Bob Dylan is turning 70: Let’s take a look at some of the weird shit he’s done
Bob Dylan is hitting the big 7-0 on Tuesday, and the tributes have already started pouring in. To name a few, the Spring Green General Store in Spring Green, Wisconsin (natch) is holding its annual BobFest on Sunday, and Rolling Stone has unveiled its cover story compiling a list of the 70 best Dylan songs of all time. And while it’s not exactly a bad idea to put “Like A Rolling Stone” as No. 1, you sort of have to wonder about the magazine’s motives. Plus, “Changing Of The Guards” is somehow left off the entire thing and “Visions Of Johanna” is all the way down in the nine spot, which is just shameful.
Dylan’s musical brilliance is already a solidified fact, and his onstage antics have already been covered, so why not honor the man with a list of some of his most memorable and wacky moments in pop culture?
Dylan Talks To Playboy (1966)
Dylan has a long history of truly bizarre interviews and appearances that even manage to out-weird all those times John Lennon and Yoko Ono were on The Dick Cavett Show in the early ’70s. Although the selection is vast and often incomprehensible, no moment has managed to top the way Dylan explained his career to Playboy in 1966, right around the time he was already busy freaking everyone out with electric guitars. Maybe it’s best to just let this one speak for itself, although remember, this is just a portion of a larger story:
I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a ‘before’ in a Charles Atlas ‘before and after’ ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy—he ain’t so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I’m in Omaha.
MC Dylan (1986)
Kurtis Blow, rap pioneer and the genius behind the seminal rap classic “The Breaks,” sought out an unlikely ally in Dylan when he asked him to collaborate on a duet called “Street Rock” for his album Kingdom Blow. The idea sounds absolutely mystifying in theory, but Dylan manages to come out unscathed, with his off-kilter wordiness sounding oddly at home alongside the ’80s guitars and ramshackle beats.
Dylan On Guns (1993)
Dylan’s role as a political thought-leader has long been dissected and examined. So it’s only normal that a reporter would eventually question him about guns and violence in society. When asked, “Do you think the availability of guns is a big problem?” the folkster smirks and replies with a curt, “I don’t think there’s enough guns.” Dylan goes on to clarify that he’s talking, of course, about toy guns.
Dylan Gets Soy Bombed (1998)
Long before Kanye West interrupted poor, defenseless fawn Taylor Swift at the VMAs, Dylan had a run-in of his very own with an uninvited stage guest. During a 1998 Grammy performance of the song “Love Sick,” Michael Portnoy, an extra (and secret performance artist) that producers had hired to politely bob his head behind the performance (an idea Dylan just surely loved), ripped off his shirt, ran up to Dylan and spastically danced with the words “Soy Bomb” written prominently across his chest. Portnoy later went on to ramble to the press about representing “dense, transformational, explosive life,” or some other nonsense. Whatever the reason, just get a load of Dylan’s face when he figures out what’s happening.
Dylan’s Got A Secret (2007)
Dylan’s TV appearances are usually few and far between, but when they actually happen, the man makes sure they’re weird as hell. Despite hanging out with Chumlee on History Channel’s Pawn Stars,
and inexplicably dropping by a 1999 episode of Dharma And Greg (again, Dharma. And. Greg),
nothing was quite as flabbergasting as Dylan’s decision to star alongside Brazilian bombshell Adriana Lima in an ad for lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret. The commercial is a bit creepy—maybe even a little sacrilegious—and completely and utterly amazing. To be a fly on the wall during that brainstorming session...
Masked And Anonymous (2003)
Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm warhorse Larry Charles co-wrote this perplexing satire(?) with Dylan. It features more celebrities than Forest Lawn Cemetery, but somehow received a mostly negative response from viewers (see below). In an attempt to elaborate on the serpentine nature of the film, here’s a glimpse of the plot, as described in The A.V. Club review from 2003:
Meanwhile, journalist Jeff Bridges and girlfriend Penélope Cruz try to secure an interview with Dylan, then needle him about not appearing at Woodstock. Luke Wilson leaves his bartending job to bring Dylan a guitar belonging to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mickey Rourke plays a power-mad generalissimo, Christian Slater and Chris Penn appear as wisecracking roadies, and the background is filled with extras dressed up as Gandhi, Lincoln, and Pope John Paul II. Eventually, Ed Harris shows up in blackface carrying a banjo to deliver a stern, puzzling monologue.
Right. In the clip below, Val Kilmer and Dylan engage in an alarming pseudo-philosophical conversation about animals.
Dylan and Santa (2009)
As if attempting to finally cement his status as a cultural enigma, Dylan decided it wise to record a Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart—a real one, full of seasonal cheer and classics such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Little Drummer Boy,” the entire merry enchilada. But the apex of this work may be the creepily produced music video for the Brave Combo polka track “Must Be Santa,” which depicts a wigged Dylan in the midst of a polka party that mysteriously goes awry, the way so many polka parties do. Watch Dylan shrug, shuffle, and hide behind his fake hair as a house full of people half his age dance their way into chaos. There’s a chance Dylan is just fooling around on this one, right?