Q: What does the word “protest” mean to you?
Bob Dylan: It means singing when you really don’t want to sing. It means singing against your wishes to sing.
Dylan’s second west coast press conference in two weeks takes place in Los Angeles. His mood is far less amenable than it had been in San Francisco. The conference lasts just over half an hour.
-Clinton Heylin (A Life in Stolen Moments)
Columbia Recording Studios
Los Angeles, California
16 December 1965
Los Angeles Press Conference.
Mono recording, 32 minutes.
Here are some of the questions & answers..
Q: I wonder if you could tell me, among folk singers, how many could be characterized as protest singers today?
BD: I don’t understand. Could you ask the question again?
Q: How many people who labor in the same musical vineyard in which you toil… how many are protest singers? That is, people who use their music and use the songs to protest the social state in which we live today. The matter of war, the matter of crime, or whatever it might be.
BD: How many?
Q: Yes. Are there many who…
BD: Yeah. I think there’s about 136.
Q: You say, “about 136”?
Q: Or do you mean exactly 136?
BD: It’s either 136 or 142.
Q: What does the word “protest” mean to you?
BD: It means singing when you really don’t want to sing. It means singing against your wishes to sing.
Q: Do you sing protest songs?
Q: What do you sing?
BD: I sing all love songs.
Q: Is it true that you changed your name? If so, what was your other name?
BD: …Kunezevitch. I changed it to avoid obvious relatives who would come up to me in different parts of the country and want tickets for concerts and stuff like that. Kunezevitch, yeah.
Q: Was that your first or last name?
BD: That was my first name. (Laughter & applause). I don’t really want to tell you what my last name was.
Q: Bob, why is there such a widespread use of drugs among singers today? (Laughter)
BD: I don’t know. Are you a singer?
Q: Do you take drugs yourself?
BD: I don’t even know what a drug is. I have never even seen a drug. I would not know what one looked like if I saw one.
Q: Bob, what sort of technique do you use when you write a song, or don’t you cal it any technique?
BD: Well, I just sit down and the next thing I know, it’s there…
Q: Why are you putting us, and the rest of the world, on so?
BD: I’m just trying to answer your questions as good as you can ask them.
Q: I am sure you must have been asked a thousand times—what are you trying to say in your music? I don’t understand ONE of the songs.
BD: Well, you shouldn’t feel offended or anything. I am not trying to say anything to you. If you don’t get it, you don’t have to really think about it, ‘cause it’s not addressed to you.
Q: Are you trying to say something when you write? Or are you just entertaining?
BD: I’m just an entertainer. That’s all.
Q: Do you really feel that it’s important for you to write and sing?
BD: (Menacingly) Now, you are gonna make me mad now.
Q: Or do you just want to do it because you’re successful? Do you really feel the things that you write?
BD: What is there to feel? Name me some things.
Q: We are talking about standard emotions—pain, remorse, love…
BD: I have none of those feeling.
Q: What sort of feelings do you have when you write a song?
BD: I don’t have to explain my feelings! I am not on trial here!
Q: You sound and look very tired, very ill. Is this your normal state?
BD: I take that as an insult. I don’t like to hear that kind of thing.
Q: What’s the reason for your visit to California?
BD: Oh, I’m here looking for some donkeys. I am making a movie about Jesus.
Q: Where are you making it?
BD: Back east.
Q: Did your parents give you any special advice when you last saw them? Did they say ‘good-bye’ or ‘good luck’ or anything like that?
BD: No, do your parents do that to you?
Q: As a little boy, did you want to write songs and be a singer?
BD: No, I wanted to be a movie usher. It’s been my lifelong ambition to be a movie usher, and I have failed, as far as I am concerned.
Q: Why do you think that kids are listening to you now?
BD: I really don’t know. I just heard something a couple of days ago that amazed me… outside a concert we played at San José, there was this fifteen-year-old girl… being interviewed as to why she was there… she knew all the poets, like William Blake, and she knew his works and she was hip to all kinds of different things which people are usually not acquainted with at that age. So, maybe, it’s just a new kind of person, a new kind of fifteen-year-old. I do know that today there’s more freedom in the mind of twenty-two-year-old college students. I know that, that’s rue.
Q: What’s the attitude today among your people?
BD: Oh, God! I don’t know any of these people.
Q: What do you spend your money on? You seem to lead a very simple, uncomplicated life. You don’t seem to be interested in motor cars, girls, yachts…?
BD: Well, that’s the way it goes. (Laughter).
- Alldylan @ Facebook
- Bob Dylan: Live 1980 – 1989 (Video & audio)
- Bob Dylan: 8 essential videos from the 80’s
- Dec 13: Bob Dylan speech at the Bill of Rights Dinner, 1963
- Dec 3: Bob Dylan interview @ KQED-TV Studios, San Francisco, 1965 (videos)
- Nov 19: The classic Bob Dylan “60 Minutes” interview with Ed Bradley – 2004 (video)
- July 23: Bob Dylan “The Rome 2001 Interview” (audio)
- Karl Erik’s expectingrain.com
- Olof’s “Still On The Road“