Bob Dylan interview from November, 1980
In November of 1980, I was working at KINK-FM in Portland, Oregon. Bob Dylan was on tour behind his latest release at the time, Saved which was a follow-up to his first “Christian” album Slow Train Coming. Concerts West, which was promoting that tour, decided they wanted Dylan, who was normally pretty inaccessible to media, to do one radio interview for the West Coast leg of the tour. As I understand it, I was chosen to do that interview because of the reputation of the radio station and my own recent history of working with artists and labels (and evidently not upsetting them too horribly).
Particularly when the interview subject is so high profile, it gets scheduled at their convenience…which, in this case turned out to be a Sunday afternoon. My memory is that because management was in a bit of flux at that time, it wasn’t possible to have someone else cover the regular Sunday afternoon air shift that I was assigned. This meant that when the phone call came in, I had to talk to Bob and keep my wits about me as I also played the music and commercials and all else that was involved in keeping the station on the air for the duration. In the 45 minutes or so that the conversation lasted, my attention was split and I apologize to anyone who may have been listening at the time for not doing any disc jockey jibber jabber.
As I listen to this today, I cringe that I sound like I’m 15 years old (I was 29) and how nervous I was, is probably very apparent. As you can hear Bob was very polite and forthcoming in his responses, helping me through some occasionally misguided conversational topics. I even like to think he provided some insights that have never appeared in any other venue. The quote that sticks out in my mind and still makes me smile was when we were talking about the reaction fans had had to his switch from “acoustic folk” to “electric” early in his career. He maintained he was somewhat oblivious to it when he was onstage and I asked if it was mostly a figment of some some journalists’ imagination, he responded. “no, it wasn’t a figment of anyone’s journalism” which to me sounded like a typical “dylanism.”
Part of the unspoken agreement in such a transaction (getting access to a musician) was that the subsequent airing of this interview needed to happen prior to his appearance in Portland on Wednesday, December 3 at the old Paramount Theater (now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall). So some time in the next two days, I cut it up and surrounded it with music in the way that was typical for KINK in that era. I don’t recall which day it actually aired, but most likely it would have been Tuesday evening, December 2nd…the only time it was publically heard.
I’d remind the listener that a) this was done in 1980, a little less than 20 years into Dylan’s career, so the music (and images selected for this video) obviously come from that perspective and b) it was initially a RADIO program (nothing to “look” at), so all of the video and images are on top of a radio presentation and, in particular, the videos don’t match the audio you’re hearing. If that discrepancy bothers you (it does me after looking at it 173 times), my suggestion is to maybe just listen to it mostly and glance at your screen now and then as a reference.
As a post script to this episode, I did actually get to meet Bob Dylan in the lobby bar of the Benson Hotel and everyone seemed pretty happy.
And, as a way to put these dates into an historical perspective, the following Monday, December 8th was when John Lennon was shot in New York City (and I was on the air for that as well).