For the third time in just over one week, Howard Stern had a musical guest with a Bob Dylan story to share on his Sirius XM radio program. Yesterday, it was John Mellencamp, who was promoting his new album, “Plain Spoken.”
Back in the July 17, 1986, issue of “Rolling Stone” magazine, Dylan originally dissed Mellencamp, referring to him by his old stage name, “Cougar,” although he ended the quote with a back-handed compliment:
“I’m not particularly into this American thing, this Bruce Springsteen-John Cougar-‘America first’ thing. I feel just as strongly about American principles as those guys do, but I personally feel that what’s important is more eternal things … I’m not saying anything bad about these guys … John Cougar’s great, though the best thing on his record, I thought, was his grandmother singing. That knocked me out.”
However, the two have apparently become friends. Dylan and Mellencamp, along with Willie Nelson, toured ball parks together in 2009 and 2010. Mellencamp directed and appeared in Dylan’s “Political World” video, became a board member of Farm Aid, and opened the televised portion of Dylan’s 1992 “30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.” Dylan’s version of “People Get Ready” for the “Flashback” soundtrack was recorded at Mellencamp’s studio in Indiana. Mellencamp and Dylan both appeared at the White House in 2010 in a salute to the civil rights era. Mellencamp is scheduled to appear at the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute concert, honoring Dylan, next February.
Below is a transcription of the Dylan segment of the Stern interview. One question references the previous day’s Lenny Kravitz interview.
HOWARD STERN: You friends with Dylan?
JOHN MELLENCAMP: Yeah (laughs). I’ve done a hundred shows with him.
Yeah, but are you friends with him?
You guys sit around and talk?
Yeah, he’s stayed at my house.
You ever go walking in the rain with him for three hours?
No … But I was on the tour where he got in trouble for riding his bike around in nice neighborhoods (in New Jersey) and they thought he was a homeless guy (laughter). I have to tell you Bob is absolutely … I love Bob …
Is that a thrill for you to have famous friends, great musicians who you may have admired on the way up?
(Ignoring the question) Bob is so funny. He is …
Hysterical! I just laugh at him all the time, because he’s always saying funny stuff.
Why does he stay at your home, though? Is that so you guys can bond, or because he just can’t get a hotel? (Laughter)
He sleeps in his bus all the time, and whenever he comes around, you know, I always get a hold of him or he gets a hold of me, you know, we hang around the kitchen.
Do you ever sit and play music together ever?
No, but we talk about music.
My favorite question I ever asked Bob, I said, “OK, Bob, what was the plan?” And he looked at me and he started laughing, he goes (imitating Dylan), “Plan?!? There’s no plan!” He goes, “I could play 12 songs when I came to New York …” And he said, “My junior year, I went to Milwaukee, to practice being in the big city ‘cause I’m from Duluth, I would play on street corners in the summer … and I was staying at my grandmother’s sister’s house, just to practice, because I knew that when I graduate, I was gonna go to New York and try to be (a musician) … That was the plan. I could only play 12 songs.”
Does Bob Dylan really know you?
A casual thing, or does he really know who you are?
Yeah, he knows me. He’s given me so much advice.
When he stays at your house – this sounds crazy – but does he have, like, open policy? Can he go into your refrigerator and take out whatever he wants? (laughter)
Yeah … When we’re on tour together … I travel in an Airstream (a brand of luxury recreational vehicle) … I don’t travel in an Airstream, but my dressing room is this Airstream, and he walks in, and gets into my refrigerator, and gets my cigarettes.
ROBIN QUIVERS (Stern’s sidekick): What does he take in his coffee? (Laughing)
MELLENCAMP: I’ve never seen him drink … but he smokes a lot.
STERN: He does? Hey, you guys drive me nuts with that smoking.
(Then off to the next subject.)
Keep up with Bob Dylan Examiner news. Just click on Subscribe above, or follow @DylanExaminer on Twitter. Harold Lepidus also writes the Performing Arts column for yeahstub.com. Thanks for your support.
Of the dozens of Dylan Internet sites … Expecting Rain … and the yeahstub.com Bob Dylan blog by Harold Lepidus are the best places for up-to-the-minute Dylan news – David Kinney, “The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob.” (Simon & Schuster, 2014)