Van Morrison came along too, for a three-way summit organised by Hot Press, backstage at Slane Castle, in the summer of 1984...
Hot Press' Niall Stokes explains how the meeting of minds took place
Bob Dylan came to Ireland in 1984, to play Slane Castle. How Press wanted to secure an interview with the man regarded by many as the greatest songwriter of the modern era. But how? He was then – and still is – notoriously media shy.
So we thought of a different approach. U2 were well in the ascendant at the time – but they were nonetheless some way short of superstar status. The addled minds of the Hot Press editorial team came up with a plan. What about the idea of Bono interviewing Bob for us? It might just appeal to the mercurial songwriting genius. At the very least it was worth running it up the flagpole...
First we asked Bono – which turned out to be the easy part. He was up for meeting the rock ’n’ roll legend and shooting the breeze, so he said ‘yes’. Neil McCormick would act as his guide and mentor, and if necessary show him how to get the tape recorder working (loads of journalists who worked for Hot Press came a cropper right there!). Where and when the summit meeting might happen and what our newly appointed interviewer might ask remained to be seen, but we were excited at the prospect – if we could pull it off.
And so we got on the blower to the record company. The faxes – we know that some of you don’t what they are, but we don’t care! – whizzed back and forward between Dublin and the US. Finally, the word came back in the affirmative. The name U2 meant enough to Bob that he was up for meeting the young Irish rock star and talking. Bingo! We were thrilled. Bono and Bob doing a Q+A. Now, there was a prospect!
Details still had to be arranged. Dylan was on a typically tight touring time-table and so the only opportunity, it transpired, was to do it backstage on the day of the gig. Which, of course, is a scary thought, because anything can happen in that kind of situation: schedules get fucked up, traffic causes delays in getting to the venue, something goes awry at a soundcheck – and all bets are potentially off. But it was the only game in town – or rather way out of town – and so the necessary accreditation and passes were arranged for Neil and Bono. Unfortunately tagging a photographer along wasn’t going to be possible…
On the day, we finally got the word sometime late in the afternoon that Bob was ready. Neil and Bono trooped into the backstage area. The pressure was on, and there wasn’t a whole lot of time, but the summit took place. When an understandably nervous Bono stepped into the dressing room, it turned out that Bob had already been joined there by Van Morrison – which probably made our man even more nervous. And so the conversation turned into a three-way one.
Van, it turned out, had already agreed to join Bob on stage for a song, and the interview gave Dylan the opportunity to invite his young interrogator to do a cameo at some stage during the gig. Bono was thrilled to be asked to sing on ‘Blowing In The Wind’, and so he did. Carlos Santana clambered up too and played some gorgeously fluid guitar. Overall, it may have been a shambolic singalong, in which Bono got the words entirely wrong, and the crowd did their bit as the ersatz choir, but it became something else too: a strange and touching moment that underlined the vulnerability even of legends and legends-in-the-making…
The following Thursday, if I remember correctly, we published the interview in Hot Press. The cover wasn’t exactly a classic one, but the first ever meeting between Bono and Bob Dylan – not to mention between Bono and Van Morrison – was something special to have engineered. It may even have been a pivotal moment, following which Bono started to dig more deeply into the past. But that is a story for another time, another place.
Here, then, is the interview – short and sweet as it is – that marked Dylan’s triumphant return to Ireland, for the first time since his legendary appearance at the Adelphi Cinema, on Abbey Street, in 1966.
Bono: When you're working with a producer, do you give him that lee-way to challenge you?
Bob: Yeah, if he feels like it. But usually we just go into the studio, and sing a song, and play the music, and have, you know ...
Bono: Have you had somebody in the last five years who said "that's crap Bob".
Bob: Oh, they say that all the time!
Bono: Mark Knopfler, did he say that?
Bob: I don't know ... they spend time getting their various songs right, but with me. I just take a song into the studio and try to rehearse it, and then record it, and then do it. It's a little harder now though to make a good record - even if you've got a good song and a good band. Even if you go in and record it live, it's not gonna sound like it used to sound, because the studios now are so modern, and overly developed, that you take anything good and you can press it and squeeze it and squash it, and constipate it and suffocate it. You do a great performance in the studio and you listen back to it, it even sounds good when you listen back to it because the speakers are all so good, but, ah, no!
Bono: All technology does is -you go into a dead room with dead instruments and you use technology to give it life that it doesn't have, and then it comes out on the speakers and you believe it. What I've been trying to do is find a room that has life in itself.
Bono: A living room.
Bob: The machines though, can even take the life out of that room, I've found. You can record it in St. Peters Cathedral, you know, and they still make it sound like, eh
Bono: Somebody's back yard. Bob: Yeah.
Bono: That's a good idea, I'd love to record in a cathedral.
