Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Sat 18 Jan 03 10:53
Lava, It was a combination of the two. In the spirit of those early Warhol books like A, I carried a tape recorder with me everywhere I went. After awhile it became an appendange and the people around me didn't even realize it was on. I also filled up scores of tiny little notebooks with scribbles. Transcribing both the notes and the tapes after the tour was a monumental pain in the ass.
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Sat 18 Jan 03 11:06
Dan The only difference between the first and second tours was the addition of Kinky Friedman so you figure it out. Just kidding. I didn't see any of the second leg since I was hard at work writing the book but I share your sentiments about Hard Rain.
William Cluck (hbgbill) Sat 18 Jan 03 13:43
Hello old friend What's the deal with Ratso Slocum, is he an alter ego? Unfortunately, Al Giordano borrowed my copy of your fine book and had it stolen along with your excellent business card that I had saved for 20 years (it was a folding card with your pic inside and a quote from dylan). Did Hunter Thompson inspire you in anyway when writing this book?
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sat 18 Jan 03 16:52
Obviously certain artists -- perhaps all major artists -- need handlers of some sort. In hindsight, John Lennon could've used a big one armed with an AK-47. But I agree with Gans that often they're excercising their own egos with no relation to their responsibilities to the artist. I JUST went through it again with the biggest and best country rocker in America. I wrote two features on him for major magazines and his manager was utterly rude to me. The artist was as sweet as he could be; a real mensch. The manager was not. Anyway, onward. Rats, in your educated opinion, what was Dylan's Christian phase about? How could a man who represented free thinking give himself so completely to Jesus?
Dennis Donley (dennisd) Sat 18 Jan 03 19:08
Has the prespective of time given you any additional insight into Bloomfield's query, "Were there times on the tour when he seemed accessible, stripped of that character armor, or is he just a very private person?" In your book you answer, "I just don't know." Have the ensuing years (and any further relationship with Dylan) given you a different take on that?
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sat 18 Jan 03 21:49
<Nick Gravenites once told me that Bloomfield realized that everytime he signed a contract, he was agreeing to be INSPIRED at a given time and place. The pressure was crippling.> Sorry to backpedal, but that's such a beautiful, bittersweet, noble statement. They rarely make 'em like Bloomie. Imagine all the shit art that would never be made if one had to be inspired in order to make art. Sad. And it explains the depth of pain that something like heroin kills.
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Sun 19 Jan 03 01:27
Hey everybody. I'm back from seeing my stepdaughter and taking in "Adaptation". Interesting film. I saw it with my twin, Ratso Slocum. Anyway, hi Bill. Nice to hear from you. Sorry about the book. Slocum was a name that Dylan gave me on the tour. Also called me Fatso when I was rail thin. Pretty prophetic guy. Of course, Hunter was a major inspiration. I remember seeing him in '72 in Miami Beach covering the conventions. I was there for the Daily Cardinal out of Madison, Wisconsin. I was in graduate school then and Michael Wilmington, who would go on to be a major film critic and myself sent back dispatches. My impression of Hunter was that he was really tall and wore really odd outfits. He had to be the only person at the demonstrations wearing bermuda shorts, a garish Hawaiian shirt, and one of those old man hats that they wore in "Grumpy Old Men". He was also chomping on a long cigarette holder with a butt invariably attached. I sidled up next to him to get some tips and saw that he had a huge oversized notebook into which he was scribbling huge oversized notes like "POLICE HELICOPTER WHIRRING OVERHEAD". Depp just scratched the surface of his weirdness in that movie. But his writing was always an inspiration and obviously an influence.
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Sun 19 Jan 03 01:30
Mikey and Dennis, I'll have to postpone answering those questions because I've got to catch a flight back home to NY tomorrow. The Christian period is really interesting and deserves more than a glib response.
Dan Lynch (ndjd88) Sun 19 Jan 03 06:29
Welcome to the Well, Larry. I'd like to add to the Christian period question before you get a chance to answer it. Dylan's conversion took place just three short years after RTR. Were there any inklings of it on the tour? The Jesus imagery on the Hard Rain album has always seemed rather obvious to me, and the tour itself had a sort of revival element to it. Your thoughts?
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sun 19 Jan 03 13:13
And while we're tacking on addenda to the Christian question: I agree with Dan that one can detect inklings of the conversion in some aspects of Rolling Thunder. IIRC correctly, "Renaldo and Clara" has a sequence of Dylan and Allen Ginsberg talking about the stations of the cross at the Kerouac burial site. And of course, it was reportedly some of the RT musicians (the Alpha Band guys, IIRC) that first got Dylan seriously thinking about Christianity.
