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May 13th, 1965: Marianne Faithfull on Dylan: "He's not terribly witty, and takes himself very seriously"

Marianne Faithfull on Dylan: 'He's not terribly witty, and takes himself very seriously'

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1969.

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"He's not terribly witty, and takes himself very seriously."

Marianne Faithfull made this comment to reporter Keith Altham (of New Musical Express) following her first meeting with Bob Dylan in May 1965.

As the quote makes clear, Faithfull was not so impressed by Dylan. She also called him, "So typically young America"; a point reiterated when she said, "Every other word is 'man', just like in the James Baldwin books."

“After every track he would ask, ‘Did you understand what I was getting at?’ or ‘What was that all about?’

The meeting between the pair occurred at a London Restaurant, where Dylan had invited Faithfull to join him for dinner. Also in attendance were, according to Faithfull, “a nice fat man called Albert” (Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager), and Joan Baez.

After dinner, the party moved back to Dylan’s suite at the Savoy Hotel, where others including Donovan joined the festivities. Late in the night -- “After Donovan had sung “Blowin’ in the Wind" for the umpteenth time” (writes Altham) -- Dylan allegedly began playing some of his own LPs for Faithfull.

"After every track he would ask, 'Did you understand what I was getting at?' or ‘What was that all about?’ I got quite flustered," said Faithfull. "He has this huge pile of 'cue cards' with the meanings of his songs written on them, so that if anyone asks what 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' is about, he just holds up the appropriate card. Great!"

Marianne Faithfull on Dylan: 'He's not terribly witty, and takes himself very seriously'
Marianne Faithfull on Dylan: "He's not terribly witty, and takes himself very seriously"

In contrast, Faithfull had only positive things to say about meeting Joan Baez. "I couldn't believe it when I actually met her," said Faithfull. "She's so beautiful, with that gorgeous golden skin and those lovely blue eyes.”

"She insisted on singing her high vibrato version of 'Here Comes The Night' and 'Go Now,' which Dylan complained about. He hates her voice and tells her so. At one point he held up a bottle as she sang a high note, and drawled, 'Break that!' She just laughed. . . I think her voice grates on him because it is so pure."

Faithfull became a fan of Baez after first hearing the folk singer on a Newport Jazz Festival compilation record in 1961. Since then, she had "Bought Baez records by the bundle," according to Altham.

Faithfull later reversed her opinion of Dylan, describing him in her autobiography Faithfull as, "Nothing less than the hippest person on earth. The zeitgeist streamed through him like electricity.”

She also recounted their first meeting in a drastically different light. "He stared at me for so long I thought I was going to melt."

Marianne Faithfull has covered several Bob Dylan songs throughout her career, including "Blowin’ In The Wind", "I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight", "I'll Keep It With Mine", "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry", "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", "Visions Of Johanna", and "Gotta Serve Somebody".

To our knowledge, Faithfull has not recorded any Joan Baez songs to date.

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