Crawling from the Wreckage: Bob Dylan and his Motorpsycho Nitemare

Fred Bals
10 min readJan 26, 2019

“I was mighty, mighty tired. I had come a long, long way”

“I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.” ~ Chronicles, Volume One

Part 1 — In the Rat Race

The word “truth” appears some twenty-three times in Chronicles, that memoir full of Dylanesque half-truths. The motorcycle accident on July 29, 1966 is one of the few times Bob Dylan uses it when speaking about himself.

In June 1966, Dylan had returned to his home, an 11-room house whimsically named Hi Lo Ha on Camelot Road outside of Woodstock, after a grueling nine-month world tour. But any respite from the touring g-rind that Dylan may have hoped for was going to be short-lived. His manager, Albert Grossman, already had another 64-date U.S. tour planned to start in August, including detours to Rome and Moscow.

Dylan had also committed to deliver the final manuscript of Tarantula to his publishing house as well as to provide a filmed documentary of the tour he had just wound up to ABC TV.

Reviewing the galleys of Tarantula in early July, Dylan decided that his prose/poetry collection was a mistake and told Macmillan he wanted to revise. His editor gave him two weeks. ABC was chomping at the bit for their documentary, but in July 1966 all that Dylan had was yards and yards of unedited film.

The 25-year-old wasn’t in the best of shape to finish either project by August. Dylan was a committed speed freak by 1966 — the `66 tour was fueled by methamphetamine as was Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde — the three albums all recorded within an amazing 14-month span.

There were also stories of Dylan dabbling with heroin from observers as diverse as Dave Van Ronk and John Lennon as well as Dylan himself. Dylan told biographer Robert Shelton in March that he had, “…kicked a heroin habit.” In another interview with Shelton Dylan also claimed to have worked as a male prostitute.

Maybe he wasn’t street whoring, maybe he wasn’t on smack, but speed was another thing. Dylan was obviously wired, and as he told Rolling Stone, “I was on drugs, a lot of things. A lot of things just to keep going, you know? In the same 1969 interview he was asked if drugs influenced his songs. “No, not the writing of them,” he said. “But it did keep…

Fred Bals

Corporate Storyteller. Tech enthusiast. Mini Cooper fanboy. One-time chronicler of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. Husband of Peggy. Human of Lily Rose.