"Dylan told us he would call us on Monday."
May 26, 2015 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Bob Dylan sang The Night We Called It a Day on David Letterman's next-to-last Late Show episode. This was the third time he appeared on Letterman show. He played at the 10th Anniversary show in 1992 backed by an all-star band assembled by Dylan fan Paul Shaffer. But perhaps the most significant was in 1984, when Dylan's star was at a low ebb. He played three songs accompanied by LA Latino punk band The Plugz, Don't Stop Talking (Sonny Boy Williamson cover), and two tracks off Dylan's album Infidels, License to Kill and Jokerman. Two videos from the rehearsal also exist, featuring songs Treat Her Right (Roy Head cover) and I Once Knew a Man, which is probably a Dylan original, but nobody knows for sure. New York Magazine's Vulture blog interviewed The Plugz and told the story of the performance.
posted by Kattullus (11 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
There's this album, "A Tribute to Bob Dylan in the 80s" that has Built to Spill doing Jokerman and Reggie Watts doing Browsville Girl and it is really pretty dang great. Here's a Spotify link and also it's elsewhere in the world I am told.

80s Dylan is wild and difficult sometimes but also very often great is what I'm saying.

Thanks for these links: I'd seen a couple of the songs but not all of 'em. Thumbs up. all around.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:02 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Plugz Letterman performance is one of the great blind alleys of Dylan's career; he's kicking ass, clearly energized, turning Jokerman from fairly flaccid reggae (apologies to Sly & Robbie) into a goddamn Replacements song, and then he disappears into the sunset never to call them again and puts out possibly the most indifferent live album of his career instead. No telling whether Bob found the performance to be a failure or what, but of all the boomer rock stars who were making overtures at early 80s modernity around this time, this is considerably less embarrassing than, say, Dancing in the Street.
posted by anazgnos at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

"...probably a Dylan original, but nobody knows for sure."

God, I love Bob Dylan.
posted by marxchivist at 4:59 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

I remember watching this and thinking it was a truly rotten performance, but it had its funny moments. The aimless "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" showed how under-rehearsed and incompatible the band and Dylan were. The punks choogled along trying to play Dad blues, and Dylan bellowed whatever words he could remember. "License to Kill" was even more plodding, with Dylan having to pause occasionally to let the band catch up. At the finish, Dylan stood there and glared at the crowd for bothering to clap. "Jokerman" was at least sprightly, but Dylan was once again hollering over the band. When he realized he had the wrong harmonica a few bars into his solo, he stomped around the stage while the band looked embarrassed. Someone finally gave him the right harp and he struggled through a solo. After the last bonk, Letterman came over and asked Dylan if they could come back and play every Thursday. At least that made the old sourpuss laugh.

Interesting to read that Dylan was playing Ronnie Wood's Fender Strat.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 5:03 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

A lifetime of fandom means even the tiniest scrap of information is imbued with great meaning, and thus, it makes me giggle to imagine Dylan in the 80s as some kind of asshole name dropper: "Yeah, yeah, we'll rehearse as soon as RON WOOD's guitar gets here." "Later dudes, off to the game with KEITH RICHARDS."
posted by Lorin at 5:34 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wait wait wait.

The Plugz. And Dylan.


Sounding good?

A little piece of rock history has done something weird.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:00 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

This comment is a clvrmnky original, but nobody knows for sure.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:49 AM on May 27, 2015

This was actually his fourth appearance on Letterman. Lest we forget, in 1993 he brought the excellent band from Unplugged into the cold confines of the Ed Sullivan for a fine run through Forever Young.
Apologies for (lack of) video quality.
And the extraneous B3.
posted by obsoleet at 8:40 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I happen to really like Infidels (I know, I know, whatever, it's my childhood) and that is a pretty good live take on License to Kill, and a pretty poor one on Jokerman.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:34 PM on May 27, 2015

I also like Infidels, but I think this is a great version of Jokerman.
posted by Kattullus at 6:34 AM on May 28, 2015

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