A. J. Weberman
Alan Jules Weberman (born May 26, 1945), better known as A. J. Weberman, is an American writer, political activist, gadfly, and popularizer of the terms "garbology" and "Dylanology". He is best known for his controversial opinions on, and personal interactions with, the musician Bob Dylan. Together with New York folk singer David Peel, Weberman founded the Rock Liberation Front in 1971 with the aim of "liberating" artists from bourgeois tendencies and ensuring that rock musicians continued to engage with and represent the counterculture.
Weberman was born to Jewish parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1945. As a boy, he served as president of a local fan club dedicated to the professional wrestler Haystack Calhoun. He has recalled that his father, who was strict in his observance of their faith, regularly inspected the household garbage to ensure that Weberman's mother had not bought non-kosher food.
During the early 1960s, Weberman attended Michigan State University. While there, in 1964, he was convicted for selling marijuana and briefly served time in jail before being released on parole. He then returned to New York and worked as an interviewer for the Lawrence Employment Agency while continuing his studies, at night school, at City College of New York.
Weberman has written on the life and works of Bob Dylan, including a pamphlet titled Dylanology in 1969 and creating a word concordance of Dylan's lyrics. He also wrote the Dylan to English Dictionary, published in 2005. One of Weberman's theories on Dylan's songwriting is that some of Dylan's songs are actually about, or addressed to, Weberman himself. Authors Bob Spitz and Jim Curtis have each rejected, and ridiculed, Weberman's interpretations of Dylan's work.
In 1969, Weberman founded the "Dylan Liberation Front" with associates such as street musician David Peel, aiming "to help save Bob Dylan from himself". Weberman was convinced that, from Dylan's docile, smiling visage on the cover of his 1969 album Nashville Skyline, the singer was hiding from his social conscience and ignoring his responsibilities as a political spokesman for the counterculture. Once Dylan had moved back to Greenwich Village from Upstate New York in 1970, Weberman took to rifling through his garbage. That same year, Weberman began lecturing in Dylanology at the left-wing Alternate University of New York. At this time, the Liberation Front lamented that Dylan had become a "reactionary force in rock", a view that was echoed among the radical left.
Rolling Stone magazine called Weberman "the king of all Dylan nuts"; he has also been described as obsessively stalking Dylan. In late summer 1971, Dylan – annoyed that Weberman had reneged on their agreement that he would no longer dig through his garbage – assaulted Weberman on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan. In a 1997 article, Rolling Stone reported that Weberman, "a man that terrorized Bob Dylan during the '60s", had now "returned to hassle his son", Jakob Dylan. Weberman claimed that the younger Dylan was a heroin addict. In 1977, Weberman's telephone conversations with Dylan from the early 1970s were released on the Folkways Records album Bob Dylan vs A.J. Weberman – The Historic Confrontation.
Writing in 2014 about the phenomenon of "Bob Dylan obsessives", John Dickerson of Slate described Weberman as "The most famous of the Dylanologists". In December 2016, after Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature, Weberman released a video on YouTube in which he claimed credit for Dylan's achievement. Journalist John Semley, writing for Salon, views Weberman's claim as far-fetched yet also identifies "a scrap of truth in it". He recognises the garbologist as furthering a "philosophical and anthropological tradition" observed by French poet Charles Baudelaire, in the latter's celebration of the city chiffonier (or rag-picker), and practiced in the work of German philosopher Walter Benjamin. Semley concludes: "Maybe an artist of Bob Dylan's magnitude requires a worthy bête noire like Alan Weberman, a guy who's equal parts pariah, arch enemy, early model internet troll, modern-day chiffonnier; a manic, moonstruck, single-minded goon who pours heart, soul, and sanity into his stupendous schemes."
Rock Liberation Front
Weberman and the Dylan Liberation Front ceased their scrutiny of Dylan, temporarily, after he performed at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh shows at Madison Square Garden on 1 August 1971. Weberman was satisfied with Dylan's reversion to his 1960s protest singer persona and his scruffy attire at the concerts. Together with Peel, he formed the Rock Liberation Front (RLF) to "establish a relationship of understanding and participation in the World of Rock", which had "been getting ripped off too long". They first targeted Paul McCartney, whose recent music showed he was "just a businessman" and "a good example of the capitalist, non-involved egotistical rock star", according to Weberman. The RLF therefore held a mock funeral for McCartney, on 26 August, outside the Park Avenue home of his lawyer and father-in-law, Lee Eastman. Reporting on the event a week later in The Village Voice, Blair Sabol opined that Weberman's strategy was becoming overfamiliar: "Being the foremost Dylanologist, or garbageologist, was brilliant for last year's routine, but revamping it for Paul McCartney as this year's 'capitalist pig' campaign is like giving an encore after the audience has gone home." The RLF also protested against Led Zeppelin for demanding $75,000 per concert performance.
