Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Bob Dylan Interview | Lefsetz Letter

The Bob Dylan Interview

Q&A with Bill Flanagan
Mar 22, 2017
Exclusive to

Won’t get anybody to listen to the music. Actually, all you need to know is revealed in the answer wherein he says he listens to music on CDs. The plastic discs were supposed to be an improvement on vinyl, permanent and clear, but now the world has bifurcated, into vinyl purists and on demand streamers and if you’re listening to digital discs it just proves that you’re out of the loop. When did Bob Dylan become such an old fart? Then again, he’s 75.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist. If we can’t criticize the giants we cannot push them to test the limits and exceed their previous work. We’ve been giving Dylan a pass for far too long. I’ll piss him off, and his Grammy speech taught us he’s listening, intently, and say the last great thing he did was “Things Have Changed” from the “Wonder Boys” soundtrack. It was a one-off. Which percolated in the marketplace long after the movie stiffed, even though it was quite good, better than the book, then again, Michael Chabon’s one who’s gotten an unjust pass himself, too much focus on the writing and too little on the plot and I’ll posit his best work was his very first, “The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh,” but now I’m getting so obscure and referential you might be lost. I’m doing what Dylan is doing in this interview, and it’s utterly fascinating.

Getting back to the marketing element, in today’s world it’s so hard to gain attention that your product must be available simultaneous with the hype. Just ask Drake, who just proved it, or Beyonce. It’s only old farts inured to the movie business who believe in the buildup. To tell you the truth if “Triplicate” had been on Spotify today I would have checked out some of the cuts Dylan talks about, but I won’t when it’s released, whenever that might be, because I will have already moved on to new stuff and Bob’s disappointed me with his frog-throat voice and rearranged songs for far too long unless I hear from a trustworthy source I’m missing out. Then again, Dylan’s from a previous generation, he’s like God coming down from the mountaintop with the tablets, we pay attention to him, we don’t need no stinking penumbra. But I’ll bet your life and mine that this interview is better than the three disc set. Because that’s what Bob does best, opine, give us insight into the culture. He’s now lived long and is still obfuscating whilst revealing truth and instead of covering old chestnuts he should be blogging, now’s when we need him most, when our country is in turmoil, we’re looking for insight, we’re looking for art, we’re ready for his tricks. Instead he’s bunting, using up his capital hyping a project that no one cares about that will be instantly forgotten, like his previous cover LPs, and if you think he doesn’t care then why did he do this interview in the first place? A fake one to boot. Bill Flanagan is interviewing him but it debuts on Bob’s own site? Did Flanagan even get paid? Hell, Flanagan’s questions are the worst part, it’s Dylan’s cryptic answers that intrigue. Riddled with truth and falsehood. Bob’s the original Keyser Soze. We don’t know what to believe, but we can’t stop paying attention.

So just when we need him most, when he could put out one cut that could change the world, Dylan overloads us with irrelevant product in a world where we’ve got no time. How come all the old acts can’t come up to speed. Not only should the release be day and date with the hype, but one track is enough, we’ve got time to listen to one track. And then follow it up with another not that far down the line. We’re interested in what Dylan has to say, but the fawning press has been kissing his ass for so damn long that we’ve gone on react and are tuning his work out. Because how many times can you go to the well and find out it’s dry?

Dylan makes Minnesota come alive. Cites Twin Cities bands from far after he left. Creates myths about his family and friends not knowing or caring about his appearance on “Ed Sullivan” when he was always close to his mother and even brought her to a Yetnikoff event. Bob’s creating a character, who knows who he really is, and when he says he’s got nothing to say and is not worthy of the hang time you either protest too much or roll your eyes and say “there he goes again,” evading the punch, dancing like a butterfly while he stings us like a bee.

Yes, Dylan’s still here, unlike Muhammad Ali. And his insight and chops are as sharp as ever. But he’s squandering them. He refuses to reach for the stars. Refuses to write a song that will change the world. Refuses to come down off the mountaintop and interact with us in the new world. Sure, he did that XM series, but imagine Dylan on Twitter or YouTube. Imagine him writing with Drake. Imagine him risking.

Because he still cares. And he’s still stuck in the old ethos, where music is everything and you’re a student of the game. Bob Dylan still gives a damn, in a world where most aged acts are only about the bread, collecting cash from Live Nation when they pass Go!, and plying the boards endlessly giving people what they want. Dylan never played that game, he gave us what we needed. And what we need now more than ever is leaders who make us think for ourselves, who sharpen our vision, who get us to investigate and come up with our own conclusions, to question authority and brave the road untaken. This interview is a marvelous start, but the “Triplicate” project is a nonstarter, dead on arrival in a world where what happens in the morning is already forgotten in the afternoon and if you take chances and create greatness you can impact society, but there’s no greatness in covering aged tunes, however much insight they might contain, not when your voice is ragged and nearly unlistenable. For that, you’ve got to write a song that’s solely your own. We’re waiting Bob…


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