- 18 Sep 18
It happened in Playboy Magazine of all places. And the interviewer was Nat Hentoff. But who was the interviewee? Now read on!
There are lots of reasons not to admire Playboy Magazine. But on the other hand that it made a contribution to popular culture is irrefutable.
Who knows what was going on in the mind of the future Nobel Prize-winning singer and songwriter Bob Dylan when he agreed to do an interview with Playboy, early in 1966. What we can say is that by this stage Dylan had definitively “gone electric” on record, with the release of Bringing It All Back Home, and then Highway 61 Revisited during 1965. But it was before the release of Blonde on Blonde and the 1966 electric tour during which a ‘fan’ in Manchester called out “Judas!” from the crowd in response to the fact that Dylan could no longer be seen as a ‘folkie’.
Perhaps the Manchester heckler should have read the interview in Playboy. He might have decided that there was no point in turning up.
Anyhow, there is a passage on that theme in the interview, which was conducted on Playboy’s behalf by Nat Hentoff. It has to rank as one of the greatest ever Q&A moments in the history of journalism. Here, then it is in full. Take it slowly now!
Hentoff: Mistake or not, what made you decide to go the rock-and-roll route?
Dylan: "Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a thirteen-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a ‘before’ in a Charles Atlas ‘before and after’ ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this thirteen-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The next thing I know I’m in Omaha. It’s so cold there, by this time I’m robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain’t much to look at, but who’s built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper unto lettuce. Everything’s going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?"
Hentoff: And that’s how you became a rock-and-roll singer?
Dylan: "No, that’s how I got tuberculosis."