Weberman's idealism resonated with John Lennon, who had recently moved to Greenwich Village with his artist wife, Yoko Ono, and embarked on a radical left agenda under the guidance of activist Jerry Rubin. Lennon espoused Weberman's principles in his interactions with the music press, stating that he was dedicated to making politically motivated music without a thought for commercial gain. In early December, the RLF demonstrated outside Capitol Records, protesting the company's delay in releasing the live album from the Concert for Bangladesh after Harrison had accused them of refusing to distribute the record at cost price. During the protest, Weberman announced that Lennon and Ono had joined the Liberation Front, which he defined as "a group dedicated to exposing hip capitalist counterculture ripoffs and politicizing rock music and rock artists".
Through Lennon, Rubin came to be involved with the RLF, and soon sidelined Weberman. In his speech at the freedom rally for the imprisoned poet and activist John Sinclair, on 10 December 1971, where Lennon, Ono and Peel were among the performers, Rubin described the event as "the first act of the Rock Liberation Front".
Lennon, Ono and Rubin also planned a US tour that would use their political message to unite the nation's young voters and thwart President Nixon's campaign for re-election in 1972. Lennon and Rubin were intent on enlisting Dylan for the tour and so issued an open letter on behalf of the RLF, demanding that Weberman publicly apologise to Dylan for the print and radio campaign he had waged against the singer and for describing him as a junkie. Published in The Village Voice, the letter also stated that all those in the movement should "[save] our anger for the true enemy, whose ignorance and greed destroys our planet", and led to the RLF becoming an organisation of interest to the FBI. Author Peter Doggett likens this demand to a forced confession in "Stalin's Russia", since Rubin had openly supported the underground publications that ran Weberman's stories, and Weberman had been among the first to accept Dylan's post-Bangladesh single, "George Jackson", as a worthy return to the protest style. Weberman nevertheless issued an apology "for past untrue statements and also the harassment of Bob Dylan and his family", and signed it: "A.J. Weberman, Minister of Defence, Rock Liberation Front".
Weberman regained his leadership of the RLF in February 1972, when the group "liberated" the offices of Lennon and Harrison's business manager, Allen Klein, at 1700 Broadway. The event was a press conference in which Klein attempted to respond to allegations made in New York magazine, and partly supported in Rolling Stone, that he had pocketed funds intended for the Bangladeshi refugees from the sale of the Concert for Bangladesh album. Chanting "You'll wonder where the money went, when Klein runs a charity event", the protestors disrupted the press conference and gained further exposure for Klein's alleged fraud in Variety, Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. Surprisingly for Weberman, this resulted in an invitation from Lennon and Ono for him to visit them at their Bank Street apartment, where the couple confided that Klein was "ripping us off too". According to Weberman, he introduced Lennon to a group of sympathisers and financiers for the IRA, to whom Lennon made a generous financial contribution.
Lennon's direct role in political activism soon waned, although he continued to finance activities by Weberman and Peel. The latter recorded an album, The Pope Smokes Dope, which was produced by Lennon and Ono, and released on Apple Records in April 1972. Lennon also donated $50,000 to pay for demonstrators' travel expenses to Miami, Florida, where Weberman helped to stage a mass protest against Nixon at the Republican National Convention in August.
Coup D'Etat In America: The CIA and the Assassination of JFK
In 1975, Weberman wrote Coup D'Etat In America: The CIA and the Assassination of JFK with Michael Canfield. According to one account, "Canfield and Weberman propose a basic theory on the assassination, revolving around the CIA and the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and then use the bulk of the book to document and substantiate their allegations." According to Weberman and Canfield, the CIA planned the assassination of Kennedy because he had agreed to stop the Cuban exiles' anti-Castro operations. Among the book's contentions are that Lee Harvey Oswald was a patsy and that two of the "three tramps" photographed by several Dallas-area newspapers under police escort near the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination Kennedy were Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis. Coup D'Etat In America was reported to influence United States House of Representatives member Henry B. Gonzalez to initiate a resolution that would result in the formation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
A reviewer for The Harvard Crimson wrote: "Despite its lapses into obsessive speculations about connections between irrelevant figures and dubious arguments by analogy of modus operandi, Coup d'Etat is a chillingly convincing book."