Bob: You know the studios in the old days were all much better, and the equipment so much better, there's no question about it in my mind. You just walked into a studio - they were just big rooms. You just sang, you know, you just made records - and they sounded like the way they sounded there. That stopped happening in the late sixties, for me anyway, I noticed the big change. You go into a studio now, and they got rugs on the floors, settees, and pinball machines and videos and sandwiches coming every ten minutes - it's a big expensive party and you're lucky if you come out with anything that sounds decent.
Bono: Yeah, records haven't got better, have they?
Bob: No. you go in now, and you got your producer, you got your engineer, you got your assistant engineer, usually your assistant producer, you got a guy carrying the tapes around. I mean, you know, there's a million people go into recording just an acoustic song on your guitar. The boys turn the machines on and it's a great undertaking.
Bono: There's a system called Effanel which Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac brought to Africa. It was built for him because he wanted to get some real African drumming, for "Tusk". We've used that system. It comes in a light suitcase, very small, no bullshit studio, and it just arrives, you can literally bring it to your living room.
Van: I think all the same they'll go back to 2-track eventually.
Bono: There's a guy called Conny Plank, who produced Makem and Clancy and some Irish traditional bands, also orchestral and funnily enough a lot of the new electronic groups, DAF, Ultravox, and so on. He used to record orchestras by just finding a position in the room where they were already balanced and he applies this in his thinking, in recording modern music: he finds a place in the room where it's already mixed.
Van: I don't know, when I started we didn't think about that! You didn't even think about recording (laughter).
Bono: You didn't even think?
Van: You didn't even know what was on the cards. One day you were in the room, they turned the tape on. After about eight hours or so, they'd say "OK tea break, it's over .
Bob: Yeah, next song, next song!
Van. And then that was that - it was an album.
Bob: Yeah, you'd make an album in three days or four days and it was all over - if that many! It's that long now, it takes four days to get a drum sound!
Bono: Do you know the Monty Python team, they're comedians. British comedians, "Monty Python And The Holy Grail". They have a sketch that reminds me of you guys - sitting back talking of days gone by: " you tell that to the young people of today and they'd never believe you". But you can't go backwards, you must go forward. You try to bring the values that were back there, you know, the strength, and if you see something that was lost, you've got to find a new way to capture that same strength. Have you any ideas on how to do that? I think you've done it by the way ... I think "Shot Of Love" that opening track has got that.
Bob: I think so too. (drawls). You're one of the few people to say that to me about that record, to mention that record to me.
Bono: That has that feeling.
Bob: it's a great record, it suits just about everybody.
Bono: The sound from that record ("Shot Of Love") makes me feel like I'm in the same room as the other musicians - I don't feel that they're over there. Some of our records, I feel like they're over there because we got into this cinema-type sound, not bland like FM sound, but we got into this very broad sound. Now we're trying to focus more of a punch, and that's what we are after, this intimacy ... I've never interviewed anybody before, by the way. I hate being interviewed myself.
Van: You're doing a good job!
Bono: Is this OK? God!
Bono talking vith Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.
Hot Press, Vol 8 No. 16 August 24th, 1984.
Click here to see more on our Bob Dylan special feature, and for details on how to enter our exciting Dylan competition.
Bob Dylan's first three-disc album collection will be released in March, featuring 30 new recordings.Read More
Best-selling author Stephen King has dismissed any criticism of Bob Dylan becoming the first singer-songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as nothing more than “just plain old sour grapes”.Read More
The documentary will be re-aired December 10, the night of the Nobel prize-giving ceremony.Read More
The Committee seem okay about the no-show...Read More
If it is at all possible, that is! The bard has finally broken his silence on being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016.Read More
The decision of the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan had some culture snobs frothing at the mouth. Even Bob doesn’t seem to know what to make of it all.Read More
Meanwhile, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen have congratulated Bob on his nobel win.Read More
From Jimi Hendrix, Adele, The Byrds, Rage Against The Machine and Jeff Buckley.Read More
To celebrate all things Dylan today we are digging up the best clips of the folk legend.Read More
The man recognised as one of the finest lyricists to ever walk the earth has been awarded the prestigious prize this morningRead More
The animation was created by PBS series, Blank on Blank.Read More
Second album of old time standards from His Bobness.Read More
Columbia Records announced yesterday that Dylan's latest album, Fallen Angels, will be released later in the month.Read More
Amazon Studios and Lionsgate TV are in the process of developing a series based on Bob Dylan's song catalogueRead More
