Bob Dylan: One on One

August 14, 2016
Dan Marks (DM):  Well, we’re in for a treat.  We’re catching up with none other than the legend himself – Bob Dylan.   Bob, it’s a pleasure.
Bob Dylan (BD): Glad to be here.
DM:  OK.  Let’s address this off the bat so that we have complete understanding of the premise.  You’re not the real Bob Dylan, are you?
BD: No, I’m more of a faux Dylan.  I’m just your mind at play.  However, a lot of what I’m going to say is either taken from my song titles, lyrics to my songs, or something I was quoted as saying.
DM: Excellent.  So, let’s get started.  I really appreciate your time.  I have to admit, Mr. Dylan, that I was a little nervous about approaching you to do this interview.  You know, I had a lot of concerns, I was very hesitant, I wasn’t sure if you’d accept….
BD: "Don't think twice, it's all right."
DM: Thanks, I feel much better.  Hey, wait….that’s a lyric of yours, right?
BD: Well, lyric and song title, both.  I tell you, though, I’ve performed and been quoted so much in my life, it’s hard for me to remember what’s a lyric of mine and what’s just a profound observation.  It’s always been a fine line, anyway.  Although, to tell you the truth, I was never really going for deep meaning in my lyrics.  I mainly wanted them to rhyme.
DM: So, let’s talk about what led to this interview.  Seems like recently there was a flurry of discussion about you in the "Hey Bill" section of the Bill James Online web site after Bill referenced one of your songs in one of his answers, and a lot of readers started chiming in.
BD: Yeah, it was really flattering to see all the discussion about my music.  "Hey Bill" is one of my favorite parts of the site.
DM: Oh, are you a member?
BD: Yep.  Been one since the beginning.
DM: What’s your member name?
BD: Well, I have several that I sign in under, depending on my mood.  My main one is RZimmerman1941, but I also have BooWilbury, LuckyWilbury, and ElstonGunn.  When I’m feeling particularly frisky, I sign in under MarisFan61.
DM: Wait…that’s you????
BD: No, I’m just messing with you.  But I do read all his posts.
DM: So, anyway, I know that Bill is a big fan of yours, and I’ve seen comparisons between Bill and you in the past.  In the book "The Mind of Bill James: How a Complete Outsider Changed Baseball" by Scott Gray, there’s an excerpt that reads:

"The new generation of sabermetricians can and should see Bill James as its Bob Dylan, working and inspiring across time, to be judged in historical context"

What’s your reaction to that?
 
BD: Honestly, that sounds a bit highfalutin for both of us.  I suspect we both were just trying to adhere to a couple of principles I believe in:
 
"I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be." 
 
and
 
"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do."
 
I certainly don’t want to speak for Bill, but I bet he would be uncomfortable being compared to me.  I know he’s a big fan, and I appreciate it, and I enjoy his work as well.  But, there’s also a more basic connection between the two of us that you can point to besides our impact on our respective industries, if people do insist on comparing us.
DM: Oh?  What’s that?
BD: Beans.
DM: Sorry?
BD: Beans.
DM: Not sure I understand.
BD: Well, you know the story about how Bill got his start, right?  He was a security guard at the Stokley-Van Camp pork and beans cannery, and he spent a lot of his time there "working on his numbers".   
DM: Yep, that’s been pretty well established, and a lot of people are familiar with how Bill got his start.  What about you, though?
BD: When I was a kid, my love of music and appreciation of a good rhyme can be traced back to the first song I learned:
 
Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel
So we have beans at every meal.
 
DM: You’re kidding.
BD: No, I’m serious.  It all traces back to that.  In fact, you can see the genesis of "Like a Rolling Stone" in that lyric.
DM: How so?
BD: You know the part that goes:
 
"How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be on your own"
 
