As Bob Dylan begins his latest Australian tour we bring you a series of interviews about his importance, starting today with Michael Goldberg, founder of Addicted To Noise and former Editor at Rolling Stone. We will also talk to David Kinney, author of The Dylanologists and music critic Bill Wyman about his article ‘How Did Bob Dylan Get So Weird?’
Michael Goldberg as recently published his first novel True Love Scars (www.truelovescars.com) in which Bob Dylan’s music and inspiration plays a major role. We will run the full interview about the novel soon but here Brian Wise talks to Goldberg about Dylan’s crucial part in the novel.
There are a number of musicians who are really important in the novel. Could you talk about what it is about Dylan that obviously still appeals to you as opposed to what it was when you first heard him singing like a Rolling Stone. As the main character says in the novel, ‘The first time I heard that Dylan song it saved my life.’
There’s so many levels to this, but here’s one thing. With Bob Dylan, I learned that there are no rules. Even many of my friends who love Dylan didn’t think he could sing but he sang. In my opinion, he was one of the most incredible singers there has ever been. The way he sang, not just ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ but the way he sang every song on his first album and every song on Freewheelin and The Times They are Changing and Bringing It All Back Home and Another Side.
To me that voice is just amazing and nuanced and doing so much in the way he delivers each word and each sentence. Basically it was like, well, there are no rules. You can make this stuff up. You don’t have to do it the way it’s been done before. That was a big lesson.
That’s a lesson that let me create Addicted to Noise out of thin air back in the 1990s. That’s what led me realise, ‘Hey! I can be one of these guys who’s writing about music in Rolling Stone. I could be one of those people. I don’t have to … That could be my life. Just because my parents want me to have some kind of traditional profession, I don’t have to do that.’
Those are some things that I learned from Bob Dylan. From when I first heard ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ on the radio through to today, his music is one of the guiding light. To me it’s so beautiful, just to listen to the sound of those albums. Just the sound of the music, it just puts me into a whole other zone. Then there are the words. Then there’s just the way he carried himself in the world and continues to carry himself in the world. There’s so much there.
There’s a terrific article, in the New York magazine by Bill Wyman the music writer (How Did Bob Dylan Get So Weird).
Dylan is an enigma, isn’t he?
Have you read David Dalton’s book about Bob Dylan? [Yes] Again, another great take on trying to figure out who is this guy – but we’ll never figure him out. I don’t think we ever will. You can never get to the bottom of him.
Why do you think he’s still touring? He gets mixed reviews for his concerts. It’s strange because on the latest song he put up on the internet, which maybe from a forthcoming album, he’s sounding great.
First of all, when he wants to it seems like Dylan can sing really, really well. It seems like it’s a choice. That song that he put up, the Sinatra cover song – Sinatra didn’t write it but it’s best-known as being done by Sinatra – sounds incredible. It’s fantastic and when you listen to the bootleg stuff that appears some of it shows up online on YouTube and sometimes as downloads, there are times when his voice sounds fantastic and his band is incredible. In my opinion he’s got this terrific band that he’s been touring with.
When he’s on, it’s really, really great. It’s different. It’s not the same as what he was doing [earlier]. I’m sure he would be the first to say, ‘Yeah, I sure don’t want it to sound like it sounded before because this is a new time, a new day.’
Why is he touring? It seems like he likes to tour. It seems he likes being on the road. It’s a lifestyle that he has grown accustomed to. It seems that he’s always been a person who hasn’t wanted to stand in the same place. Don’t look back. Certainly, there was a time when he settled down and he tried the family life but obviously that ultimately didn’t suit him.
I saw him in a college basketball court stadium, small basketball stadium in Eugene, Oregon a few years ago having seen him in Portland the night before. I’m sure he’s not doing it for the money. As somebody said to me he could have retired 30 years ago on his songwriting royalties, couldn’t he?
When he’s in his seventies, I can’t believe that he has to do this. In his seventies! Come on! Come on! Bob Dylan could settle down in a nice Victorian house somewhere and live out the rest of his days if he wanted to. He’d have to be able to do that. I can’t possibly believe that he needs to be out on the road because he’s got to pay alimony or something. It seems like his songwriting royalties would more than cover everything that … all of his expenses and way more. Didn’t he get $5 million for that Pepsi commercial? I mean come on!
The question is what drives … I think he once said, ‘If you stand still you die.’ Maybe that’s it.
There you go.
Next week: Michael Goldberg on True Love Scars!