The Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time

Photo: Jan Persson / Redferns / Retna

Todd Haynes's much-anticipated Bob Dylan biopic, I'm Not There — in which the legendary musician is played by Cate Blanchett and an 11-year old black kid — debuts this week at the New York Film Festival. Critics say the film "jumps all over the place," is "densely idiosyncratic," and lacks "a thread of narrative coherence." In other words, it's a fitting tribute to rock and roll's most iconic absurdist, a guy who hasn't made any literal sense since 1963. Dylan's made baffling music (Self Portrait), books (his 1966 novel, Tarantula), and films (1978's Renaldo and Clara, 2003's Masked and Anonymous), but he's never made less sense than when he was talking to reporters. Here's our list of the Top Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time.

10. Time magazine, 1965.

Dylan heckles Time reporter Horace Judson and rants about the magazine:

"It'd go off the newsstands in a week if they printed the real truth … [like] a plain picture … a tramp vomiting, man, in the sewer. And next door to the picture, Mr. Rockefeller … Just make some kind of collage, which they don't do. There's no ideas at Time magazine."


9. MTV, 1986.

Dylan fixes his makeup, admits to being a Cyndi Lauper fan, and discusses the finer points of hat-wearing, all while looking sort of like a corpse. Also, check out that shirt.

8. Eat the Document, 1965.

In this rarely seen outtake from the documentary of Dylan's 1966 European tour, he and John Lennon are interviewed together in the back of a cab. Lennon effortlessly wins the coherency contest because Dylan is (allegedly) high on heroin.

7. Chabad telethon, 1991.

Just a decade after converting to Christianity, Dylan hits the shul and brings his usual charm.

6. CBS, Fall 1961.

In one of his first-ever interviews, a pre-fame Dylan was not yet very good at lying to journalists:

Dylan: Yeah, well, I was in the carnival when I was about 13 — all kinds of shows.

CBS: Where'd you go?

Dylan: All around the Midwest, uh, Gallup, New Mexico, Aptos, Texas, and then … lived in, Gallup, New Mexico and …

CBS: How old were you?

Dylan: Uh, about 7, 8, something like that.

5. Vienna street interview, 1981.

Dylan is actually fairly intelligible here, signing autographs and answering questions for Viennese fans — what's difficult to comprehend is how he got so polite all of a sudden.

4. MTV, 1993.

Here, Bob leaves the nonsensical babbling to tourmate Carlos Santana and just tries really hard to make his interviewer feel uncomfortable. (It works.)

3. BBC, 1986.

Dylan invites a BBC documentary film crew into his trailer in Toronto for what very well could be the worst interview we've ever seen in our entire lives, during which he mumbles, deflects questions ("I can't tell you that, because I'm not God, am I?"), and sketches a caricature of his interviewer.

2. Tokyo, 1986.

We take that back — this is the worst interview we've ever seen in our entire lives. Dylan stutters and talks in circles (even more than usual) — but at least he manages to avoid a sunburn.

1. Playboy, February 1966.

Dylan on how he chose his career:

Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game. Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. 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. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?

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‘I’m Not There’: The First of Our Seven Reactions [The Projectionist]