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sun 19 Jan 03 15:46
As he told us, Ratso is en route back to NY from LA at the moment but he'll be back on The WELL late tonight or early tomorrow.
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sun 19 Jan 03 23:45
Gary, what is IIRC?
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sun 19 Jan 03 23:59
Shorthand for "if I recall correctly" -- or, as I typoed the first time up there, "If I recall correctly correctly."
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Mon 20 Jan 03 07:53
Okay I'm back. The Ginsberg conversations notwithstanding there were no inklings of any "conversion" dynamics on that tour. In fact, I wasn't on the second leg of RT but with Kinky around I don't see the genesis of the Christian period there either. Rather, it always seemed to me that all that Christian stuff came after "Street Legal" which always struck me as an album written by someone who has come to the end of his/her rope and would be open to a consciousness shifting religious experience. (See "No Time to Think") I remember talking to Ginsberg about Dylan's Christian period and Allen's take on it was that it was fine that Dylan had a profound religious experience but he didn't have to hold it onto it that long. "I saw Blake when I was lying on my couch one day, but I let it go!" Dylan's conversion came shortly after the dissolution of his marriage. I'm sure that had a huge impact. We could speculate endlessly on why something like that happens -- but in a strange way, the Christian period gave him a renewed energy. Some of the best Dylan performances I've ever seen were the Midwestern dates on the "Saved" tour. He even talked between songs -- even if it was to denounce San Francisco as Sodom and Gommorrah.
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Mon 20 Jan 03 07:57
Dennis, I think the answer to your question comes later in the book. Bloomfield's conversation took place late one night after another dirty trick. My experience of Bob on that tour was nothing like the person Bloomfield described. Not to say that that person didn't exist, but it wasn't my experience.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 20 Jan 03 11:23
> Some of the best Dylan performances I've ever seen were the Midwestern > dates on the "Saved" tour. I saw Dylan on both the "Slow Train" and "Saved" tours, and I remember think- ing that hge looked more relaxed, real and engaged on the latter than I had ever seen him.
Dan Levy (danlevy) Mon 20 Jan 03 11:30
The Saved tour might have been Bob's vocals at their best.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 20 Jan 03 11:35
I gave up on Dylan altogether after his abysmal performance on the tour with Tom Petty. Dan Levy commanded me to go to the Bay Area shows in 1995, and I've been back on the bus with a vengeance ever since.
Gary Lambert (almanac) Mon 20 Jan 03 14:18
Yeah, whatever one thought of the content of the songs in the "Slow Train" and "Saved" period, the performances were among the most soulful and committed I've ever heard from Bob. I was also lucky enough to be at the Warfield on a couple of historic nights during Dylan's second post-conversion run, in 1980. Some Bob fans had jumped ship after the first run, and ticket sales for this one were soft. Bill Graham got Bob to back off a bit from his absolute refusal to perform any of the pre-Jesus material, and persuaded some friends of Dylan's to come down to the shows to sit in (and help jumpstart some walk-up business). I was there on the night that Jerry Garcia played on a coupla tunes, which was swell, but was far more thrilled by the appearance of Mike Bloomfield (in his time ever on stage, I think), playing on "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" and, better yet, recreating his immortal lead licks on "Like A Rolling Stone" (something I never thought I would experience live). Another nice moment I recall at that Warfield run -- Bob, at the piano with Clydie King, doing the then-unknown "Let's Keep It Between Us" (which Bonnie Raitt covered shortly thereafter on the "Green Light" album, but which I don't think has come out on an official Dylan release -- it isn't on "Biograph" or any "Bootleg Series" release, is it?). I never gave up on Dylan, even when I was catching some of those less- than-compelling performances in the mid-to-late 80s -- in part because he earned a lifetime of slack from me with his earlier work, but also because the "which Bob will show up tonight?" perversity that often attends his appearances is, in a weird way, part of the thrill of it all. And that perversity is still there, to my ears... I have not bought unreservedly into the "Bob's back, and better than ever!" hype of recent years -- maybe because I never thought he was entirely gone, and also because I just have to listen to the England '66 stuff or the better "Before The Flood" material or Rolling Thunder to convince me that "better than ever" is a shaky proposition at best. I have seen a few really good Dylan performances in the Never-ending tour era, but I have also seen my share of detached, uncompelling walk-throughs. But like I said, the perversity is an integral part of the Art of Bob, I think. Along with Van Morrison and a small handful of others, Dylan is among the most convincing pretenders to the "Master of Suspense" title vacated by Alfred Hitchcock. I have also heard wildly varying accounts of Bob's level of engagement and interest during Rolling Thunder, and wouldn't be surprised to learn that they are all true. Ratso, did you perceive that perverse, mercurial side of Dylan at work during the tour?
