OCTOBER 24, 2014
Copyright 2014 FRANCIS DIMENNO

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. ― Aristotle

We had one time come to speak in Bughouse Square near Holly Park this big and beefy but scraggly-looking fellow. He was wearing a long black greatcoat, even though it was a sunny and only mildly breezy afternoon in early autumn. He had a long beard and looked for all the world, with them whiskers, like he just stepped out of Diabolo’s Den and he ought to have been holding a fizzing bomb in his left hand, while with his right he wildly gesticulated. He got up on the small concrete platform next to a statue of the first settler and founder of Noxtown and began to hold forth.
Ladies and yobs:
I speak to all of you, be ye high lady or zook; be ye well-fed gentleman or John Hollowlegs. 
Ye have all of yez been sold a bill of goods! 
By none other than God Almighty, the Great Businessman in the Sky. 
[Assorted hoots and cheers.]
It is he who keeps you a hopin’ and a wishin’ and a dreamin’ and a-idlin’ away your free time hoping there is pie in the sky and steak on Sundays. never mind that this is a game that all of yez–unless there is a copper or a swell hidden behind the arras, as it were–that all of yez were borned to lose. Why is that? Simple. ye are slaves, all of you, to the people who truly ride herd over this great land of ours–the Plutycrats.Who is the Plutycrat?  He is not one such as you and I. For has he ever labored with the sweat of his brow? NO! Has he ever done treed a possum in a holler log? NO? Has he ever stood in the rock quarry, making little ones out of big ones? NO! He has no callouses on his hands, and his clothes are free of so much as even a spectacle of lint. 

You look back to the times of the pyramids, and you see the same sitch-iation. There you have the pharaoh, with a birdie on his head, a-whippin’ on the task-masters with a wave of his imperial palm. For what? For to build monuments that would outlast the sands of time, and all for his, the Pharaoh’s greater glory, et cetera. The pyramids were nothing more but a glorified tombstone for these rascals, and thousands of slaves died to make ’em, and don’t you forget it. 

And what do we have today? The sitch-iation is no better. You streetcar conductors–ain’t you got to work up to 14 hours in the cold and sleet? You track-layers and gandy-dancers–ain’t you got fun? I think not! 

As long as the policeman is appointed a keeper of the peace, it his bounden business to stir up trouble so’s he can frighten the rich with all the turmoil outside their gated mansions and keep his job, which comes down to one thing only–busting heads.

It ain’t easy for me to get up here and talk. I am not an eddicated man like some few of you mought be–just a common working man like most of ye here. What’s more, I am a jailbird–went out on strike at the mills and got my head stove in for me troubles. Some few of you might say I got a cuckoo brain as a result. But I been around the block a few times. I’ve seen the gold brick, and I know what’s what. How is it fair and righteous that we have thieves who profit from the toil of the honest working man, a-whoopin’ it up in their big old mansions, while a starving old woman who steals a crust of bread gets jugged, and locked up in the workhouse? There, they’ll put her to work, never you fear, doing the work that nobody else wants; they’ll have her untangling hooks and needles with her hands like claws until she goes batty.  Think if this was your pore ole mother. What about honor thy parents? 

Oh, sure–the fat boys pay lip service to th’ ten commandments, sure ‘nough–just so long as it applies to somebody else, meaning anybody but them as gots, and intends to keep it. They build their houses on a platform of platitudes, every one of which is a lie. O, keep THOU the sabbath holy–but don’t mind ME if’n I continue to Wheel and Deal with my cronies on this most holy of days, and my mills WILL run on Sunday if there’s money to be made. Satanic Mills! Moloch! Moloch is the money power of this land! 

But what the money lords fail to take into account is one fact–they are not the real people–YOU are! Let a common man enter a mansion and inside of a day, he will adjust to the soft life of feathered pillows and uniformed servants in livery. But place the plutocrat out into the same streets we honest critters ford daily, and he will be lost in a bewildering forest of sense impressions and will likely be driven to madness and despair! WE are the superior classes; we have just been held down so long that we don’t even realize it! We even deny it when the fact is pointed out to us! How is THAT for fear and trembling? 

The poor, they are always with us, indeed.

It don’t have to be that way!

The pharaoh had his slaves, who he had fed on beer and bread. The pluty-crats have their slaves, and they are us, and we are lucky if we get even that, t’ say nothing of steak on Sunday.

Sure, I’m a radical–but I ain’t no barbarian! I don’t deprive the sucking babe of his mammy’s milk, ner take the crust from the toothless gums of the indigent! I don’t cheat the poor of their lifelong savings by promising them a home of their own, then taking it away when they can’t meet the mortgage! I do not traffic in the sweat and blood of the pore working man for the prevailing rate. Jesus wept! So I say to all of you–think for yourself. THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT HAS TO BE! 

At first he was greeted with hoots a “Go back to Russia, ye furriner,” but as he got worked up he had the crowd going along with him. It is more than likely, however, that word got out to Cokey Stolas that some troublemaker was causing a ruckus, because before too long the coppers were out in force, and, although they never bothered with disturbing prohibitionists or lady suffragists or even vegetarians, they promptly arrested and handcuffed this radical, whose name we learned was Black Ike, and led him away to the Black Maria to carry him off to the hoosegow.




Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and Off the Tracks. By Victor Maymudes. Co-written and edited by Jacob Maymudes. St. Martin’s Press. Hardcover. 288 pages.

Reviewed by Francis DiMenno

Long time Dylan crony Victor Maymudes meant to write a memoir of his friendship with Bob Dylan–as well as his time as tour manager forDylan and his entourage, during both the mid-sixties and the late eighties and early nineties. Instead, prior to his untimely death in 2001, he left behind a treasure trove of audio-taped reminiscences. His son has sorted through these and selected some of the most interesting anecdotes and observations. It is questionable whether there are enough of these to fill an entire book, but certain Dylan fanatics may feel well rewarded–particularly after reading the early chapters. 

Maymudes was a guitarist and poet in his own right, but soon realized that he could never compete in either field on the same level as Dylan. So he helped his friend by solving problems for him while he was on tour; and also by controlling access to Dylan before and after he went on stage: “There were lots of people who would try to get close to Bob…the most aggressive attempts would be from people using their power in the entertainment business to get access to him….When I was on tour Bob asked me to stand between them and him.” (83). 

But Maymudes was far more than a humble factotum; he was also a long-time veteran of the hip scene in Los Angeles, having co-founded in 1955 the Unicorn cafe, a coffee-shop which was the first of its kind, located in the heart of the Sunset Strip. “For marketing they put posters up in liberal bookstores, music venues, and any place that had a sense of hipness and a taste for folk music….The cafe was painted entirely black inside and pictures of nude women hung upside down on the walls. They were defining what hip was and they nailed it. Once the place was built, Victor would reach out to musician friends and poets to book performances at the cafe.” (25)

So Maymudes was no innocent. He had been around. He knew a lot of interesting people–he made a point of cultivating and collecting celebrities (and dropping names–sometimes to an annoying degree)–and he also introduced Dylan to his more interesting friends: people such as Lenny Bruce (about whom Dylan later wrote a song). Maymudes also suggested that Dylan sign with Albert Grossman (the money-grasping manager about whom few complimentary songs will ever be written).

We learn, among other stories, further details of that notorious incident in which Dylan introduced the Beatles to marijuana, in a NYC hotel room, where the streets outside were overrun with both policemen and rabid fans. According to Maymudes, he was the one who rolled the joints and chummed around with the band. Dylan, for his part, had a couple of drinks and passed out. We also learn that the motorcycle accident which supposedly incapacitated Dylan for months was actually a quite minor incident which gave him the incentive to slow down and examine his life, and eventually to try life as a family man instead of a famous, and constantly on-call superstar. 

We also discover more about Dylan’s early writing technique–solitude, along with plenty of coffee and cigarettes. We can guess at why Dylanwas successful when so many other folk singers are now relegated to the status of footnotes–including such luminaries as Dave Van Ronk, Rolf Cahn, and Eric Von Schmidt. It was likely Dylan’s work ethic–which, by Maymudes’s account, was extraordinary. “Bob’s vision is bad,” says Maymudes, “but he doesn’t mind. He doesn’t wear glasses because the world he inhabits is an internal one.” (121)

Dylan, we learn from Maymudes’s account, was an extraordinarily gifted and insightful individual who had to be left alone to do his work as much as possible. But with this aloofness came a concomitant loneliness; a void which Maymudes himself, for all his fabled closeness to Dylan, could not fill. So he tried instead to be the friend of the great man who provides companionship when desired: “Our talks would expand the boundaries of our philosophy; we would push the limits of the meaning of words and bend ideas around new phrases.” (83)

There are genuine insights to be found, even if they are suffused in a glow of orange sunshine, or whatever type of drug the author happened to be on at the time. This one is my favorite: “The Hopis sang and danced for those elements that were rare, water principally, and our music was all about love, maybe because for us that was rare.” (144)

Dylan scholars will rightly be skeptical of some of the claims made by Maymudes.Some parts of this memoir seems overstated; for example, Maymudes claims that “I did get to watch our taste in clothes influence a whole generation” (116). Really? He also claims that he and Bob would meet some of the most interesting characters on any given local scene by dropping into pool halls early in the morning. OK–if you say so,

But, overall, it is difficult to fault this book, since it is ostensibly nothing more than a memoir of someone who had been present at the creation of the Dylan mythos. The author himself protests that “I want to help people remember the great, the magic that was those early days. The miserable shit that took place can be forgotten, for it won’t help anyone.” (35) All the same, the temperamental, arbitrary and sometimes downright cruel side of Bob Dylan is sometimes observed. Like the time he made his friend wait in the car while he visited his parents. Like the time he made him desert his 7 year old son and 14 year old daughter in a parking lot for hours. Like the time he fired the author’s daughter for her inept management of his coffee shop, and chewed her out in front of everybody. This latter deed effectively helped end both their long friendship and business relationship. As did a charge of statutory rape brought against Maymudes which Dylan’s people managed to extricate him from. To sum up: Maymudes seems to share Dylan’s absolute narcissism, with none of his crippling self-doubt. Diehard Dylan fans will find this an interesting and useful account; others might prefer to dip into books such as the recent biography Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited by Clinton Heylin, Dave Van Ronk’s underrated memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street, or even Dylan’s own memoir Chronicles (which, perhaps tellingly, mentions Maymudes not at all).



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