It would be difficult to describe the impact the cinema-verite masterpiece “Don’t Look Back,” made on my teenage psyche when first viewed in the summer of 1968 at the Illini Student Union. Bob Dylan had already transformed my generation with some inspiring folk-rock anthems when this glimpse behind the curtain appeared and made clear our hero was flawed, as heroes should be according to Aristotle. Dylan had plugged into the folk revival and rearranged some classics with contemporary lyrics, and since some of these concerned subjugation of the masses, the civil rights movement fit right into the paradigm, igniting the imaginations of kids everywhere, transforming Dylan into a lighting rod for social evolution. Almost overnight, he went from unknown to most famous songwriter in America. And when avatars like that appear, they draw spooks, because spooks seek influence over centers of psychic gravity. Creative energy and spirituality go hand-in-hand, as any student of improvisational theater can attest.
But Dylan soon disappeared and everything written about him became speculation, and rumors ran wild. I can’t pretend to have penetrated this world, but I do have some thoughts formulated over the decades.
No one attached themselves more firmly to Dylan than A.J. Weberman, who famously revealed the contents of the songwriter’s garbage, which is when the world discovered he was dabbling in hard drugs. Not only did Weberman hound Dylan physically and emotionally, he compiled a convoluted analysis of Dylan’s lyrics claiming to have broken a secret code that revealed Dylan was a Manchurian Candidate puppet who required liberation from his controllers. “Dylan’s brain belongs to the people, not to the pigs!!” shrieked Weberman, ignoring the obvious fact Dylan’s brain belongs to Dylan and nobody else.
Weberman would soon write a revealing book about the JFK assassination that correctly fingered the CIA for fomenting the heinous act. But he built this thesis around E. Howard Hunt as mastermind of the operation, and never once mentioned James Angleton or Allen Dulles.
His crowning evidence was unleashing pictures of the three tramps, falsely claiming one was Hunt. In truth, Hunt was sent to Dallas that day, but likely did not participate. It appears his role was that of potential backstop because years later Angleton released a memo wondering how they were going to explain Hunt being in Dallas that day. Fingering Hunt as the instigator was a blind alley leading nowhere.
Mark Mordechai Levy, a close associate of Weberman’s, ran the militant JDO spin-off from Irv Rubin’s JDL. Levy tried to murder Rubin following the split when Rubin attempted to serve a subpoena on him. The bullets missed and wounded an innocent bystander. Levy served 18 months on a 4 1/2 year sentence for attempted murder. Obviously, Weberman and Levy have spook links and no doubt enjoy access to insider information. If you ask Weberman about 9/11, he’ll tell you Osama did it just like the Pentagon. Going through a target’s garbage is spook ops 101 and always has been.
To visit a completely different social strata, I was fascinated by Dylan’s 2004 autobiography (Chronicles, Volume One), especially by Dylan’s encounters with Archibald McLeish, prominent member of Yale’s powerful and highly secretive Order of Skull & Bones and former OSS operative. Broadway producer Stuart Ostrow had a massive hit with “1776” and wanted to follow-up with a musical remake of “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benet, with McLeish penning the script and Dylan providing the music and lyrics. Ostrow’s version of events differs significantly from Dylan’s, and the reason is obvious: At least three songs on Dylan’s comeback album “New Morning” were written for this production, but after a few meetings and some disagreements, Dylan dropped out of the project. Without Dylan’s music, it flopped, closing after three performances. Perhaps Dylan saw the flop coming as he writes: “MacLeish tells me about J.P. Morgan, the financier, that he was one of the six or eight persons at the beginning of the century who owned all of America…the play was dark, painted a world of paranoia, guilt and fear—it was all blacked out and met the atomic age head on, reeked of foul play….this play was up to something and I didn’t think I wanted to know….”
Undoubtedly, there were many more attempts from many angles to get a piece of Bob Dylan, and these but two examples. Dylan’s removal from political and social spheres of influence was likely the only way to end the predatory intrusions.