To continue our celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s arrival in New York City, we’ve asked folk singer/jovial Renaissance Man Todd Snider for his thoughts on Dylan’s legacy, and his intimidating stature among other artists and songwriters. So he told us a bunch of stories — the one about Dylan in the van is incredible. We were afraid to do anything to this editing-wise, so we didn’t.
Todd Snider On Bob Dylan (1/21/11)
it’s hard to think of new ways to consider bob dylan and his work
he’s probably the most debated and discussed singer to ever live.
but here’s a question. especially for songwriters.
what are you going to do if you meet bob dylan?
have you thought about it? do you have a plan?
i’ve been working on a plan since i was about twenty years old
and still don’t really have one.
is it presumptuous for someone to think they might meet bob dylan?
i don’t think so.
from what i hear, he likes to stay on the poorer side of town.
and we know from the story about the cop who didn’t recognize him
that he goes for walks.
i know a guy who thought he saw him on a street corner but wasn’t sure
if he was bob dylan or a hobo that looked like him.
bob caught him staring and said “it’s me”
my friend didn’t say anything back.
i know a guy that was in a studio once with him and witnessed a situation
where somebody’s booking agent gave bob a rambling speech about
the impact his music had on the world as he was sticking his hand out
to introduce himself.
my friend says bob just stood up without extending his own hand, walked
over to an exercise bike and got up on there
and started pedaling without saying a word.
in front of people no less.
what are you gonna do if you ever meet bob dylan?
i know another who was on a dylan session where they came back in
to listen to a track and after all the famous musicians got done with their two cents
bob asked the intern gopher kid what he thought and went with that.
i don’t know what the hell i’d say if i was around bob dylan.
another buddy of mine had a band that played a festival in europe with him
and he said to get back to the hotels everybody had to take the same ferry
leaving the bands, bob included, exposed to the crowd.
my friend found a table with a chess board on it and sat down
and noticed bob dylan leaning against the rail and looking at the water.
at first nobody noticed him but eventually he started to get surrounded.
my friend got up and walked right up to him and said
“bob we got the chess board you wanted”
and bob saw his chance and took it. my buddy got to play silent chess with him
the whole trip and as long as bob seemed engaged people seemed to
leave him alone.
i don’t know if i’d have had the courage to do that.
i also know a musician who got a call from bob dylan’s manager
saying that bob wanted to ask him a few questions about a certain instrument.
my friend didn’t know bob even knew who he was and was floored.
“of course” he yelled. “when?” …
“how’s today” the guy answered.
“fine with me” my friend said “what time”
“how bout now” the manager answered.
“sure . . . where do i go” my friend shot back
“well.” the manager went on. “you seen that brown van out in front of your house?”
“bob’s in there.”
i got another buddy that said he was gonna audition for bob once
and the plan was for bob to come over to my friend’s house.
my friend was supposed to have tuned guitars ready. he did.
bob came in with his dogs and kids. the kids started right in messing
with the guitar pegs and a dog shit. they never spoke of either thing.
then bob wanted to know if there was any other guitars and so my friend went out to the garage
to get a new one and somehow managed to get himself pinned under his own garage door.
so within a few minutes of meeting bob dylan my friend was screaming out to him for help.
i’m hoping if i ever meet bob dylan that i don’t end up pinned under a garage door.
speaking of doors i heard another story from a studio in memphis where bob came in
to sing on somebody’s record or something. they all say he didn’t speak a word to anyone
the whole time. even when spoken to. and then, upon leaving he turned to the receptionist
and said “big doors huh.”
no one remembers what she said back.
i have another buddy that worked with him once and made fun of his hooded sweatshirt
disguise. and bob brought him a hooded sweatshirt.
that seems like it worked
another buddy of mine auditioned at bob’s house. he said he was kept waiting a while.
he said he told bob how great he thought he was. bob said nothing.
they picked a bit and bob got up and left.
i have another buddy that was staying with a famous guy on an island.
one day putzing around on something to do street he sees bob dylan
and screws up the courage to walk over and say
“hey bob i’m so and so and i’m staying over at so and so’s house,
i know he’d love to see you. you want to come with us.”
he says bob just stared at him a minute and walked off.
i don’t think i’d try to insinuate some mutual friend thing if i ever met bob dylan.
but what do you do. tell him you like his lyrics for fuck’s sake.
or a particular song? are you kidding? a particular song?
no fucking way. or a period. can you imagine what he does here?
can you imagine how many people that never even consider once what
they would say if they met bob dylan get to.
and i’m standing around here like a schmuck.
and what do they say? they say shit like “my dad loves you”
or “my kid loves you” or “when are you going to do this or that again”
or “we loved you in the ’60s”
you know i bet he gets as much of that as he gets the
“what did you mean by this” or “what made you say that”
or how bout the odd “were you talking about me”
fuck i’ve got that before. and i’m a folk singer from the ’90s for fuck’s sake.
they don’t even really have those.
imagine how much crazy shit bob dylan hears?
especially all you traveling musicians who hear crazy shit yourself sometimes.
imagine how many of us have gushed him blue in the fucking face.
imagine how many superstars have just superlatived him sick in the fucking stomach.
should everybody just leave him alone? that doesn’t seem right.
it seems like sometimes he should get to hear a “thanks bob”
which is essentially what all of it really is.
thank you. that’s the only part of my plan that’s been in there for a while.
i can’t help myself from wanting to add.
“and not just for the songs and music either, but for the books and movies and interviews
and videos and photo shoots and concerts and the big dome house and the shades.
and all that shit. and speaking of the songs and the music. i love all of it.
every inch of it. every song, period, show, band, outtake, fucking all of it.
but you see here i go . . . now i’m starting to talk to the very bob dylan
the same way i talk to my nephew about bob dylan.
in that spastic way that remind me of an old far side cartoon
where the two gorillas are under a banana tree gorging on bananas
when one turns to the other and says
“you know man, i know we’re supposed to like bananas. being gorillas and all
but i think its different for me. i mean, i really like them”
that’s how most true bob dylan fans sound when they start trying to explain him.
that poor fucking bob dylan shouldn’t have to meet anybody.
i wonder if he likes to sometimes. i wonder if there are compliments he likes.
anyway i better wrap this up. i’m heading over to my nephew’s bar mitzvah.
god i hope bob dylan isn’t there. i’m not ready damn it.
i’m just not ready.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 26, 2011