DM: Sure.
BD: The first "how does it feel?" question was lifted from the "Beans" lyric, "the more you toot, the better you feel".  I was asking a rhetorical "how does it feel?", because when you have a productive bean toot, you obviously feel great, at least initially.
DM: I see.
BD: Then, in the aftermath of the bean toot, while you’re still basking in that feeling of relief, I ask the 2nd "how does it feel? To be on your own" question, because even though it feels great at first, the end result of a good bean fart is that you have to deal with the potential of being ostracized, feeling shame, and being left on your own.  So, asking it twice forces you to deal with balancing the initial euphoria of "I’m feeling great" with the eventual feeling of loneliness.  A "rolling stone" is symbolic of being alone, after all.
DM: So, one of the most famous and acclaimed songs in history had its genesis in beans?  
BD: Yep
DM: When you first started writing "Like a Rolling Stone", did you realize it would eventually attain such a lofty status?
BD: Nah, I was just farting around….
DM: Swell.  OK….so you and Bill are connected by beans.  I’ll accept that.  Let’s move on.  Are you a big baseball fan?
BD: Huge fan.  In fact, baseball has been the inspiration for quite a bit of my work.
DM: Really?
BD: Yep.  Hey, want to get everyone in the right mood for this?
DM: Sure
BD: OK.  Check this out:
 
 
DM: Thanks…that was terrific.  So, you say baseball has been a big inspiration for your music?
BD: Yep.  On most of my songs, people don’t realize that baseball was the inspiration, although one was pretty obvious.  I wrote a song in 1976 about Catfish Hunter, who signed with the Yankees the year before.  Pretty cool song, if I do say so myself, and I thought long and hard about what to call it.  I wanted something insightful and poetic, full of nuance and depth, something that people could ponder and discuss for hours.
DM: Sounds cool.  What did you end up calling it?
BD: "Catfish"
DM: I see.  Spent a lot of time on that title, did you?
BD: Hey, man, give me a break.  Don Rickles, not once, but twice, starred on something called "The Don Rickles Show", and nobody gives him crap over that.
DM: OK, sorry.
BD: Anyway, people got the obvious baseball tie-in there, but they missed the connections on a lot of my other work.
DM: For example?
BD: Well, "The Times, They are A-Changin’"……
DM: Ah, one of your most famous and significant songs, one of the great anthems of the ‘60’s…
BD: Yep.  It was inspired by the Yankees becoming sellers instead of buyers at the 2016 trade deadline.
DM: Wait a minute….that just happened a couple of weeks ago. 
BD: So?
DM: You wrote that song over 50 years ago.
BD: What can I say, man….I’m a visionary, and the drugs were pretty strong in the ‘60’s, so seeing 50 years into the future wasn’t considered that big a stretch.  Besides, this interview is a fantasy.  You’re going to have to suspend your disbelief a little better than that if you’re going to enjoy this.
DM: OK, I’ll try.  What else?
BD: "Blowin’ in the Wind".  I wrote that after watching a high-scoring home run fest at Wrigley Field.
DM: I see.  What about that song "Handle with Care" that you co-wrote with the others in the Traveling Wilburys?  Baseball-inspired?
BD: Yep.  Wrote it about Stephen Strasburg.
DM: Well, it seems to be paying dividends this year.  How about "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"?
BD: Curt Schilling in the 2004 ALCS.
DM: I should have known.
BD: Actually, I wrote another one during that series, in tribute to Dave Roberts and his steal that made the comeback from being down 3 games to none possible.
DM: Which song was that?
BD: "If Not for You".  David Ortiz helped inspire it as well.
DM: Well, this is very enlightening.  Let’s rattle off some quick ones from your portfolio …..I’ll name them, and you give me the inspiration, OK?
BD: OK.
DM: "Ballad of a Thin Man"?
BD: Kent Tekulve
DM: "Forever Young"?
BD: Watching Nolan Ryan pitch.
DM: "Tangled Up in Blue"?
BD: The Pete Rose-Dave Pallone confrontation.
DM: "I Threw it All Away"?
BD: Pete Rose, again.
DM: "Jokerman"?
BD: The antics of Jay Johnstone.
DM: "Precious Angel"?
BD: Mike Trout
DM: "Restless Farewell"?
BD: Derek Jeter’s retirement tour
DM: "The Wandering Kind"?
BD: Kolten Wong getting picked off by Koji Uehara to end a World Series game.
DM: "Tragedy of the Trade"?
BD: Robinson/Pappas, Brock/Broglio, Sandberg/DeJesus, etc.
DM: "Waiting to Get Beat"?
BD: The 1899 Cleveland Spiders
DM: "When He Returns"?
BD: Bobo Newsom
DM: "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking"?
BD: Moneyball
DM: "Masters of War"?
BD: I started getting into advanced analytics and spent a lot of time on baseball-reference.com and Fangraphs.com. 
DM: Interesting.  By the way, the usage of WAR always generates a lot of discussion.  Are you able to offer up any critique of WAR?
BD:  Me personally?  No.  It’s like I say, "don’t criticize what you can’t understand".
DM: Gotcha.  How about, "Mixed-Up Confusion"?
BD: I wrote that after listening to Casey Stengel speak.
DM: "Shelter From the Storm"?
BD: Watching games at the Rogers Centre (Skydome) and seeing the retractable roof close.  Also inspired me to write "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall".
DM: So, you were big on weather themes, huh?
BD: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
DM: OK, I think that gives us a taste.  I’m sure there are many others.  But, one I’m guessing that isn’t baseball-related is one of my favorites of yours, "Mr. Tambourine Man".  I don’t see any obvious connection there.
BD: Well, glad you like it.  But, actually there is a baseball connection there.  You want to hear the back story?
DM: Boy, do I?  Go ahead.
BD: Are you familiar with origins of the Beatles’ "Yesterday"?  That’s a pretty well-known story.  Paul McCartney was fiddling with the structure, found the melody, but as he developed the lyrics, he used some substitute words as a placeholder, and his working title was "Scrambled Eggs":