Icon's 37th studio record slated for May releaseRead More
Dylan is laying down tracks in Capitol Records and they sound “great” according to his long-time engineer Al SchmidttRead More
Event premieres exclusive pics from the folk legend's Greenwich Village daysRead More
Producer to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, Bob Johnston diesRead More
The Dylanologist and Hot Press legend will be waxing lyrical on the airwaves.Read More
The Late Show host is bowing out in considerable rock 'n' roll style!Read More
A tune from Shadows in the Night gets an appropriately noirish video treatmentRead More
Bob Dylan was the recipient of the MusiCares Person of the Year 2015 award designed to "to commend musicians for their artistic achievement in the music industry and dedication to philanthropy". He delivered a 30-minute acceptance speech that was honest, heartwarming and inspirational. Just like the man and his music.Read More
The 73-year-old shows young singer-songwriters how it's done.Read More
Anne Margaret Daniel's verdict on Dylan's latest collection of covers.Read More
Legendary artist releases 'Stay With Me' from forthcoming covers albumRead More
Shadows In The Night is out January 30.Read More
DYLAN AND THE BAND’S HOLY GRAIL FINALLY SEES THE LIGHTRead More
In a forthcoming Culture Night lecture, legendary Hot Press writer Jackie Hayden will discuss the interweaving legacy of the “two Dylans” – Bob and Thomas – and their influence on him as a young man growing up in consaervative Dublin.Read More
Not your run-of-the-mill heritage act, the 'Like A Rolling Stone' star might be croakier these days, but he still enjoys the odd spot of chaos.Read More
Glen Hansard is among those contributing to Bob Dylan In The ’80s: Volume One, which according to ATO Records is deigned to “highlight Dylan’s most ignored, understood, and maligned decade.”Read More
A new video for the 1965 track has been released in support of The Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection Vol. 1.Read More
A Thrilling Dip Into The Dylan ArchivesRead More
With the Strypes blasting The Beatles' classic 'Come Together' in an ad for Harley Davidson, we look back at other musicians who've appeared in commercialsRead More
We've seen him turn his hand to prose with the majestic Chronicles in 2005, we obviously heard his many musical masterpieces from his thousand-strong back catalogue of songs, now it's time for the critical glare to turn to Dylan's pastel portraits...Read More
The good folk at Jameson have announced details of Dylan Fest, a charitable nod to Bob, which takes place on August 9 in the Dublin Academy.Read More
Strong words from the legendary figure...Read More
Free streaming for a limited period!Read More
The master songwriter's new record is called Tempest – and it includes both a tribute to John Lennon and an epic chantey on the sinking of the Titanic. A world exclusive preview by Anne Margaret Daniel.Read More
And the master songwriter remembers the Titanic too...Read More
Suede will also play this year's festival.Read More
The legendary singer is coming to the O2.Read More
To the average person in the street May 24 may be a date like any other. But Bob Dylan fans know differently...Read More
The singer-songwriter was addicted to heroin and contemplated suicide in the 60s, it was revealed in a newly discovered interview.Read More
Bristol University to host one-of-a-kind conference on May 24Read More
The festival of Irish music returns after 7 yearsRead More
An animated performance, from a voice that can still mesmerise like no other voice in the universe..Read More
Pádraig Hanratty is the winner of our recent Bob Dylan competition - his live review is published in our new issueRead More
OK, so let’s get all this out of the way at the start.Read More
For the thirteenth time in the last decade, Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour landed at Irish shoresRead More
The art of storytelling and the home of the quintessential Limerick storyteller, Michael Hogan - The Bard of Thomond, were in safe hands on July 4 when Bob Dylan and his band performed at Thomond Park Stadium.Read More
How ironic that Bob Dylan, on the final date of his current tour, should blow into the newly refurbished Thomond Park Stadium on one of the windiest days this year.Read More
As the low lull of the final soundchecks finished, Limericks Last Days of Death Country confidently delivered their set to the assembling crowd in Thomond Park and were met with vigorous applause at the end of memorable favourites like ‘Words’ and ‘Strung Out’.Read More
After the crowd was adequately warmed up by a blistering 45 minute set by Seasick Steve and his assortment of homemade guitars...Read More
Bob Dylan is a performer reborn. Yet again.Read More
As if Dylan's show at Thomond Park isn't enough, a County Donegal festival will host the European premiere of a new play about the great manRead More
The fight to the rock 'n' roll death is taking place this Friday in Dolan's!Read More
In addition to our original prize - your chance to review Dylan's Thomond Park gig for Hot Press - we've now added a whopping 45 albums from the singer's back catalogue to the first prize winnings!Read More
YOU could be reviewing the legendary singer's Thomond Park gig in July for Hot PressRead More
David Gray and Seasick Steve will be joining him in Limerick.Read More
Tickets for the Thomond Park bash will be available next Monday.Read More
Dylan in not a grinch shockerRead More
Columbia Records have announced details of a Bob Dylan album of Christmas songs due for release on October 13.Read More
