A. J. Weberman, for me, has always been the very model of a modern clueless maniac.
For a while there, back in the early 70's when he was famous for fifteen minutes, he used to torment Bob Dylan for a living. He was a pot-and-LSD-fueled incarnation of that pathetic contemporary creature—the obsessed fan.
In 1945 he was born Alan Jules Weberman in Brooklyn, N.Y. to soon-to-be-embarrassed Jewish parents. After what one assumes must have been a childhood, he somehow managed to get into Michigan State University, which is where he discovered drugs and Dylan. "I realized it was poetry," he said of the music, "and required interpretation."
Unfortunately, much of his interpretive effort occurred in jail in 1964, where he spent some time as a result of a marijuana-dealing conviction. "I developed the Dylanological Method," he informed us, "which is looking at each word in the context in which it appears and looking for words that have a similar theme that cluster around it (concordance). I started to devote a lot of time to just sitting around interpreting Dylan's poetry."
Just like me and dannye and anybody else who drew breath back in the alleged day, but enough about us. Weberman came to call his effort "The Secret Language of Rock Poetry." He was obsessed with getting the word out to the legions of Dylan fans who weren't in the know.
Through monkish dedication to Dylan's oeuvre, Weberman concluded that our hero was, in fact, a heroin addict. John Wesley Harding proved it beyond a doubt. When Bobby-the-hype sang about his little "bundle of joy" on Down along the Cove, he was referring to his fix, his hit, his kit, his spike, his works, not his daughter Anna.
A.J. took out an ad in the East Village Other, searching for a specimen of Dylan's urine. While he was waiting for the offers to pour in, he fell by Dylan's townhouse on MacDougal Street one Sunday morning in August of 1970. Rushing past the sainted Sara Dylan, Bob's wife, he confronted the poet, who shouted down from the stairway leading to his office something akin to "What the fuck do you want?!"
"It's about your poetry," answered Weberman."
"Oh, how nice!" said Dylan, slamming the door.
Rebuffed by Bob, but unbowed, Weberman passed some garbage cans outside the townhouse. "So there's something that was inside that's outside now," history tells us he said to himself, and A.J. pulled out his first authentic piece of Dylanania—a soiled diaper. More shit followed; Bob and Sara had a new dog, Sasha, and most of it was canine. Stale coffee grounds, egg shells, a false-start letter to Johnny Cash, a postcard from Beatty Zimmerman, Bob's mom, who was on vacation in Florida. All of it had once belonged to Dylan!
But alas, nary a syringe or glassine envelope to be found. Undaunted, Weberman realized he had just discovered an entirely new Science, and he called that science garbology. "You ARE what you THROW AWAY!" From Bob Dylan's trash, and that of other celebrities to follow, A. J. Weberman composed newspaper and magazine articles and ultimately an entire book, My Life in Garbology.
Dylan's response? He put extra dog shit in his garbage.
But the greatest songwriter of our time never reckoned with what assiduousness the master, nay creator of garbology would pursue his quarry. Weberman moved into a loft at the end of Bleecker Street, down near the Bowery, that he might be somewhat closer to the receptacles of perception. It was likely there that he realized all those references to "the night," in Nashville Skyline were really symbolic of Dylan's new habit, which of course must have begun while he was recovering from his near-fatal motorcycle accident. It was so obvious: "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." "Night time is the right time to be with the one you love." "Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead." "I long to reach for you in the night."
Dylan might as well have been broadcasting his smack habit from the rooftops.
Things started to get serious in March of 1971 when Rolling Stone published a transcription of a taped phone call that Weberman managed to have with the magnanimous Dylan.
Weberman revealed to the singer/songwriter/poet/consumer that Dear Landlord was about Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager, and himself, Weberman:
"It wasn't written for anybody!" said Dylan. "It was an abstract song, it certainly wasn't written for you."
"It wasn't?" asked Weberman in great surprise.
"It sure as hell wasn't, no. I was not even aware of you at the time."
Weberman said his next article would include a reference to a phrase from New Morning, "Don't expose me."
"I never said 'Don't expose me' in New Morning what's that?"
"Backwards, backwards," replied Weberman, excitedly. "You play a part of it backwards."
"And it says, 'Don't expose me'?"
"Oh fuck, man. Jesus!"
Out of his very real concern for his (our) hero's health, and out of fear that Bob's politics had become more and more dangerously conservative (he had recorded, after all, with Johnny Cash, a man who'd sung at the White House for Richard Nixon) Weberman began to make field trips to Dylan's house with his STUDENTS of Dylanology from the Alternate University of New York, many of whom were also members of the DLF—the Dylan Liberation Front. They wanted to free Bob from himself.
In September 1971, Sara Dylan lost it and physically attacked Weberman after discovering him going through a particularly well-filled garbage can in the company of an Associated Press reporter. "It was like trying to discuss integration with a lynch mob," Weberman reported, of tangling with the lady of the house.
Nothing if not a feeling individual, Weberman was walking down Elizabeth Street in some distress when he heard a bicycle behind him. An enraged Bob Dylan lept from the machine and began to punch and kick the by-now World Famous Garbologist to the ground. Weberman claimed he was too shocked to defend himself and credited passersby for pulling the furious folksinger away before he was killed. In a final gesture, Dylan ripped A.J.'s Dylan Liberation Front badge from his shirt and rode away.
"Not too many people have that opportunity—to have Dylan on top of them," Weberman proclaimed proudly. "Maybe his wife."
Weberman tells us that seven years later, Bob Dylan wrote about the event, this clash of titans, in Where are You Tonight? (don't forget your codewords now) on Street Legal:
"I fought with my twin, that enemy within, 'til both of us fell by the way.…" "It felt out of place, my foot in his face." And so forth and so on.
I mention all this because though I'm sure history will be kind to Bob Dylan, it's possible that A. J. Weberman, his greatest fan, may himself someday be remanded to the trashcan. I mean, even though he's gone through Jackie Kennedy's garbage, and David Rockefeller's; Norman Mailer's, Dustin Hoffman's and Spiro Agnew's, you don't see A. J. Weberman on the really important talk shows any more do you?
Down the Highway, The Life of Bob Dylan, Howard Sounes, Grove Press, New York 2001
Dear Landlord, The A. J. Weberman Story, John Roberts http://users.powernet.co.uk/barrett/The-Telegraph/extracts/aj51.html