"Scrambled eggs,
Oh my baby how I love your legs,
Not as much as I love scrambled eggs"

DM: Yep, I’m familiar with that story.
BD: Kind of the same thing happened to me.   You know I’m originally from Minnesota, right?  It so happened that I was able to acquire tickets to Game 6 of the 1965 World Series between the Twins and the Dodgers.  Late in the game, one of those mobile beer vendors came into my section, and I had to get his attention.   So, I started belting this out:
 
Hey, Mr. Vendor Beer Man, save a brew for me
I’m thirsty and there’s no concession that I’m going to.
Hey Mr. Bud Light Beer Guy, send some suds my way
With the jingle jangle in my pocket, I’ll be paying you.
 
Nothing would satisfy me like an ice cold frothy beer.
While I rise up and I cheer.
As the crowd erupts and claps,
A jumbled scorecard on my lap,
Led by Versalles and Killebrew,
The Twins are down 3 games to 2
But with ole’ Mudcat on the mound
There’s still a chance we could be crowned
And ease our sorrow
 
Yes, I heard that if we win today
We’ll have to face their best
Koufax on 2 days of rest
And though he’s the same faith as me
I’ll still pray he twists his knee,
So he can’t throw that nasty curve,
And maybe he will lose his verve.
Let’s hope we win today so we can play tomorrow.
 
Hey, Mr. Vendor Beer Man, save a brew for me
I’m thirsty and there’s no concession that I’m going to.
Hey Mr. Bud Light Beer Guy, send some suds my way
With the jingle jangle in my pocket, I’ll be paying you.
 
DM: I feel like I just experienced my own personal "Behind the Music".  Thanks for sharing.
BD: You’re welcome.
DM: So, "Mr. Vendor Beer Man" is your "Scrambled Eggs"?
BD: You got it.
DM: Wow.  Today we’ve covered beans, scrambled eggs, and beer.  I see a running theme.
BD: Hey, man, I ain’t no starving artist.
DM: That’s pretty impressive that you can remember those lyrics after all these years.
BD: "Ah, but I was so much older then.  I’m younger than that now."
DM: Another lyric, right?
BD: Can’t get one past you.  Hey, before we finish, you mind if I turn the tables and ask you a few questions?
DM: Sure.
BD: Well, for years I’ve been asking questions in my songs that no one has ever really answered, because I think everyone figured they were just rhetorical, but they were real questions, and I was hoping you could help.  First question: "How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?"
DM: OK.
BD: Second: "How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?"
DM: I’m with ya.
BD: Finally: "How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?"
DM: OK…I’ll take a shot at it.  Let’s see….# of times having to look up to see the sky, # of ears to hear people cry, and # of deaths that are too many?
BD: Right.
DM: OK.  I’m going to go with the same answer to all three.  "One"
BD: "One"?  Really?
DM: Yeah.  I’m trying not to overthink it.  One look, one ear, one death.
BD: OK.  I appreciate it.  Personally, I’ve always found the answers to be kind of elusive.
DM: Sort of like they were blowin’ in the wind, huh?
BD: No….like they’re elusive.  I know what I meant.  I’m Bob Dylan.  I know a little something about vocabulary and choosing the right word.  Not everything has to be a stinkin’ analogy.
DM: Sorry.
BD: That’s OK….just messin’ with you again.
DM: We need to find some way to wrap this up.
BD: "There must be some kind of way out of here"
DM: Do you need a ride?  I could give you one.  I’m low on fuel, though.  Is there a gas station nearby?
BD: There is, but there’s a problem.
DM: What’s that?
BD:  "The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."
DM: Bummer.
 
