Saturday, June 20, 2009

Maria Muldaur & Bob Dylan: The Shot of Love Incident

In "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," a chapter in his 1989 book Dylan: A Biography, Bob Spitz relates a series of interesting Bob Dylan anecdotes from the early '80s (i.e., the "Gospel Years") as told to him by Maria Muldaur. In one of them, Muldaur describes being blown off by Dylan after she'd dropped in--and been made to cool her heels for a long time in a waiting room--at the Shot of Love recording sessions. (Besides being an old and close friend of Dylan's--even accompanying him a few months earlier on his last visit to Mike Bloomfield--she had been invited to the sessions by the background singers.) "Finally, I saw his face at the little window," Spitz quotes Muldaur as saying. "He looked right at me and right through me [italics in the original]. Then he whispered something to a friend and ignored me, which was a message, I guess, so I took off."

Spitz then writes:

"Put yourself in the place of someone who had known Bob all those years and tried to keep up with the conflicting messages he sent out.... [Y]ou attempt to ride the highs and lows as long as it is humanly possible. But after awhile, you just give up trying.

"Maria went back to San Francisco feeling like [sic] she'd lost one of her best friends, just as others before her ... had felt when they had been dismissed from the entourage with similar blunt shrift."

I asked Muldaur about this incident when I interviewed her in January 1993 for the Door. The main subject of the interview was her Christian faith, so I excluded her Dylan comments from the article. But they were very interesting. As you will see from the unedited transcription below, what she made of that 1981 episode and what Spitz made of it were entirely different.

MULDAUR: What happened was that I went to the rehearsal studio because by now I had made friends with all the girl singers, right? And he [Dylan] had always welcomed me there before. I had gone there before. And so they said, "Oh, come on. We're rehearsing." And I said, "Are you sure it's O.K.?" "Oh, sure! Bob always wants to see you."

So I went, and it was just this funky warehouse in Venice, California. And I went upstairs, and I was sitting on the couch. I mean, I wasn't about to go bursting in. It was this big, kind of loft room. Everyone was set up, and the girls were at one end. And he kept peering at me. But, you know, he's very myopic. He didn't have his glasses. But I didn't know it at the time, and he was, like, squinting, almost glaring at me, right? And I started to think, "Oh, God! I probably shouldn't have been here."

And I knew everybody in the band--[Jim] Keltner and everyone. But I just thought, "Well, I'll just sit here. I'll leave during the break and just say goodbye to the girls and tell them to meet me later or something." Because I'd known him for so many years. I'd known him to show up at my house unannounced then make everybody uptight as if they'd shown up long after he had. You know what I mean? So it wasn't throwing me, personally, for a loop. I just thought, "Well, he just wants to have his privacy. This is obviously not the right time to be here."

Well, what happened was--and I don't know if this is in the book--he [Spitz] sent me the book, but I have never had the time to read it--all of a sudden, there was this commotion! And the music abruptly stopped, and I saw these two roadies whisk this chick with short hair, this chick--and I had been to some of his other concerts, both in the Northwest and down around here--her name is Carmella or something [Carmel Hubbell]. She, like, goes--I'm still good friends with Victor Maimudes, who's been his road manager for thirty years, and the last time I spoke to him [Maimudes], he said this woman's still following him [Dylan]. She must have untold money and just finds out where he's playing. She does things like goes to his hotel, says she's Sara Dylan, and sometimes gets the key to his room. He'll walk in from the bus, and there she is! I mean, this chick is like--she follows him everywhere.

Well, that day she showed up while I was sitting there at the rehearsal. I guess she had come around a couple of times before, and he had been really bugged. And what I didn't know and found out later from Keltner is that--like, Keltner had brought his son--you know, people were just bringing too many people by the rehearsal. And it was making Dylan edgy and nervous. And, unbeknownst to the girls, he had just said, "O.K., if you don't check with me, I don't want you just bringing anybody by the rehearsal." And the roadie told me later that he [Dylan] couldn't see who I was from where he was sitting.

The other weird thing that happened--meanwhile, my being there was totally minor because he would've come over during a break and seen it was me and it would've been fine. But what happened was this chick showed up, and they jumped up and stopped the rehearsal, and the girls were freaked because--don't forget, that wasn't long after John Lennon was assassinated. So they whisked her away, they called the police--it was the first spring day, and the roadies had absentmindedly left the--even though they were watching for her at the normal door, she had come up a ramp into the loading area. They'd left the loading door open.

So that was the end of that. That's when Jim Keltner came down and said, "Oh, God, this shit's been going on, and this girl's been hanging around and driving us crazy, and we can't just call the police because she hasn't really done anything. But now that she's trespassed--" You know.

So they were in the throes of all that, and the girls had just picked a bad day to invite me.

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