I was what was known as a "late Dylan fan." At one time I was almost anti-Dylan, and I made a lot of enemies... I thought he was putting me on, I couldn't accept him. The thing was, I shared no experience with Dylan at the time, I thought a lot of his stuff was ambiguous, and not written honestly. It's like I always thought Shakespeare was real wordy and weird, right until I went to Stratford and saw a man who recited Shakespeare like it was really 20th century. It lost all of that super-drama stuff that really turned me off, and it flowed, and I understood it. So it's the same thing with Dylan; now every time I listen to him, the things I thought were just words for words' sake make sense to me.
I wrote a song called "Cactus Tree" [released on "Miles of Aisles", Jan 1975], which is Dylan-influenced in its melody and even its style. I even lengthen my "A"s when I sing it because it sings better. It's all sort of in a monotone -- I wrote it after I saw Don't Look Back, which I think left a big impression on me.
Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street," that particular song showed me. I remember thinking "the American pop song has finally grown up." You can sing about anything now. "You've got a lot of nerve to be my friend." Just in that statement was a different song than any I had ever heard.
Just a simple thing like being a singer-songwriter -- that was a new idea. It used to take three people to do that job. And when I heard "Positively 4th Street," I realised that this was a whole new ballgame; now you could make your songs literature. The potential for the song had never occurred to me -- I loved "Tutti Frutti," you know. But it occurred to Dylan. I said "Oh God, look at this." And I began to write. So Dylan sparked me.
They asked him about women in the business and he said "Oh they all tart themselves up," and the interviewer said "Even Joni Mitchell?" And he said "I love Joni Mitchell, but she's" -- how did he put it? -- "kinda like a man," or something. It was a backhanded compliment, I think, because I'm probably one of Bob's best pace-runners as a poet. There aren't that many good writers. There are a lot that are touted as good, but they're not literature, they're just pretty good for a songwriter.
The thing is, I came into this business quite feminine. But nobody has had so many battles to wage as me. I remember early in my career somebody wrote that my work was "effeminate," which I thought was pretty odd. So over the years I've gotten more androgynous -- and maybe become an honorary male, according to Bobby.
But he's born on the 24th of May. My mother, Queen Victoria and Dylan were all born on that date. I always think that birth date is the day of the extreme moralist.
The first official meeting was the Johnny Cash Show in 1969. We played that together. Afterwards Johnny had a party at his house. So we met briefly there. Over the years there were a series of brief encounters. Tests. Little art games. I always had an affection for him.
At one point we're backstage at this concert. I knew he was discovering painting. At that point, I'd just come from New Mexico, and I'd seen colour combinations that had never occurred to me before. Lavender and wheat, like old fashioned licorice, you know, when you bite into it and there's this peculiar, rich green and brown colour? The soil was like that, and the foliage coming out of it was vivid in the context of this colour earth.
Anyway I was really getting carried away, and Bobby says to me "'When you paint, do you use white?"' And I said "Of course." He said ''Cause if you don't use white, your paint gets muddy." I thought "Aha, the boy's been taking art lessons."
The next time we had a conversation was when Paul McCartney had a party on the Queen Mary. After a long silence, he said "If you were gonna paint this room, what would you paint?" I said "I'd paint the mirrored ball spinning. I'd paint the women in the washroom, the band..." Later, all the stuff came back to me as part of a dream that became the song "Paprika Plains."
I said "What would you paint?". He said "I'd paint this coffee cup." Later he wrote "One More Cup of Coffee.''
Quoted in Brian Hinton, Both Sides Now, London, 1996, pp. 78-79.
Dylan's most notorious point-scoring came when he pretended to fall asleep as she played him an acetate of one of her finest albums. Joni has neither forgotten nor forgiven. It was late at night, with Louis Kemp, Asylum boss David Geffen, and Dylan."There was all this fussing over Bobby's project ["PLANET WAVES," 1973], 'cause he was new to the label, and Court and Spark, which was a big breakthrough for me. was being entirely and almost rudely dismissed. Geffen's excuse was, since I was living in a room in his house at the time, that he had heard it through all of its stages, and it was no longer any surprise to him."Joni finishes the story (and Dylan) off. One of the women present takes her aside, and tells her not to pay any attention: ''Those boys have no ears.''
Brian Hinton, Both Sides Now, London, 1996, p. 79.