Bob Dylan isn’t much for the spoken word but we got to “hear” what he’s thinking these days with an interview that’s been posted on his website.
Maybe it’s just as well he skipped the Nobel ceremony. He didn’t say much.
If you’re a true Minnesotan, you’ll probably want to scroll through a lot of questions we don’t care about to get to the stuff we do.
It’s hard not to think of World War II when we hear some of these. You were born during the war – do you remember anything about it?
People called Shadows in the Night a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Did you know Sinatra had recorded all those songs when you put that record out?
What drummers do you like?
Ah, here we go. Let’s talk about us.
Spoiler alert: We’re not special.
You’ve traveled a lot for a long while. Is there still something that makes Minnesota different from other places? Is there any quality people have there that you don’t find elsewhere?
Not necessarily. Minnesota has its own Mason Dixon line. I come from the north and that’s different from southern Minnesota; if you’re there you could be in Iowa or Georgia. Up north the weather is more extreme – frostbite in the winter, mosquito-ridden in the summer, no air conditioning when I grew up, steam heat in the winter and you had to wear a lot of clothes when you went outdoors.
Your blood gets thick. It’s the land of 10,000 lakes – lot of hunting and fishing. Indian country, Ojibwe, Chippewa, Lakota, birch trees, open pit mines, bears and wolves – the air is raw. Southern Minnesota is farming country, wheat fields and hay stacks, lots of corn fields, horses and milk cows. In the north it’s more hardscrabble. It’s a rugged environment – people lead simple lives, but they lead simple lives in other parts of the country too. People are pretty much the same wherever you go.
There is good and bad in most people, doesn’t matter what state you live in. Some people are more self-sufficient than other places – some more secure, some less secure – some people mind their own business, some don’t.
Fascinating. I wonder if there’s more.
Did you grow up around a lot of Indians?
The answer was “no,” if you’re interested.
Dylan hates hunting, we learn, although he knows how to clean fish.
But let’s get right to the stuff everyone wants to know.
Hubert Humphrey was a big figure in Minnesota when you were growing up. Did you ever see him in person or meet him?
The answer was “no,” by the way.
There was only one other mention of Minnesota.
Minneapolis and St. Paul – the Twin Cities, they were rock and roll towns. I didn’t know that. I thought the only rock and roll towns were Memphis and Shreveport. In Minneapolis they played northwest rock and roll, Dick Dale and the Ventures, The Kingsmen played there a lot, The Easy Beats, The Castaways, all surf bands, high voltage groups.
A lot of Link Ray stuff like “Black Widow” and “Jack the Ripper,” all those northwest instrumentals like “Tall Cool One.” “Flyin’ High” by the Shadows was a big hit. The Twin Cities was surfing rockabilly – all of it cranked up to ten with a lot of reverb; tremolo switches, everything Fender – Esquires, Broadcasters, Jaguars, amps on folding chairs – the chairs even looked Fender. Sandy Nelson drumming. “Surfing Bird” came out of there a little while later, it didn’t surprise me.
And then the interview moved on directly to, perhaps, the most insipid question you could ask Bob Dylan.
What do you think of Joan Baez?
Let’s back up a second.
Their 1960’s love affair — and the way it ended — was, perhaps, the most painful part of Joan Baez’s life. Baez is the Queen Mother of folk. Baez launched Dylan’s career by inviting him on stage during her tour. Baez and Dylan were in love.
Consider this section of the incredible How Sweet the Sound documentary to consider how intertwined Baez and Dylan were.
“She was something else, almost too much to take,” Dylan said, keeping his audience at arm’s length with the assistance of a bad interviewer.
Maybe it’s best if he keeps letting his singing do the talking.