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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