Orpheus on the Air #2:
Christmas Week Edition

In the early morning hours of January 26, 1966, Bob Dylan (accompanied by unnamed members of The Hawks) lurched into the studios of New York's listener-supported radio shrine WBAI-FM for an unscheduled appearance on Radio Unnameable, the weekly cavalcade of music and merriment hosted (then and now) by one of the great men of our time, Bob Fass.

It was an interesting period for this troubador; having spent the preceding six months letting it be known far and wide that he wasn't returning to the Protest song racket, no matter how forcefully the middle class white folks (who just adored songs about underclass misery) screamed their heads off or held their breath. By January, Dylan had at least managed to convince everyone that he wasn't kidding, and the volume of catcalls and boos appeared to be growing more faint by the hour (this would soon change later in the year as he faced one exceedingly ugly UK crowd after another during the course of his 1966 world tour). He could afford to take a momentary breather.

In a sense, this recording documents that brief moment of repose.

There's no music in these 93 minutes (save for a few notes from a Lightnin' Hopkins record) . . . there isn't even an interview in the conventional sense. Some back-and-forth between the host and his mystery guest (who seems to be under the influence of . . . something), a good deal of moving about (anyone who's worked in listener-supported radio knows how cramped a studio can get when more than two souls occupy it), and then Bob Fass opens up the phone lines.

The less said about what ensues . . .

Suffice it to say, all Talk Radio should sound like this.

Act One (49min.)

Act Two (44min.)


Richard Gibson said...

This is incredible!

Vanwall said...

It's funny, I was just reading the New Yorker piece on Bob Fass and Radio Unnameable recently. Back in that day, we only got the word of mouth about Fass's show, bein' in the Stinkin' Desert and cut off from civilization and all, so it was a fuzzy light in the distance, like Jean Shepherd's work before him. When I finally read some more in-depth writing about him, I realized Fass's work was what I always envisioned radio would be like, almost a utopia of collective thinking, often hilarious. I eventually ran across his influences via his frequent guest Abbie Hoffman in a rather direct manner, on August 16, 1970, at Disneyland - the infamous day they closed early due to the Yippie Invasion. I never had more fun at Walt's Place than that day, my cousins and I hanging around Tom Sawyer's Island where the "headquarters bunker" was, and I must say the dress code was un-enforceable due to the sheer number of missing bras, always a nice addition to an anarchic situation. Just like his show, in fact.


Tom Sutpen said...

Another great one, Rob!

I don't know how I would have fared at the Disneyland bacchanal or other counter-culture festas (despite my anarchist sympathies I'm pretty straight-laced), but I'd love to have been there. God knows we could use some creative protest now.

Btw, on behalf of the t'ree of us, a (belated) Merry Christissimas and (early) Happy New year! You're the best. Don't ever stop visitin'!

Tim said...

Please - where can I get a copy of this?

Tom Sutpen said...

Best of my knowledge, this is only available on a 26-CD set of Bob Dylan bootleg recordings from the year 1966 called Jewels and Binoculars. I'm not aware of its presence on any less-hefty boots.

That being said . . . if you'd like, you can email me and I'll see what we can do from there.