Thanks for reading.
 
 

COMMENTS (7 Comments, most recent shown first)

villageelliott
[b][i]Shared Birthright[i] 1
T. S. Elliott: 1/05[b]

Just like Spahn and Sain pitchin’, pre rain,
My two mentors are linked, shall remain,
Both of them I have mined,
For the wisdom I’d find,
Robert Zimmerman, (Dylan), Mark Twain;

‘Tis limericks that’s best for expressin’
The reasons that I’ll be a-stressin’,
Why, on each I project,
My esteem and respect,
My shared birthright with each, One Boon Blessin’;

West Side “Big Muddy’s” Great River Road,
Addressed each of our childhood’s abode,
St. Louis, Hibbing, Minn,
Hannibal; like Huck Finn,
Each “skeedaddled from,” when we full-growed;

“Down-river,” on the Ol’ Mississip’,
Mark Twain pilots past where two royals drip;
Rapscallions on a raft,
Fell in pissin’ off-aft,
Floated downstream, crawled gaspin’ from rip;

Nigh that spot I’ze born; there, where first dipped,
“Ol’ Man Ribber” rocked, roiled, ran back-tipped,
Near Big Quake’s center, this
Half-twixt St. Lou-Memphis;
I’ze baptized where “Big Muddy” back-dripped;

Sikeston first “Showed-Me,” March, ‘Fifty One,
Quick moved up St. Lou.; further north spun,
Decade-elder Bro-Yid,
Who left North Country, did
Revisit our shared Route Sixty-One;

I remember the first time I heard
Dylan singin’, words tweaked-out, absurd;
Wide-eyed pride aside I’d
Decide God’s On My Side,
Tied beside, ride bestride, bide my word!

Mysterious Stranger pays Twain’s dues,
While Times Are A-Changin’ Hick-Jews,
Maggie’s Farmin’ Quarry’s
Ol’ Dan’s Talkin’ Stories,
Show-Me Tom Sawyer’s Yid Mo.-Mule Blues!

This Mizzou Jew-Hick, me, Elliott,
Has sympathy for J. Iscariot,
Like Mark Twain, for Huck Finn,
Got Bad Rap, ‘tis a sin;
Reckon Most think I’m an Idiot


3:45 PM Sep 2nd
 
mauimike
"The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on, keepin on like a bird
that flew and Maris knew
Tangled up in blue."
2:00 AM Aug 17th
 
MarisFan61
As they say, "Just make sure you spell it right." :-)

I was very amused.
11:01 AM Aug 15th
 
DMBBHF
Hi all,

Thanks for all the nice comments.

Hi MarisFan,

You're welcome, and I hope you took it in the positive spirit I intended, which was one of playfulness as well as respect. I figured you'd be OK with it, otherwise I wouldn't have done it :)

Thanks!
Dan
6:38 AM Aug 15th
 
MarisFan61
Dan: Thanks for the mention.
(I guess.) :-)

And FF: Thanks for 'highlighting' it. I wouldn't have noticed it if you didn't.
11:09 PM Aug 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Really funny, Daniel. I could read a book of this stuff.
1:15 PM Aug 14th
 
flyingfish
Wow, Daniel, this is wonderful. And this was nothing short of brilliant: "BD: Well, I have several that I sign in under, depending on my mood. My main one is RZimmerman1941, but I also have BooWilbury, LuckyWilbury, and ElstonGunn. When I’m feeling particularly frisky, I sign in under MarisFan61." I really did laugh out loud at that.

Thank you.
10:45 AM Aug 14th
 
 
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