Coup d'Etat in America reiterated Tad Szulc's allegation that Hunt was the acting chief of the CIA station in Mexico City in 1963 while Lee Harvey Oswald was there.[nb 1] In July 1976, Hunt filed a $2.5 million libel suit against Weberman and Canfield, as well as the book's publishers and editor.
In 2002, Weberman, along with the Jewish Defense Organization, and JDO chief Mordechai Levy, were successfully sued for libel in Brooklyn, New York. The jury stated that Weberman was responsible for $300,000 of the $850,000 judgement.
In 2005, Weberman worked with Yippies including Dana Beal and Pie Man Aron Kay to turn the long-time Yippie headquarters at 9 Bleecker Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side into a counterculture museum. As of February 2006, renovation of the building was partially completed, and a charter from the New York State Board of Regents was granted. The museum, which Weberman likened to a "Hard Rock Cafe for Yippies", would house the remains of Jerry Rubin's roadkill (Rubin was killed by a car) and Abbie Hoffman's trash.
In 2006, Weberman, along with some of his former students, appeared in a documentary film about his exploits as a Dylanologist, titled The Ballad of AJ Weberman. The film includes a performance by Peel and Weberman of "The Ballad of A. J. Weberman", a tribute song that Peel recorded for his 1974 album Santa Claus Rooftop Junkie.
- Weberman, A.J. (1969). Dylanology. Whitepress. p. 25 pages.
- Weberman, A.J. (1971). Concordance to the songs, poetry, and assorted writings of Bob Dylan. New York: Private printing. ASIN B00072TJ6C.
- Weberman, Alan J. & Michael Canfield (1992) . Coup D'Etat In America: The CIA and the Assassination of JFK. Quick American Publishing [originally by The Third Press]. ISBN 978-0-932551-10-8.
- Weberman, A.J. (1980). My Life in Garbology. Stonehill Press. ISBN 978-0-88373-096-6.
- Weberman, A.J. (2005). Dylan to English Dictionary. New York: Yippie Museum Press. ISBN 978-1-4196-1338-8.
- Weberman, A.J. (2009). RightWing Bob: What the Liberal Media Doesn't Want You To Know About Bob Dylan. BookSurge Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4392-5615-2.
- Weberman, A. J. Homothug: The Secret Life of Rudy Giuliani (New York: Yippie Museum Press)
- Weberman, A. J. (2012). Ron Paul: America's Most Dangerous Nazi. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1470014537.
The Weberman tapes
- Recordings of telephone conversations between Weberman and Dylan, New York City, January 6 and January 9, 1971. Originally released as Bob Dylan vs. A.J. Weberman on Folkways Records, Catalog #FB 5322, 1977, quickly deleted for legal considerations, but circulated in various bootleg pressings. Original Folkways recording also contains an otherwise unreleased version of David Peel's "The Ballad of A.J. Weberman".
- An excerpt from a transcript of the above
- Full transcripts:
- East Village Other (periodical), January 19, 1971
- Szulc wrote: "As I mentioned above, Hunt spent August and September 1963 in Mexico City in charge of the CIA station there."
- Sounes, Howard (2001). Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. London: Doubleday. p. 263. ISBN 0-385-60125-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Dreifus, Claudia (March 4, 1971). "Bob Dylan in the Alley: The Alan J. Weberman Story". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Semley, John (December 10, 2016). "Ballad of a Bin Man: A.J. Weberman, the man who says he's behind Bob Dylan's Nobel Award for Literature". Salon. Archived from the original on December 11, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Sounes 2001, p. 263.
- Rogovoy, Seth (2012). Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet. Scribner. pp. 143–144. ISBN 978-1416559160. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
A. J. Weberman, a renegade journalist who... went on to wage a lifelong campaign of wild theories aimed at proving that Dylan was a capitalist, a fraud, and a junkie, and that his songs were sometimes written to and about Weberman himself.
- Spitz, Bob (1991). Dylan: A Biography. W. W. Norton. pp. 401–404. ISBN 978-0393307696. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
… A. J.'s misguided interpretations ... His psycho-babble about lyrics and poetry had given way to screwy soliloquies ...
