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WORTH REPEATING: Bob Dylan Love and Theft
There are three absolute certainties in this world: death, taxes and the fact that on any given night of the year, Bob Dylan is playing somewhere on Earth. Nobody is quite sure when this never-ending tour started, but for as long as anyone can remember it’s been going on like death and taxes. And while endless roadwork usually brings younger musicians to their knees–leaving bands shipwrecked on a deserted island of rehab and recrimination–it seems to have rejuvenated the 60-year-old Dylan, shaking him out of his ’80s stupor and focusing him like a laser. Likewise, his band — guitarists Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton, bassist Tony Garnier, drummer David Kemper and ex-Sir Douglas Quintet organist Augie Meyers — has evolved into a precision sound machine, a perpetual motion Encyclopedia Americana, able to essay any homegrown style like they invented it: Western swing, jump blues, tailfin rockabilly, Texas blooze, Prairie Home Companion-style schmaltz, etc. And it’s their playing that takes this album to the sublime places it visits over the course of 12 songs. Dylan’s words are funny, sharp and bitter to the point of sweetness. His voice is in such an advanced state of Kool-scarred disrepair that he moos like a cow with his leg caught in an electric fence. And the band just turns up the voltage. On Love and Theft, Dylan steals a little something from everything that has come before–including himself–and it sounds like the perfect crime. That’s the beauty of American music: You can steal anything you want, and if you can prove you love it enough, nobody will ever ask you to give it back. –JONATHAN VALANIA
THE METH MINUTE: When Bob Dylan Got The Beatles High
EXCERPT: In mid-August the Beatles commence their North American tour, an unheard-of 26 dates in 25 cities. Joining them on tour is 21-year-old Larry Kane, a Miami radio newsman who will serve as Brylcreemed Beatles chronicler, breathlessly delivering daily dispatches to a network of radio stations across the country like he’s Edward R. Murrow shouting the news of The Blitz from the rooftops of London.
In time he’ll come to appreciate the Beatles’ artistry and realize the historic magnitude of the events he’s covering. But at the outset Kane fancies himself a serious journalist on a frivolous assignment. Square as a two-cent stamp, he’s deeply skeptical of the four long-haired Liverpudlians, an impression reinforced by his father, who tells him just before leaving for the tour, “Watch out, Larry. Those Beatles are trouble.”
Kane’s first encounter with John Lennon in a San Francisco hotel room doesn’t go so well.
“What’s your problem, man?” Lennon asks.
“What do you mean?” replies Kane.
“Why are you dressed like a fag ass, man? What’s with that? How old are you?”
“Well, it’s better than looking scruffy and messed up like you.”
But Lennon’s derision melts away when Kane turns around and asks him about Vietnam, a topic Beatles manager Brian Epstein has forbidden the boys to talk about. Kane is surprised by how informed and articulate Lennon is about his objection to the war. Lennon is surprised to hear an American journalist ask him a non-moronic question. After a rocky start, Kane eventually earns the Beatles’ respect because, unlike the cynical press corps that greeted the band in every city, he never talks down to them.
The Beatles crisscross the country in a chartered turboprop dubbed “the Electra,” touching down in each city long enough to whip the wiggling pubescent throngs into a hysterical lather for 38 minutes before taking off again.
Teenage girls going crazy for idols is as old as Sinatra, and Elvis’ swivel-hipped reign only upped the ante. But Kane starts to notice a significant difference. Not only is the decibel level and intensity of the audience reaction off the scale, but the degree to which these kids are willing to buck authority — breaking through barricades, accosting police officers and engaging in all manner of subterfuge, such as dressing up as hotel chambermaids just to get closer to the object of their desire — is unprecedented. As the Day-Glo youthquake of the ’60s erupts, it will become apparent that this was a harbinger of things to come.
The news reports of all of this youth gone wild in the streets doesn’t go unnoticed by Frank Rizzo, then-deputy commissioner of Philadelphia’s finest. The Big Bambino is gonna make damn sure the same crap doesn’t happen on his watch.
When President Johnson came to town to address the graduating class of Swarthmore in the spring of ’64, the police held just one meeting to strategize security, and it was open to the press. For Operation Beatle, as it was dubbed, Rizzo holds three closed-door security meetings, using a slide projector to plot out every possible security breach and problem area at Convention Hall. The good news is that the hospital is only 24 seconds away.
Rizzo would soon face down a much bigger problem than unruly teenage girls. In North Philadelphia, tensions between the black community and Rizzo’s force are about to explode. On the night of Aug. 28 at the corner of 22nd and Columbia, a black police officer gets into a shoving match with an inebriated black woman. A crowd gathers, and bottles and bricks began raining down as police reinforcements are called in. By 10:30 p.m. the melee on Columbia Avenue has escalated into a full-blown riot. Before dawn Rizzo is on the scene, backed by 600 uniformed policemen.
At the very moment the riot is breaking out in North Philadelphia, the Beatles are camped at the Hotel Delmonico in New York for a two-day run at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Something is happening in the hotel room that, had he found out, would have given Rizzo apoplexy: Bob Dylan is passing a joint to John Lennon. This act of stoner generosity will almost single-handedly light the fuse of the psychedelic ’60s.Dylan just assumed the Fab Four were all seasoned pot smokers, having mistaken the “I can’t hide” line in “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for “I get high.” Lennon warily hands the joint to Ringo Starr. Blissfully unaware of pot-smoking etiquette, he proceeds to bogart it down to the ashes. Another joint is quickly rolled.Giddy with the “profound” philosophical insight of the newly high, Paul McCartney announces he has figured out the meaning of life. He asks an assistant for a pen and a piece of paper. He simply must write this down before he forgets it. The next morning he’s disappointed to discover that the only thing written on the piece of paper is the cryptic phrase, “THERE ARE SEVEN LEVELS.” MORE
BOB DYLAN: Love Minus Zero/No Limits