Exhuming Bob 31c

A Review

Victor Maymudes’

Another Side Of Bob Dylan

by

R.E. Prindle

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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.

 

2.

Victor and Bob

Victor and Bob

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.

Exhuming Bob XXIX:  Dylan And His Blonde Problems

by

R.E. Prindle

An Examination Of Temporary Like Achilles

Searching For Inspiration

Temporary Like Achilles is another ’64-’66 piece.  It has the feel of being improvisational, out of focus.  I believe it is a companion piece to Visions Of Johanna while it might be connected to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.

Dylan always said that he had no physical relations with the song’s subject Edie Sedgwick.  I’m certainly in no position to say but if this song is accurate then Edie for some reason played the virgin for him.  Either that or because she represented his mother to him it would have been an incestuous situation.  Edie did say she was pregnant by Dylan but then she says that she was in the psycho ward and that the doctor’s held her down and aborted the baby.  Of course she must have been delusional at that time having over dosed on amphetamines.  God, how she punished her mind.  I’m of the opinion that she probably was not pregnant by Dylan although there may be hospital records.

If one takes the last verse first:

Achilles is in your alleyway

He don’t want me here, he does brag

He’s pointing to the sky

And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.

How come you get someone like him to be your guard

You know I want your lovin’

Honey why are you so hard.

Warhol, the man in drag is obviously Achilles, perhaps meant humorously.  Achilles of course lived a short but glorious life.  Warhol is temporary because Dylan is moving in on Edie.

In answer to the refrain ‘you know I want your lovin, honey why are you so hard’, it is probably that Edie wanted to marry Dylan but in the way of women wanted to pose as a virgin so as to come to him pure.

When she was at Harvard in Boston she was known as a premier fag hag.  The men she knew were all gay so one presumes her chastity was safe there.  Of course, Andy Warhol, known here as Achilles here was gay.  Insofar as she associated with Andy, and he apparently really was smitten by her, as close to being in love as he could get with anyone, as he put it, her chastity was safe with him too.  Perhaps that is why Dylan has Achilles in Edie’s allegory, near but not close sexually.

As there was rivalry between Dylan and Warhol for Edie it follows that ‘he don’t want me here he does brag.’  The line

Her fogs, her amphetamines and her pearls.

would point to the situation as it stood in August or September of ’65.  He’s hungry like a man in drag may refer to his homosexuality which prevents him from satisfying his lust  I don’t know why he’s pointing at the sky but Dylan says disgustedly ‘how come you get someone (a fag) like him to be your guard.  Dylan was known to be macho at the time.

The first verse points to a period perhaps November-December of ’65.  Dylan, of course, married Sara in November of ’65 so that at this point Dylan would be playing with Edie as perhaps he thought she was playing with him before.

Hence:

Standing on your window, honey

Yes. I’ve been here before

Feeling so harmless

I’m looking at your second door

How come you don’t send me no regards?

You know I want you lovin’

Honey why are you so hard?

Here is a reference to Dylan and Edie’s first meeting in December of ’64.  And then in March Chuck Wein introduced Edie to the Factory although she had met Warhol a couple weeks after Dylan in January of ’65.   Dylan may have been too busy at the beginning of ’65 to actively pursue Edie, he also did have to pay attention to Sara who he was courting at the same time, plus engagements and whatever.

Andy

At any rate Edie teamed up with Warhol from March to about December of ’65.  At that point Dylan who was wooing Edie and Grossman his manager were promising to make Edie a star at something.  If as a star, she couldn’t sing, but then that didn’t stop Dylan from having a career.

Now, Andy had been trying to make Edie his movie star.  According to Ronnie Tavel who scripted many of Andy’s movies Andy saw Edie as his ticket to breaking into Hollywood.  That was one of Andy’s chief ambitions that was never realized.  Tavel says that he and Andy used to coach Edie in her lines.  When time to film came she always dosed herself with amphetamines before hand and, of course, uncoached herself.  Thus in Andy’s account of his appearance at the psychiatrists’ banquet in January of ’66 he remarks that it was futile for Dylan and Grossman to work with her because she was unable to concentrate long to get anything done.  Edie wouldn’t work hence no career.   Andy might have been able to get her something if she had.  He sounds rueful and hurt.

So in late ’65 this was Dylan’s second attempt to connect with Edie.

The second verse:

Kneeling ‘neith your ceiling

Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while

I’m trying to read your portrait, but

I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.

How come you send someone out to have me barred:

You know I want your lovin’

Honey, why are you so hard?

Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling fits in with standing in your window and looking at your second door.  Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling is probably somewhat like Paul Simon’s ‘One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor or Tony Orlando’s Stomp three time on the floor.  In other words Dylan is in the room beneath Edie unable to get to her unless she calls him.

Thus the addendum to verse two:

Like a poor fool in his prime

Yes’ I know you can hear me walk

But is our heart made out of stone, or is it lime

Or is it just solid rock?

In other words Edie knows he’s down there pacing anxiously back and forth but a hard hearted woman she refuses to call him to her, stomping three times on the floor.

The fourth verse:

Well, I rush into your hallway

Lean against your velvet door

I watch upon your scorpion

Who crawls across your circus floor

Just what do you think you have to guard?

You know I want your lovin’

Honey why are you so hard?

The ardent and frustrated would be lover can’t breach Edie’s window, door. ceiling, hallway, velvet door.  The scorpion/circus reference escapes me except that Edie may have appeared to be leading some circus life as does Ophelia in Desolation Row.

Apparently this was a throw away song for Dylan as other than recording it he has never played it in concert.  It was one of my favorites on the album however.  Perhaps after Dylan’s motorcycle accident the song became irrelevant to him.  Too topical, not universal enough as was its counterpart Visions of Johanna.

As far as Blonde On Blonde goes I’m tentatively of the opinion that Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 refers to Edie and his mother.  The only reference to Sara in the album would be Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.

Your secrets are safe with me, Bob, of course you don’t have anything to hide.