Confessions of Bob Dylan's Ex-Joint Roller

Victor Maymudes and Bob Dylan, 1964
Victor Maymudes and Bob Dylan, 1964
St. Martin's/Photo by Edward Chavez

Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and Off the Tracks By Victor Maymudes, co-written and edited by Jacob Maymudes St. Martin's Press, 304 pp., $26.99

From 1961 to 1966, Victor Maymudes filled a lot of roles -- both official and not -- for Bob Dylan: friend, confidante, gofer, driver, road manager, interference runner, party buddy, chess and conversation partner, and procurer/carrier of marijuana. And joint roller.

It's that last role even Maymudes' son Jacob says will likely be his lasting legacy, at least in rock history. For on that fateful night of August 28, 1964 at the Delmonico Hotel in New York, it was Maymudes who made the famous Smoke Summit/First Meeting between Dylan and the Beatles possible, after nearly getting sucked away by the teeming crowd of screaming girls and cops around the band.

The New Yorkers, mistakenly thinking that the repetitive chorus "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" went "I get high" instead of the actual "I can't hide," figured the Fabs were already experienced smokers.

While the Liverpudlians had indeed tried weed once before -- a fact often left out of the story in subsequent legend -- this was the first time that the group actually got stoned. And it was on the joints that Maymudes rolled with expert finger dexterity. Cue historical-sounding classical music for Incident of Great Importance.

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No one was closer or spent more time with Dylan during those years than Maymudes. So after a falling out with the Bard of Hibbing in the '90s, Maymudes recorded more than 24 hours of tapes for a proposed book. And though he died of a sudden aneurysm in 2001, you could almost hear the Dylanologists salivating about the revelations those tiny cassettes might include.

It seemed almost divine intervention that said tapes survived a house fire that destroyed even the container of Maymudes' ashes. Son Jacob eventually got his hands on them to complete the project his father didn't while learning some proud (and some unsavory) things about dad at the same time.

And while that series of events makes for a great story, sadly, the final result in Another Side of Bob Dylan is an unexpected and big disappointment. Most of the incidents he recounts are familiar to Dylan fans from other books, with few new details. And even for the man who knew Dylan the best, little insight into his character, emotions, thought processes, or views on life or music or...anything. Even in his recounting of the infamous motorcycle crash to which he was an eyewitness, Maymudes offers nothing new save the low speed that Dylan was actually riding at the time.

And it's not even that the reader is looking for any salacious of embarrassing stories, but something would have been nice. Whether he was just being judicious at the time of the taping, whatever secrets or insight into Bob Dylan that Victor Maymudes held did not make it into the cassettes, and thus into this book.

The chapters where Maymudes recounts his non-Dylan life as an extra on the set of Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, brief career as a drug runner, adventures in architecture and communes, unfortunately, just aren't that interesting.

Story continues on the next page.

 

And when he returns to Dylan's fold in the late '80s as friend/road manager (with the briefest of exchanges: "Bob, I need a job," "You're hired!"), there's more written about the singer's touring bus and mechanical travels than the performer -- even with the understanding that much of the text was intended for some sort of book told from the bus's point of view.

The longtime knockabout buddies eventually fell out for good in the late '90s when Dylan fired Maymudes' daughter (perhaps unjustly) from the coffee shop that the pair ran with Victor's work and Dylan's investment, causing Victor to walk out as well.

The pair never spoke again, though there was a perhaps apocryphal report of a mysterious hoodie-wearing figure (Dylan's preferred mode of fashion when laying low) briefly showing up at the back Victor's memorial service, only to disappear into the ether...

It's unfortunate that such an anticipated and promising book ultimately delivers so little to the reader. But nonetheless, other than ex-girlfriend Suze Rotolo's A Freewheelin' Time, it is written by an author with a legitimate close relationship to Dylan. And that alone carries some literary weight.

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