Bob Dylan and Neil Young share a bond akin to a gingham-clad incarnation of Bert and Ernie. They have been friends and inspirations since what seems like time immemorial and such is Young’s profound respect for his pioneering buddy he once said, “I’ll never be Bob Dylan. He’s the master.”
Beyond the friendship and rather more obviously comparable folk stylings, they also seem to share an artistic kinship. Few musicians in history have disavowed commercialism or the safety of expectation quite like Dylan. He has never played to the gallery and succumbed to no creative influence other than the whims of his muse.
Young has not only followed in his footstep, but he also even seemed to elucidate the issues with the modern-day music industry that stands counter to their output, stating: “Back then people closed their eyes and listened to music. Today there’s a lot of images that go with the music. A lot of music is crap and it’s all commercialism and the images are all trying to sell the record.”
Thus, when the pair got together at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) awards back in 1986 a journalist found them in typically playful fashion as he attempted to weave his way through some admittedly on the nose questions.
Things got off to a sketchy start when he dubbed Dylan a role model prompting the notorious iconoclast to interrupt saying, “No, no, no, I’m not a role model,” which is a stance that he has held since the very first moment he was dubbed ‘the voice of a generation’. In fact, great swathes of his memoir are dedicated to disavowing the notion that he is anything other than a humble folk troubadour in the same way that Albert Einstein was just a physics teacher.
Then the journalist asks what the future holds for Bob Dylan, to which he refers across to his good friend Neil Young to answer and he is equally short shrift as he simply states, “More of the same.”
The interview is not without a touch of sincerity, however, as Dylan does pause to ponder what his music means to people and the joy of garnering fans over the years. Albeit he is still not particularly verbose on the matter, adding simply, “[Having influence] it has been inspiring to me to write it, outside of that I wouldn’t know.” Which is a line not a whole lot different from his iconic persona defining quotes: “All I can be is me, whoever that is.”
The clip is not quite the same verbal lynching that Bob Dylan famously gave Time Magazine when he became indignant and began ranting about how much “truth” is actually printed in the publication as a way to first establish his mercurial ways just as people were trying to label him. Clearly, he has matured in his later years and such prickly flippancy has been replaced by a rather more playful approach. Perhaps, what shines through most of all in the ASCAP interview is the friendship that Young and Dylan both share and it is one that endures to this day.