Bob Dylan’s not one for interviews, but he recently granted one to Bill Flanagan ahead of the release of his upcoming album of covers, Triplicate, out later this month. The result - a lengthy conversation covering why he never collaborated with Elvis Presley and how he broke up his latest record - is now available on Dylan’s official website, but read eight highlights from it below.
On Triplicate’s intended audience:
“These songs are meant for the man on the street, the common man, the everyday person,” he says. “Maybe that is a Bob Dylan fan, maybe not, I don’t know.”
On who he sees when he looks at his younger self:
“I see Nat King Cole, Nature Boy a very strange enchanted boy, a terribly sophisticated performer, got a cross section of music in him, already postmodern. That’s a different person than who I am now.”
On his relationship with Ornette Coleman:
Flanagan notes that he once noticed Coleman was the only person Dylan invited into his dressing room after a show despite being surrounded by multiple celebrities. “I knew Ornette a little bit and we did have a few things in common,” Dylan said of the late jazz musician, who died in 2015 at age 85. “He faced a lot of adversity, the critics were against him, other jazz players that were jealous. He was doing something so new, so groundbreaking, they didn’t understand it. It wasn’t unlike the abuse that was thrown at me for doing some of the same kind of things, although with different forms of music.”
On missed opportunities:
There’s a simple reason George Harrison and Dylan didn’t end up recording with Elvis Presley: “He did show up, it was us that didn’t.” He also missed out on playing the title male character in the Warren Beatty-produced Bonnie and Clyde because the offer was sent to his manager’s office at a time when they weren’t speaking. “We had had a falling out,” Dylan explained. Does he regret missing out on the role, which ended up going to Beatty? “Nope.”
On Joan Baez:
Dylan and Baez frequently performed together in the ’60s, and the former still has plenty of respect for her: “She was something else, almost too much to take,” Dylan recalled. “Her voice was like that of a siren from off some Greek island. Just the sound of it could put you into a spell. She was an enchantress. You’d have to get yourself strapped to the mast like Odysseus and plug up your ears so you wouldn’t hear her. She’d make you forget who you were.”
On modern music:
When asked if he’s heard any good records lately, Dylan listed Iggy Pop’s Après, along with music by Imelda May, Valerie June, the Stereophonics, Willie Nelson, and Norah Jones’ Ray Charles tribute with Wynton Marsalis. Dylan also noted he likes Winehouse’s final record, 2006’s Back to Black, which includes singles “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.” “She was the last real individualist around,” he said of the musician, who died in 2011 at age 27.
What does he spend his free time on the tour bus binge-watching? “I Love Lucy, all the time, non-stop.”
On Triplicates themes:
Each of the set’s three discs represents a different story. “The themes were decided beforehand in a theatrical sense grand themes, each of them incidental to survivors and lovers or better yet, wisdom and vengeance, or maybe even exile one disc foreshadowing the next and I didn’t want to give any one song preeminence over any other,” Dylan explained. “No old wives’ tales and memoirs, but just hard plain earthly life, the hidden realities of it. That’s my perception.”
But because the themes were decided ahead of time, this meant some songs he initially wanted to include didn’t make the cut because they didn’t fit in: “I Cover the Waterfront,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” were left off.