- Spitz, Bob (1991). Dylan: A Biography. W. W. Norton. p. 529. ISBN 978-0393307696. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
Fundamentalists interpreted the bible the way A. J. Weberman interpreted Bob Dylan's songs. Any passage could be construed to support their dogma ...
- Curtis, Jim (1987). Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954-1984. Popular Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0879723699. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
A. J. Weberman declared himself a Dylanologist by which he meant that he devoted himself to castrating Dylan's songs by reducing them to biographical references. This was nothing more than old-fashioned romantic reductionism ... Weberman in his trivialization of Dylan's work ...
- Doggett, Peter (2007). There's a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of '60s Counter-Culture. Edinburgh, UK: Canongate. pp. 232–33. ISBN 978-1-84195-940-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Doggett 2007, pp. 398–99.
- Doggett 2007, p. 390.
- "Rock and Roll Daily", Rolling Stone, June 11, 2007
- Cashmore, Ellis (2009). Martin Scorsese's America. Polity. p. 100. ISBN 978-0745645230. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
Celebrity stalker – of which the original obsessive Dylanologist A. J. Weberman offers a prototype ...
- Sounes 2001, p. 270.
- Doggett 2007, p. 455.
- Egan, Sean (2011). The Mammoth Book of Bob Dylan. Running Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0762442683. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
When in September 1969 Dylan moved back into New York City, it wasn't long before his Greenwich Village apartment was being visited by one A. J. Weberman, a semi-unhinged fan who rifled through his garbage ...
- The Answers My Friend, Are Written in This Book By COLIN MOYNIHAN Published: January 16, 2006
- "Man no fan of Dylan family", Rolling Stone, July 4, 1997
- Dickerson, John (May 8, 2014). "The Fan in Me: The world of Bob Dylan obsessives". Slate. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Doggett 2007, p. 445.
- Doggett 2007, pp. 445-46.
- Doggett, Peter (2011). You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup. New York, NY: It Books. pp. 178–79. ISBN 978-0-06-177418-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Sabol, Blair (2 September 1971). "The McCartney Burial: 'His ego was his amigo'". The Village Voice. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
- Needs, Kris (22 March 2016). "The tale of David Peel, the dope-smoking hippy who became the King of Punk". Classic Rock. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
- Doggett 2007, pp. 446-47.
- Wiener, Jon (1991). Come Together: John Lennon in His Time. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-252061318.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Doggett 2007, pp. 466-67.
- Doggett 2007, pp. 460–61.
- Wiener 1991, p. 182.
- Doggett 2007, pp. 462-63.
- Doggett 2007, p. 485.
- Schaffner, Nicholas (1978). The Beatles Forever. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. p. 148. ISBN 0-07-055087-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Doggett 2011, pp. 188, 192.
- Fong-Torres, Ben (March 30, 1972). "Did Allen Klein Take Bangla Desh Money?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
- Doggett 2011, pp. 188–89.
- Doggett 2011, p. 189.
- Doggett 2007, pp. 486–87.
- Doggett 2011, p. 190.
- Cunningham, J.R. (October 21, 1975). "JFK Slaying Theory Offered". The Pittsburgh Press. 92 (90). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. 32. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
- Barkham, John (August 17, 1975). "Newest Conspiracy Theory". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria Texas. p. 14. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
- Zeitlin, Jonathan (October 27, 1975). "Bodies in the Garbage". The Harvard Crimson. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
- "Source Ruling Goes Against Hunt". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 52 (83). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. AP. November 4, 1978. p. 10. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
- Szulc, Tad (1974). Compulsive Spy: The Strange Career of E. Howard Hunt. Viking Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780670235469.
- "Hunt files libel suit over death charges". The Miami News. Miami. AP. July 29, 1976. p. 4A. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
- "The Hunting of Steven J. Hatfill: Why are so many people eager to believe that this man is the anthrax killer?". 6 September 2002. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012.
- Anderson, Lincoln (February 1–7, 2006). "Museum will have Abbie's trash, Rubin's road kill". The Villager. Archived from the original on June 24, 2006. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Klibanoff, Caroline (June 29, 2009). "Documenting the Dylanologist: The Ballad of AJ Weberman Streaming Until Tomorrow". Paste. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Eder, Bruce. "David Peel & the Lower East Side Santa Claus Rooftop Junkie". AllMusic. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Roberts, John (Spring 1995). "Dear Landlord: The A.J. Weberman Story". The Telegraph. pp. 78–91.