When Bob Dylan met with Frank Zappa in 1982, the session was recorded by an engineer, according to Zappa tape archivist Joe Travers.
On December 22, 1982, Dylan appeared, unannounced, on Zappa’s doorsteps. According to Michael Gray, in his book Mother! Is The Story Of Frank Zappa (Proteus, 1984, pages 148-9), “I get a lot of weird calls, and someone suddenly called up saying, ‘This is Bob Dylan. I want to play you my new songs’.” Zappa went on to say that he had never met Dylan before, but could see someone (via a video screen) in the cold, with an open shirt, and no coat. Gray quoted Zappa, telling Karl Dallas, that Dylan played eleven new songs on the piano, humming the lyrics. “I thought they were good songs. He seemed like a nice guy . Didn’t look like it would be too hard to work with him.”
Unfortunately, it never came to pass. Some of the songs Dylan played may have ended up on his next album, Infidels, which was produced by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
For decades, both Dylan and Zappa fans have wondered what may have transpired during this meeting. It turns out that the session was recorded. Masato Kato interviewed Travers over the telephone for Player magazine in the spring of 2009. Here’s what Travers had to say:
What happened was, when Bob came to the house, and went and had a meeting with Frank, Frank’s engineer at the time, his name was Mark Pinske. And Mark ran off cassettes of the meeting at the time that they were having it. And unfortunately, those cassettes were lent out, and given out to people, and, they are not around any longer. So, unfortunately, those master cassettes of Bob and Frank at the studio talking about a possible working relationship do not live in the vault. They live somewhere else out there in the world.
One moment that has been documented was this quote from Pinske, Zappa’s chief recording engineer/live sound engineer from 1980 to 1987:
My favorite moment with Zappa in the studio was when…I got back at him for saying, “I’m not a robot you know, I can only stay interested in these things for mere moments.” That was when Bob Dylan asked him what kind of engineer “this here Pinske was.” Frank said, “He gets a better drum sound in 20 minutes than most engineers can get in hours.”
I was fortunate enough to meet Zappa at WBCN’s Prudential studios in 1977, while he was promoting his album, Läther. After the interview, we all got in the elevator, and Zappa was telling a story and quoted Dylan, saying “more people die in colleges than in old-age homes.”
Thanks to Masato Kato.
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