Any serious Dylan fan has come across the ridiculous phenomenon of A.J. Weberman, the moronically neurotically obsessed lunatic who created the laughable theory of “Dylanology” in which Weberman ‘explains’ what the songs are about, the same guy who went through Dylan’s trash to find ‘clues’ and meaning.
In this interview collection, Weberman calls Dylan to discuss a transcript, and it becomes apparent that he has had a conversation with Dylan and then transcribed not the conversation but simply his recollection of the conversation, in order to make a tape of it and send it out to underground presses. Weberman makes a big deal about how he’s only sending it to underground presses, and that he’s sending it for free because he doesn’t “sell out.” Dylan is at first confused, thinking the conversation had been secretly taped, but is still offended and aggrieved when he understands what the situation is. Making the whole exchange all the more ridiculous is the fact that Weberman is now taping this phone call in which he wants to get Dylan’s sign-off for sending the bogus transcript out.
Clearly annoyed by this crank, yet somehow tolerating him – perhaps as an exercise in recognizing that he can’t really control what someone writes or thinks about him, but that it might be in his best interest to exert some level of copyediting into the process – we hear Dylan interjecting as Weberman reads his preposterous write-up. You get the sense that Dylan has been toying with Weberman throughout, in that playful manner that has characterized many of his interactions with the press.
“One day we’ll take a ride together and I’ll interpret all my poems for you,” Weberman quotes him as saying, in a tone of voice that suggests Weberman took him seriously.
“We ain’t going by the docks are we?” Weberman quotes himself as having said, then quickly trashing any journalistic credibility he may have been attempting to put across, he clarifies “I didn’t say that but what difference does it make?”
At one point Dylan asks him to correct a detail, changing “Woodstock” to “California,” and Weberman displays a consistent disregard for facts in his response: “It doesn’t affect my thesis one way or another,” as if his bloated silly ‘thesis’ of Dylanology is the central concern here.
Dylan is riled when Weberman quotes him as saying “You [Weberman] scared my kids” – it feels like Weberman is posturing and enjoying a self-image of someone in battle with Dylan, some nemesis, someone equal to Dylan by virtue of being the guy who ‘exposed’ him or ‘figured him out.’ Dylan flatly asks Weberman to leave his kids out of the transcript and Weberman petulantly contends “But you did say that, man!”
The transcript of the conversation that Weberman reads through in the taped phone calls, and the taped phone calls themselves, are a baffling orgy of fantasy, tripe, and meandering finger pointing pontification in which Weberman lectures Dylan about the Black Panthers, imperialism, sexism, racism, asking if Dylan will have him offed, telling him which albums suck. As the interviews proceed it’s hard to avoid the question – “who is this crazy nut-job parasite?”
Weberman cranks the crankery up several notches to near-Manson levels when he begins to hear buried messages in Dylan’s music:
Dylan: “I never said ‘don’t expose me’ in ‘New Morning’”
Weberman: “Backwards, man, backwards. You know, you play a part of it backwards …”
Dylan: “… and it says ‘don’t expose me’?”
Dylan: “Oh fuck man… Jesus!”
Dylan’s startled response is that of a man realizing the situation is more insane than he realized.
“It only makes sense in two places,” Weberman gibbers on, excitedly, “like, ‘mars invades us,’ and, uh, only when you slow the words, you know? […] You know that as well as I do, because you put it there!”
Dylan’s tone sways further towards playful mockery when Weberman accuses him of being a capitalist pig, a sell-out, making so many people unhappy. “You’re the pig!” he retorts, offering to get Weberman a badge with “Pig” written on it.
“I’m not a pig – I fight, man!” Weberman proudly declares.
“You fight to go through my garbage!” Dylan responds.
Weberman asks where Dylan will get the photo for the badge, and Dylan tells him “I’ll take it from an underground paper,” mocking Weberman’s earlier boast of sending the tape to all the underground papers in America.
“You don’t have my permission to use it!” Weberman spits, and Dylan tells him he has no permission to do “any of this!”
“I better take my savings out and put them in a safety deposit box in case I get sued!” Weberman mocks back.
“You’ll be ok, man,” Dylan dismisses him.
It’s truly fascinating to hear this example of idolatry gone wrong, this illustration of reading far too deeply into things until you find what you want – “Here I am, a Dylanologist in a certain position where I can do a number on someone who’s become a sell-out!” Weberman sums up.
Despite the conversation degenerating so much, Dylan still asks Weberman to come by the studio with the tape when it’s ready so he can see it, and they hang up promising to speak again.