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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Legends never die, they just get animatronicized...

Bob Dylan's latest concert tour has kicked off in Europe. The folk rocker, now 174 years old (Although his record label bio says he's just 127...Ha!) is still on the road making music and defying music critics to say anything remotely negative about him, knowing that the moment they do, they will be set upon by hordes of bat-wielding yuppies and teenage European nostalgia hooligans.

I called the Zimster (from Zimmy, from his birth name Zimmerman - see The Rock Snob's Dictionary for details) and we had a short chat about the tour. Actually, I should say that one of his assistants and I had a short chat, because I couldn't understand a bleeding word the man said. It was like ordering fast food at a Burger King, only without the static and repeated interruptions to ask whether I wanted that in a Value meal. The assistant did their best to translate.


Earl: Please extend my greetings to Bob.

B.A. (Bob's Assistant): Bob says "Hey." and also, "Weasels always swim in circles," or something like that.

Earl: Fascinating. Anyway, why did Bob decide on a long tour of Europe for 2005?

B.A.: He didn't.

Earl: Well, who did then.

B.A.: No one.

Earl: What do you mean "no one"? Did you lot just hop on a plane to Europe one day and wander from sold out arena to sold out arena?

B.A.: We're not in Europe. We're in Bel Air.

Earl: Bel Air? Wait a tick. There's a CNN article from last week that says Bob's in Europe.

B.A.: Oh, I know what you're talking about now. No, that's the Animatronic Bob Dylan European Tour (TM). It's been a big success. It was Disney's idea, and Bob thought, "Why not?" along with something about J. Paul Getty and turnips. I think the turnips sealed the deal, at least in Bob's mind.

Earl: So, let me get this straight, the performances over in Europe right now are not real. They're all animatronic?

B.A.: No, no, no...you misunderstand me. The backing band and crew are real. It's only Bob that's animatronic. That's why he doesn't ever leave the keyboard when the lights are up. Animatronic characters don't walk so well...or at all.

Earl: So they just carry him in...I mean it in?

B.A.: Him. We call him Bob Jr. We were going to call him "Mini-Bob" until Bob pointed out that he was full-size, and that he had roosters in his pants. As it turned out, there were no roosters, but Bob was dead right about Bob Jr. being full-size.

Earl: Right, so they carry Bob Jr. in and set him up in front of the keyboard.

B.A.: Actually, he rises up from underneath the stage.

Earl: What if the stage doesn't have an opening to bring him up through?

B.A.: They lower him by helicopter.

Earl: What if it's indoors?

B.A.: They ride him in on a hovercraft. The audience just thinks the noise is feedback.

Earl: What about the sound quality? I mean, can't people tell the animatronic...

B.A.: Bob Jr.

Earl: ...Bob Jr. is just, well...lip-synching?

B.A.: Actually, we spent a lot of time and money to get Bob Jr. programmed so that his lips and the words were perfectly matched. As it turned out, the test audiences spotted Bob Jr. as an animatronic immediately. It turns out that kind of precise synchronization is completely unrealistic where Bob Dylan is concerned.

Earl: I should have thought of that myself. Don't the audiences notice that Bob Jr. is made of totally synthetic material?

B.A.: Did you spot it in the CNN photo?

Earl: Hmmm...That's a fair point. Surely though in a live setting, someone must notice?

B.A.: Actually, the concertgoers have all been commenting on how rejuvenated Bob looks. It's amazing what you can do these days with polystyrene and a bit of varnish.

Earl: True enough... So, what's next for Bob Jr.

B.A.: Well, we're thinking about movies next. We had considered a romantic comedy, but Bob decided we should go with an action flick.

Earl: Won't the walking problem make that difficult?

B.A.: Nah! We're looking at scripts about race car drivers and airplane pilots. Bob Jr. will shoot all his scenes in a vehicle.

Earl: How about a film about a folk rocker who fights crime and performs concerts from his giant hovercraft?

B.A.: Hey! Hang on a second. (Muttering in background. Loud indeterminately pitched yell.) Bob likes that idea! Could we use it?

Earl: I was joking.

B.A.: Well, it's got promise. Also, Bob says something about racoons growing on his tonsils.


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