vacuum is the blank, unresponsive stare Dylan gives while listening to her try to make a deal.

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people

They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made

Exhangin’ all kinds of precious gifts and things

But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it, babe

     Here Edie is thought of as a princess among the Harvard types that Warhol noted drifting down from Cambridge to make the scene, the ‘Beautiful’ privileged class that Dylan has been excluded from both by his social background and lack of college education.  It’s a party he can’t join.  Worse still, they’ve been laughing every time they see him.  Now the party is over, if Edie needs money she can pawn her jewelry.

You used to be so amused

At Napoleon in rags and the language he used

Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse.

     This implies Dylan knew Edie before Warhol as she apparently used to tell him how Warhol’s language amused her.  Napoleon in rags is Warhol who like Dylan has been trying to undermine the social order thus he has delusion of grandeur, of being a Napoleon.  As Warhol and Dylan are twins in intent Dylan is also inadvertantly describing himself.

When you’ve got nothin’ you’ve got nothin’ to lose

You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal

     Now that Edie has been reduced to street level, anything goes because from where Dylan was when he hit NYC it was all up from hustling Times Square.  Being invisible means as the invisible man in the Ralph Ellison novel sense.  One walks by negroes without acknowledging their existance hence they are invisible.  Now broke, that is Edies case since she is now insignificant per Dylan she has nothing anyone wants to hear  as per Ellison’s Invisible Man, hence no secrets to conceal.

     So as of mid-summer Dylan has vented his frustrations on Warhol in Positively Fourth Street i.e. the bottom, and Edie in Like A Rolling Stone.  More remarkably he has vented, blasted his privacy all over America on a thousand radio stations as well as in Europe and the world.  The two songs are as searing as Ballad In Plain D although the subjects of his rants are not so obvious.  For him to now say that he want’s to protect his privacy is preposterous.

      The story does not end here.  In Dylan’s war for the top spot of the NYC underground scene, the avant garde, he has to establish himself there for all to see and acknowledge.  In a shameful display of callous disregard for the well being of Edie she will be the object of a tug-of-war between Dylan and Warhol.  She will be the symbol of supremacy in the underground.  That struggle will be the topic of  Exhuming Bob 23b which follows.