Sometime this month Bob Dylan--the Sixties' most celebrated songwriter and cultural icon--turns 50. His liner notes to Biograph, Dylan's musical auto-anthology, say he was born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941. But what appears to be Dylan's passport inside his recently released Bootleg Series--Volumes 1-3 suggests otherwise: The blue-eyed Robert Dylan's birthdate is listed as May 11, 1941.
So go figure. Dylan always was, as the saying goes, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Whatever the true date, Steve Twist, Arizona's most unlikely Dylan fan, will be celebrating Mr. Tambourine Man's birthday. And for anyone who knows anything about either Twist or Dylan, that makes the foggy ruins of time even foggier.
Twist, 41, spent the 1980s as the attorney general's right-hand man, drafting Arizona's draconian drug laws and plotting powergrabs for prosecutors. In the 1970s, Twist turned the state's criminal code into a stage from which only the most starry-eyed prisoner could sing "I shall be released."
The last few years have not been kind to Twist. In 1988 he headed the prosecutorial team that failed to win a conviction against Governor Evan Mecham on charges of perjury and concealment. And last year he lost his long-expected bid to succeed Bob Corbin as attorney general. Who knows, maybe Twist can sing the "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
On an unseasonably cool, idiot-windy day last week, New Times sent aspiring music writer David J. Bodney to stare into the vacuum of Twist's eyes.
Twist now practices law atop the Phelps Dodge building with his former boss Bob Corbin. Still running from pillar to post, Twist darts into one of his firm's empty offices, ever eager to show his inexplicable love of Dylan.
Proofers: production is doing headline on Macintosh.
Pullquotes and captions are the same, per Bodney.
Parenthetical expressions are italicized.
Style break: 50/50th birthday.
MDRVTWIST: Is it rolling, Bob?
MDRVNEW TIMES: (Laughter) Let's face it: Your appreciation of Bob Dylan is a complete mystery to anyone who knows anthing about either you or Dylan. How did you become a Dylan fan?
MDRVTWIST: Oh, it was easy. I was drawn into the music by the lyrics--thoughtful, iconoclastic, pushing the edge. And I think any thoughtful person, if they reflected for a moment or two about it, couldn't help but be drawn into it.
MDRVNEW TIMES: Well, when were you first drawn to Dylan?
MDRVTWIST: Oh, high school. Yeah, I graduated from Camelback High School here in Phoenix in, uh, 1967. So, during his developing years, I became an instant fan.
MDRVNEW TIMES: Dylan's career is marked by a variety of distinct phases--the folkie period, electric folkie, motorcycle- accident recluse, Blood on the Tracks, Rolling Thunder Revue, Born-Again Christian, Hassidic Jew. Which period is your favorite, and why?
MDRVTWIST: Well (laughter), actually . . . Dylan has gone through a variety of passages and really the country has followed him through those different transformations. And I think in every life there are the same passages and the same transformation, and I have no particular favorite because I've seen my life go through passages just as his music has.
MDRVNEW TIMES: What's your favorite Dylan lyric?
MDRVTWIST: I have to think about that for a second. In fact, I have to, I have to resort to the book, and I will tell you. (Twist charges down the hall, returns with a book of Dylan's lyrics and sits reverently silent as he scans its pages.) "Blame it on a simple twist of fate."
MDRVNEW TIMES: Any runner-up or runners-up?
MDRVTWIST: There are so many. I can't think of a song that I don't find in some way compelling me to expand my perspective on things.
MDRVNEW TIMES: Dylan's played with some terrific back-up bands of late--Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, G.E. Smith of the Saturday Night Live Band fame. What's your favorite Dylan back-up band, and why?
MDRVTWIST: The Traveling Wilburys, which I consider to be all back-up to Bob Dylan.
MDRVNEW TIMES: Given your background as a hard-nosed prosecutor, you must admit that your enjoyment of Bob Dylan--the Sixties' most celebrated poet-troubadour--comes as a suprise. Drugs, civil rights, gangsters, due process: I mean, you hate all Dylan stands for. How do you explain it?
MDRVTWIST: Absolutely not! He, um, uh . . . There is a lot about Bob Dylan that simply pushes you to not accept things about our society the way they are. And there are a lot of things that I am unwilling to accept about the status quo. And among those certainly are lots of issues in the criminal justice system. And so, as Dylan has pushed the music of this country into new phases and the country has followed him, it's an encouragement to push other social issues to change. And it just so happened that I reached maturity during the period of time when the changes in the country that I thought were the most needed were changes away from the liberal agenda.