As Bob Dylan's new album Together Through Life goes No.1 in the UK, we have a look HMV's top 5-selling Dylan catalogue recordings...Read More
Fans can see iconic images from the Rolling Thunder Tour.Read More
Folk fans who are too purist about the genre forget that it’s the flaws that make traditional music so wonderfully distinctive in the first place.Read More
The legendary Bob Dylan has just announced that he will perform a second gig in the 02 Arena in MayRead More
The legendary performer makes his first trip to the new newly revamped Dublin venue on May 5thRead More
The Bobfather’s more recent back pages yield a wealth of richesRead More
Bob Dylan bands and fans will decend on Moville this week for DylanFestRead More
A new Bob Dylan Facebook application is among the smartest pieces of viral advertising yet. That's the view of influential e-media commentators at Techcrunch (who described it as "the coolest Facebook application yet"), Face Reviews and PSFKT – as well as the Sun newspaper.Read More
Bob Dylan has been revealed as the artist who will present a new Sunday night show on Dublin's Phantom 105.2Read More
Bob Dylan may not have won the Nobel Prize for Literature just yet, but with this year's Spanish Asturias Arts Award, he's definitely getting closer.Read More
Dylan fans wishing to pay homage to their idol might not consider Donegal their first port of call, but DylanFest 2007 is set to change that.Read More
Annual article: Bright young things like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen captured the HP critics’ hearts this year, though they somehow neglected Johnny Cash and Mark Lanegan...Read More
Semi-officially, Modern Times is being touted as the third in a trilogy that began with 1997’s Time Out Of Mind and the follow up Love and Theft. Recorded with his current touring band and produced by Dylan himself, it treads very similar territory sonically with that raw, live feel and no-nonsense, almost 1950’s production that made his last two albums so compelling.Read More
The Source Festival in Kilkenny kicked off the first two Dylan dates in Ireland this weekend - though he faced tough competition from support act The Flaming Lips.Read More
If you're off to see the legend that is Bob Dylan play at the Source Festival in Kilkenny this weekend, we've got the full line up and stage times.Read More
He may have been making music for over 40 years, but Bob Dylan remains as vital a force as ever.Read More
Bob Dylan and the Flaming Lips will perform in a double bill spectacular.Read More
Lest we forget, for a long time there most of us Dylan-ites were glad just to see the man could get his boots on of a morning, but post Chronicles, the stakes have been upped.Read More
An extraordinary letter, written by Bob Dylan, offers a remarkable insight into the greatest songwriter of his generation. It also offers a hugely challenging perspective on the role of the artist.Read More
With his first show there completely sold-out, Bob Dylan plays a second consecutive night at Dublin’s Point Theatre.Read More
Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour rolls into Dublin again for a by his standards intimate gig in The Point.Read More
Why American rock writing has disappeared up its own arse – and the true story of the creation of Bob Dylan's most famous song.Read More
Belfast, it seems, has just been shot with loveRead More
The sound of history in the making, here’s a warts, gags and all document of young Bobby Dylan, folk hero, in the process of creating a rock revolution.Read More
Some people reckon that Bob Dylan has sold out by flogging his music on a lingerie commercial. but our consumer affairs correspondent disagrees and has some even better ideas for Irish rockersRead More
According to our political correspondent, Bob Dylan’s upcoming gig in Stormont marks a diefinitive end to the war. Hurray!Read More
As revealed exclusively on hotpress.com Bob Dylan has revealed plans to play Galway.Read More
hotpress.com understands that Bob Dylan is being lined-up for a show in Galway's Pearse StadiumRead More
Fab Moretti, drummer with The Strokes, tells us how Dylan has inspired him.Read More
Having been lucky enough to have witnessed Mr. Zimmerman’s legendary gig in Vicar St. a few years back, it seemed almost inevitable that a trip to this East Wall arena would prove anti-climactic. And so it proved to be.Read More
There will be major disappointment for the Bob Dylan fans of Cork tonight, with doctors advising him against performingRead More
Bob the Great will tour Dublin and Cork this NovemberRead More
Rolling Thunder finds Dylan and his travelling minstrel band reveling in novelty, comradeship, a sense of the mischievous and, most tellingly, the freshness of the then newly released Desire album.Read More
For the most part, Love and Theft is made up of two distinct musical strands, blues-based floor-shakers and romantic, ragtimey ballads.Read More
Those more familiar with Dylan’s modus operandi know that he has latterly treated the recorded versions of his songs as mere rough demos and starting points from which he walks a tightrope of adventurous reinvention from which he sometimes topples off.Read More
BOB DYLAN: “World Gone Wrong” (Columbia)Read More
Five albums, fifty-eight songs, sixty-eight pages of liner notes, one large container, and a title that's as bone-dry academic as anything you'll find sitting atop a legal document - against that backdrop, perhaps the first and most useful thing to say about Bob in the box is: don't be intimidated!Read More
Bob Dylan at Slane - The music, the magic, the mayhem and so much more...Read More