David Gans (tnf) Mon 20 Jan 03 14:42
> Along with Van Morrison and a small handful of others, Dylan is among the > most convincing pretenders to the "Master of Suspense" title vacated by > Alfred Hitchcock. Ha! Excellent.
Adam Powell (rocket) Mon 20 Jan 03 15:13
The last verse of "Where Are You Tonight," the final cut on _Street Legal_, is easily as "born-again" as anything on _Slow Train_ or _Saved_. I've always thought that the so-called Christian records get short shrift, and furthermore that they don't diverge in theme much form most of the other records. The religious messaging is just overt rather than being a subtext. The Saved tour was pretty damned good for D. vocally. The Street legal_ tour featured a band that was a really interesting amalgam of disco and gospel that I'm not sure has ever been repeated, by Dylan or anyone else!
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Mon 20 Jan 03 16:24
The best Dylan show I've ever seen (IL State Fair) was during his worst period as a live performer. I think it was in 88 or 89.
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Mon 20 Jan 03 17:10
Adam I beg to differ on your interpretation of "Where Are You Tonight?" as I don't think you can take that last verse out of context of the whole song, which, I think can be read as a song of secular longing. In fact, some have argued that that particular song refers to the Rolling Thunder revue.
Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Mon 20 Jan 03 17:11
Gary, As I wrote in the book Dylan never let me down onstage that whole tour. I think it might have been the second leg of RT where he began to lose interest.
Gary Lambert (almanac) Mon 20 Jan 03 18:41
>Dylan never let me down onstage that whole tour That's great to hear! Missing Rolling Thunder remains one of the very few regrets of my very blessed concert-going life (up there with never seeing Coltrane, Monk or Ellington live, and not catching the insane double bill of Bruce Springsteen and The Wailers at Max's Kansas City). Missing that first leg was especially galling, as I had just emigrated to California from New England the year before, and here I was stranded on the West Coast as Dylan and this amazing hit-and-run carnival was playing all these little halls right in my former neck of the woods. To make an awkward segue... someone else who missed Rolling Thunder was Phil Ochs. Phil was an early hero of mine, and I got to know him through my regular attendance at his shows, running into him at demonstrations and Yippie events, and so on, and still miss him. Phil toiled throughout his career in Bob's shadow, of course, and the relationship between the two men seemed to be an often uneasy one -- there are some stories of the younger, pre-accident Dylan being pretty damned mean to Ochs, in fact -- but there seemed to be a mending of fences between them in the early 70s, culminating in Dylan's surprise appearance at the Salvador Allende memorial show organized and headlined by Ochs in 1973. At the very start of the RT Revue, at the birthday party for Mike Porco at Folk City, the was a reportedly very awkward encounter (or, rather, avoidance of encounter) between the two: Phil, quite clearly, desperately wanted to be invited on the tour (there are some accounts of Ochs having been partially responsible for planting in Dylan's head the notion of a spontaneous, unstructured small-venue tour, and Phil envisioned himself as part of it); Dylan, just as clearly, did not want to invite Phil, and wanted to avoid a confrontation with him at Folk City. Evidently, he succeeded -- Phil was left behind when the circus left town, and was, by all accounts, devastated, sinking even deeper into the depression and drinking that would soon swallow him. Larry, you might be unable to answer this, or reluctant to speculate, which would be understandable, but I'll ask nonetheless: did you know or spend much time with Phil? Did you have any kind of decent vantage point from which to observe the Dylan/Ochs dynamics at Folk City or elsewhere, or get any sense of how others in the Rolling Thunder entourage felt about Phil and his exclusion from the tour? I know that speculation on such a thing is futile, but as someone who knew and loved Phil, I've long wondered whether anything could have been done to pull him out of his downward spiral, and particularly whether being part of Rolling Thunder could have helped repair his shattered self-confidence (I last saw Phil in 1974, just before I moved to California, and so missed the swiftest, steepest part of his decline). I don't expect any clear-cut answers, of course, but any insight you might have would be greatly appreciated).
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