(Ed. note – This is our take on the “official” preview/review of Rough and Rowdy Ways, published June 12 in the New York Times. We’ll deal with the record itself in the coming days.)
Article updated June 18, 2020 by Dave Read
Team Dylan controls access to Bob Dylan the same way access to the Angels is wholly mediated by the Chief Commander, Dylan’s nickname for God, as he revealed to Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes in 2004, when CBS got The Interview for the release of Dylan’s book Chronicles, Volume One.
For the Juneteenth* release of Rough and Rowdy Ways, which seems bound to raise as much of a ruckus as Chronicles did, TV historian Douglas Brinkley and the Old Grey Lady herself got The Interview, published June 12, under the headline of the millennium: Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind.
Bob Dylan created Bob Dylan to protect Abe and Beatty Zimmerman from the trials and tribulations of their first born son, who fled to the City, to see Woody, and to see what else is afoot. Having stolen all the records he could get his hands on at the University of Minnesota, Dylan’s January 1961 trip to NYC was as much a record-raiding party as it was a Woody Guthrie pilgrimage.
With Jackie still unpacking in Washington, DC, NYC’s Washington Square Park and environs was the domain of Dave Van Ronk, who had mastered his craft in MacDougal St. cabarets and basements, along with a multitude of singers, songwriters, blues belters, Clancy brothers, folkies, poets, lefties, comics, and the odd ne’er do well.
Van Ronk helped the unwashed phenomenon settle into life in New York; his wife Terri Thal managed Dylan until he was ready to turn pro, in 1962, when he signed with Albert Grossman, who’d already meddled in his affairs by arranging Robert Shelton’s infamous New York Times piece months earlier. Today, Shelton’s puffery would require a Sponsored Content flag.
Born the same year Dylan bolted college, Professor Brinkley was invited into Dylan’s enterprise some time ago, and already has plunged into the Bob Dylan archive, which the University of Tulsa bought for $15 fifteen million in the waning days of the Obama Administration.
After Dylan dropped Murder Most Foul on the sore, masked, head of the world in April, the breezy Brinkley tells us his relationship with Dylan is such that he’s comfortable reaching out to him, which led to their cellular chinwag, a.k.a. The Interview.
Included on Rough and Rowdy Ways, Murder Most Foul is a seventeen minute song about the JFK assassination. Brinkley asks Dylan if he wrote the song “as a nostalgic eulogy for a long-lost time?”
That is the second-stupidest question Dylan has ever fielded, right behind the one asking how it feels to be spokesman for a generation. It makes me imagine Brinkley ask Picasso, “what is the square root of Cubism?”
Will he redeem himself by asking his friend who he thinks shot JFK? Of course not. Do I care about anything else some professor has to say about this or any other Dylan album. Fuck no, school’s over.
*A Trump rally was scheduled for Juneteenth in Tulsa; Love and Theft was scheduled for release on 9/11. (Trump goes the “exclusive interview” route, too.)