In the early 1970s, as is pretty well known by Bob Dylan fans, the singer/songwriter was hounded to the point of harassment by a fan, A.J. Weberman, who both claimed special insight into the meaning of Dylan's songs and pressured him to get more political in his art and life. It's not as well known that Weberman taped some phone conversations with Dylan himself, and yet less common knowledge that 48 minutes of such material was actually issued on this 2004 CD. In and of itself, what Dylan and Weberman are discussing on these January 1971 recordings usually isn't interesting; basically they're hashing out what Weberman will write in an article he's doing, Dylan frequently getting annoyed and asking for improvements in the accuracy of how he's quoted and portrayed. Without the context of exactly what Weberman's planning to write and what Dylan's getting upset about -- the nature of Dylan's relationship with Johnny Cash, for instance, is one sticking point -- it's just not that easy to follow what they're discussing, let alone use it to gain notable insight into where Dylan's head was at when this back-and-forth took place. As a snapshot of the repartee between a cultural icon and a somewhat deranged follower/antagonist, however, it's not without its creepy fascination, not so much for the content of the material as for the psychological jousting between the pair. Weberman comes off as a pretty misguided soul, intent on both examining and lighting a fire under his hero, but pretty oblivious as to how intrusive (and obnoxious) his behavior is. What's more puzzling is why Dylan was even engaging in such extended dialogue with someone who actually pored through his garbage. He keeps Weberman on the line, occasionally insulting or needling him, long past the point where most people would have hung up in anger or reluctance to let such a guy any closer to his world than he already was. There are the occasional juicy bits of conversation that are of actual interest to fans of Dylan's music, such as a suggestion that he's considering releasing the legendary mid-'60s outtake "She's Your Lover Now" as a single. There are also Dylan's rapid-fire thumbs-up/thumbs-downs to numerous artists Weberman throws at him as examples of peers who are outdoing him, with some (including Gordon Lightfoot, Procol Harum, George Harrison) meeting with guarded approval, and others (including Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Lennon, and Roger McGuinn) dismissed as not being in his league. The CD is also included in the three-disc package The Interview Box, which also contains a disc of 1965-1966 Dylan interviews (not with Weberman), and a third disc with a collection of interviews he did (again not with Weberman) in the period spanning 1979 to 1981.
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