Good (sic) to see old A.J. Weberman rearing his ugly head again courtesy of the latest release from Chrome Dreams/Isis. I already have the 1971 telephone conversations on CD, and had no intention of buying them again until I spotted the new release in the Dylan section of HMV for a paltry (or so it seemed at the time) 7.99p. Lured on by the promise on the slip case of a booklet full of rare photos, I parted with my eight quid, feeling quietly confident, especially as their release last year of the 1965 press conferences had been - if not exactly stunning - a worthy addition to the shelf. 

Firstly, I am a tad disappointed that the rare photos seemed to consist solely of a 2003 shot of Weberman himself, nowadays looking like a sad little old man. Whilst this image was something of a shock (for some reason - unlike Dylan himself, of course - Weberman lives in my mind perpetually frozen as the chubby, crazily permed garbage rustler of 1971), it was hardly what I had in mind, given the semi-rare status of the cover photo. Unless, of course, we are supposed to consider the 1971 shot of Weberman rare (which it isn't) or the curls-'n '-shades 1966 image as used on the Isle Of Wight poster and reprinted in a gazillion books rare. Or perhaps it's that advert for their previous release which takes up the whole two centre pages that should be considered scarce. After all, where else are you going to get an advert for a Chrome Dreams CD other than in another Chrome Dreams CD? This may seem like minor quibbling, and perhaps it would if I was talking about a bona fide bootleg, where, especially a few years ago, exaggeration and outright lies were the order of the day, but this comes from two respected sources who should know better than almost anyone that mention of rare photos on a Dylan product is going to attract the attention of a lot of people who, not unreasonably, will be expecting rare photos of  Dylan not some crazy old nutter. 

The actual disc is fine and, not having heard it for ages, reminded me once again just how out to lunch Weberman was (and, judging by his introduction to this release, still is. Dylan is not referring to Bin Laden on Love And Theft, you stupid old twat - let it go). Dylan, with hindsight, went to extraordinary lengths to befriend and placate this stalker. Nowadays, he would probably be straight on the phone to his lawyers, back then he preferred to try to diffuse the situation himself. Not that it ultimately did any good. 

It's a recording not without humour, albeit unintentionally. I especially like it when Dylan presses him for confirmation that he will make the changes to the manuscript that Dylan has requested and Weberman answers with a noncommittal "Yeah, yeah " and you know damn well that he has no intention of making any changes whatsoever and you wonder why Dylan was so naive to think that he would, given the unresponsive response he receives to his pleas. If nothing else, he should have been given a clue when, whilst reading the manuscript, Weberman quotes himself (usually insulting Dylan) and then says; "Well, I didn 't actually say that at the time, but that's what I was thinking". 

The other humorous moment comes when Dylan calls Weberman a pig and the Dylanologist really takes offence. Dylan immediately seizes upon this sign of weakness and constantly baits him with threats of having badges printed up featuring Weberman's picture with the word "pig" underneath. Ultimately, though, he might have temporarily rattled the pig's cage (or should that be trough?) but not enough to deter him for good. 

The best belly laugh comes after Weberman has accused Dylan of hiding secret messages within New Morning, only decipherable if played backwards, namely "if Mars invades us". Dylan's exasperated response; ".....Oh, fuck, man!....Why don't you play an Andy Williams record.... ?" kind of sums up just how he must have felt and the fact that he gamely carried on for another twenty minutes or so proves how desperate he was to get this maniac off his back. 

Ultimately, Weberman became little more that a footnote in rock history - if that -and his Dylan Liberation Front lost whatever relevance it might have briefly possessed by the time of George Jackson and Bangladesh. The last I heard, he was languishing in jail for drug offences, which is where I'd hope he'd remain, but it seems as though he's out there again, still peddling his bullshit to anyone who'll listen. Of course, the internet has given him - and every freak like him - a whole new lease of life and one can only assume that he's now polluting cyberspace the way he used to pollute newspaper space. 

As a piece of Dylan-related history, he's fine, but don't ever try to convince me that he's of any importance, or ever was. If he inspired this whole cult of taking a Dylan lyric and turning it into some deep and coded message that only the chosen few can ever hope to decipher, then he has a lot to answer for, and none of it good. 

I only hope that not a penny of the royalties from my 7.99p goes to him.