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Big Blue Sky

Podcast with an odd claim

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Hi everyone,

  • There's a podcast series called My Favorite Album run by Jeremy Dylan.  (He's no relation of Bob Dylan.) The format is: Jeremy Dylan interviews a different person each time who talks about their favourite album by a band and why they love it so much.  
  • On June 6 2018 he interviewed Bebe Buell about the album Damn The Torpedoes. 
  • In the first 5 minutes of the podcast, she says she saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play at The Bottom Line, which as you'll probably know was a small club in Greenwich Village, NY.  This would need to have been in 1977 as they only ever played there on 7, 8, 9 March 1977 opening for Roger McGuinn and again 19, 20 November 1977.  

Now, the issue that I'm concerned about is this.  Bebe Buell said she saw Bob Dylan in 1977 backstage at a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers gig in NY, a year before Tom Petty said he met Bob Dylan in 1978 at a Bob Dylan concert in LA.

  • She said she saw Bob Dylan in the small area backstage at the Bottom Line where he was perched on an equipment box and he offered her his seat.  She said no thanks, she preferred to go out in the crowd to see them.  She said she, Bob and Grace Slick were all there that night and all knew how great Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were, even before the band made the big time.  
  • If you know even a little about Ms Buell, she is the actor Liv Tyler's mother so the timing means she was several month pregnant if she was there in March but post-baby if she was there in November.  If the interviewer asked her, she might have been able to figure out which month it was, just based on whether she was several moths pregnant at the time or not.
  • In 1977 Bob Dylan was going through tough times, with a giant family argument in February leading to divorce papers being served at the start of March and divorce & custody issues being worked through during 1977.  In fact, such was his profile following the breaking news about the divorce papers that he was photographed during that first week in March 1977 when he went out to a club called the Roxy in LA.  
  • (1) So if Buell saw Dylan backstage in March? How likely is it that Dylan flew across the country to NY where he popped out to a club to see his old friend Roger McGuinn (and oh, also the opening band called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) but nobody saw Dylan or photographed him, unlike a days earlier outside the Roxy? Well, nobody except Ms Buell, perhaps. (2)  If Buell saw Dylan backstage in November? You mean Bob Dylan had already heard about Petty and went to see them play within a year of the release of their first album?

Why I think this matters for Tom Petty fans.

  • This is just incompatible with what Tom Petty said about first meeting Bob Dylan.  Again, as you'll know, Tom Petty said this happened at a Bob Dylan concert in 1978.  He said he and Bugs Weidel got complimentary tickets, drove across town but had some car trouble along the way so they were a bit greasy and dirty when they arrived.  Unusually, Dylan gave a shout out to people in the crowd, including Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty.  Then afterwards, one of Dylan's people found Petty and took him backstage to briefly meet Dylan. 
  • This is also inconsistent with what we understand about both Dylan and Petty. Sure, they are both protective of their privacy and reveal things in their own time, which their fans respect and understand, and they are both essentially truthful.  
  • Allow me a moment to unwrap this. (1)  If Dylan was there in 1977 and no one from the band realized, then Dylan kept this a secret for years, allowing his friend Petty to always believe that they only met in 1978.  (2) If Dylan was there in 1977 and the band knew, then they all (including Petty and Dylan) kept that a secret, creating this false story about meeting in 1978. I don't know about you, but neither of these ring true for me, even just on the level of "why would they do that"?  If I was in a new band and Bob Dylan saw us play in our first year, I think I might be a little encouraged by that and maybe even mention it, especially if I didn't know if we'd even still be around to meet him in 1978.

Okay.  I tried to keep it as short as possible!

  • The issue for me & why I'm sharing this here is that I wrote (twice now) to the podcast to ask them about this.  I have had no reply either time.  So if you are listening to the podcast too and hear that and react with "wait, what did Bebe Buell just claim?" please know that there's at least one other listener who shares your sense of curiousity.
  • Their email is myfavoritalbumpodcast@gmail.com & the episode is #244 on the 5 June 2018.
  • I think it's worth them following this up with Ms Buell for the sake of accuracy.  Then they could either have the scoop of the century (for Petty fans) or acknowledge that these memories might not be accurate.  Or, hey, maybe there's another interesting explanation? If there were secrets involved, is she the one to reveal them or should she respect the musicians' privacy? 
  • They did end the podcast interview with mutual thanks and by her saying she's happy to come back for another interview.  
  • On a practical level, it's easily resolved either way.  They could either edit the interview or the introduction, even to just say "these are her memories, although they are incompatible with what's on the record about Bob Dylan and Tom Petty."  

thanks!

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Have you heard of the Mandela Effect? While it's not really the same thing as what's happening here, it may be something you'd be interested in. The way memory works is interesting.

Reminds me of the oft-mentioned story of Tom pulling out a penknife/pocketknife to clean his nails. While it was said to have occurred during the legal meetings for Damn the Torpedoes, there is an Rolling Stone interview (October 19, 1978) that points to it have happening earlier. (Unless it happened on two seperate occasions. Which...would not surprise me.)

According to Petty, "I told all the lawyers that I had made a living a long time before I made records and if I couldn't get a fair deal, I just wouldn't record anymore. I meant it. I was fed up. We were being treated like we were stupid. We are

 not stupid."

Then they gave in to your demands?

"No," says Petty. "I took a switch-blade out of my boot and started admiring the edge. Then we made headway."

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Well, standard professional responsibility for journalists includes fact-checking and following up listeners' & readers' responses.

I think anyone creating a podcast series, driven by curiousity and a desire to be accountable would feel it adds to their podcast's credibility to fix something like this AND acknowledge listeners' emails. 

It could be for any reason - faulty memory / maybe even not letting truth get in the way of a good story. You know, lots of people were claiming to have been the arsonist too and that wasn't possible either. The why of the story is exactly the sort of thing good interviewers are interested in finding out.   In the immortal lyrics "there's a man works down the chip shop / says he's elvis..."

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Yeah I know! I hear you. We do have high expectations of journalists & researchers as professionals with ethical standards. As a profession they are normally excellent and accountable.  And sure, like you say, there is a contact & so following up with them is exactly what I have done by sending two polite emails during the last 5 weeks! Not even a automatic response of "thank you for your email" (which is so easy to set up).

Look, eIther truth in the public domain matters or it doesn't. It's just one little podcast, so it only affects the podcast people & any listeners.  It's not a big issue. I do know that.

  • There's definitely a place for great stories & that's called story telling and writing novels.  
  • But if you're a professional interviewer  & you have a claim that contradicts information available via the most basic level of research and yet you neither ask at the time nor follow up during editing ... Well, lose points for that.  To fail to reply to 2 emails... Lose points.  It's not even a detail that's central to the narrative, so why it's even in there is a puzzle. ^_^ As it's in the introduction, it undermines the sense of trust right up front. Kinda breaks the social contract.  

For now, I'm just disappointed as the podcast has been interesting and engaging until this.  So I'm dropping their rating to just 1 star. (There is are two other interviews, though, one with Benmont Tench, and one with Warren Zanes. I would have recommended them if you asked me before, but for now... well, I don't know). 

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