An Introduction to Dylanology, or How to Understand Bob Dylan by Digging Through His Garbage

You may never have heard of “Dylanology” before, but rest assured that the field covers the intellectual territory you suspect it does. Even if you have heard of Dylanology, you may never have heard of A.J. Weberman, the man who holds reasonable claim to having fathered the discipline. In John Reilly’s musically biographical 1969 short film above, The Ballad of A.J. Weberman, we witness the titular Bob Dylan obsessive engaging in one of his many research methods: in this case, the also neologism-anointed pursuit of garbology. This “science” has Weberman go through Dylan’s trash “in order to gather scraps of evidence to support his theories,” says the diligent fan’s entry in the web’s Bob Dylan Who’s Who. These theories include, according to Rolling Stone‘s Marc Jacobson, the notion that “Dylan, the most angel-headed head of the generation, had fallen prey to a Manchurian Candidate-style government plot to hook him up to sensibility-deadening hard dope.”

The page also mentions that “after three years of self-publicity” as the “world’s leading Dylanologist,” Weberman “finally met Dylan in 1971.” But much of his notoriety comes not just from having met Dylan in the flesh, not just from habitually digging through Dylan’s garbage, and not just (or so he claims) having taken a rightful beating at the hands of Dylan, but from having conversed with Dylan, candidly and at length, over the telephone. These chats eventually emerged on vinyl as the album Robert Zimmerman vs. A.J. Weberman, and you can hear the whole thing at Ubuweb, or below:


January 6, 1971

January 9, 1971

“The conversations were recorded in January, 1971, in the weeks following a demonstration outside Bob’s NYC apartment organized by Weberman [ … ] a misguided 60’s radical who felt (correctly enough) that by the early 70’s, rock music had ceased to be a force for radical political upheaval in the U.S. and had been co-opted by the establishment,” writes one contributor to the Dylan Who’s Who. “Like any of Bob’s songs, they must be heard to be truly understood.”

Related Content:

Bob Dylan Finally Makes a Video for His 1965 Hit, “Like a Rolling Stone”

Bob Dylan Reads From T.S. Eliot’s Great Modernist Poem The Waste Land

Hear the Never-Before-Released Bob Dylan Song “Pretty Saro” (1970)

The 1969 Bob Dylan-Johnny Cash Sessions: Twelve Rare Recordings

Bob Dylan and George Harrison Play Tennis, 1969

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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