Bob Dylan and William Burroughs — A (Mostly) 1965 Timeline

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by James Adams

Adapted from “William Burroughs in New York City 1964-1965” by Jed Birmingham

1964

August 28 — Dylan meets the Beatles and introduces them to marijuana while visiting their Delmonico Hotel room in New York City.

October — Burroughs publishes Nova Express, a work Dylan would later cite as an important influence. 

December 8 — Burroughs arrives in New York on the ship Independence. He is stopped at customs where agents search his seven suitcases of papers and manuscripts and comment on the dirty nature of his writing. Burroughs checks into the Hotel Chelsea. 

December — Dylan and road manager Bobby Neuwirth meet Edie Sedgwick at the Kettle of Fish bar on MacDougal Street — one month before Sedgwick meets Andy Warhol.

December 22 — Burroughs travels by train to St. Louis, his birthplace, for a writing assignment on behalf of Playboy. 

1965

Mid-Winter — Daniel Kramer photographs Dylan in Woodstock, NY for the cover of Dylan’s next album, Bringing It All Back Home.

First week of January — Burroughs is interviewed for the Paris Review by Conrad Knickerbocker at the Chase Plaza Hotel in St. Louis. He discusses the cut-up method and addiction, and many other topics.

January 12 — The Naked Lunch obscenity trial begins in the Boston Superior Court. Burroughs does not attend.

January 19 — Burroughs’ father dies. Burroughs travels to Palm Beach, FL and attends the funeral.  

January 20 / January 26 — For a brief period after his return to New York City, Burroughs again stays at the Hotel Chelsea.

January — In the January issue of Sing Out! Dylan publishes the first prose in the style he will use for his book Tarantula.

February 14 — Burroughs gives a reading for the American Theater of Poets at the East End Theater at 85 East Fourth Street, off Second Avenue. It is probably his first reading in the United States. The New York Times reviews the reading in the next day’s issue. 

March 18 — Burroughs is filmed by Ed Sanders while attending the opening of a Charles Henri Ford art show. The short film, called Poem Posters, also features footage of Jayne Mansfield, Edie Sedgwick, Frank O’Hara, and Andy Warhol.

March 22 — Dylan releases Bringing It All Back Home, an LP of 11 songs. The cover photograph, taken by Daniel Kramer, depicts Dylan surrounded by objects that Dylan helped choose, including Ira Cohen’s Gnaoua.

Naked Lunch is deemed obscene by ruling of the Boston Superior Court. That decision is overturned on appeal by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in July, 1966.

March 26 and 27 — Dylan is interviewed by Paul J. Robbins. Dylan discusses Burroughs and the cut-up method and says his book (Tarantula) will be “no rhyme, all cup-up, no nothing, except something happening, which is words.” The interview is published in September, 1965.

Spring (Probably) — Burroughs and Dylan meet in Greenwich Village. Allen Ginsberg, John Hammond, Jr., and Albert Grossman also attend. They discuss music and writing and Burroughs is left impressed by Dylan.

First week of April — Burroughs is filmed for a scene in Conrad Rooks’s film Chappaqua. He portrays a gangster from the 1930s, complete with black Cadillac and Tommy Gun.  

April 23 — Burroughs reads at a party at the loft of artist Wynn Chamberlain at 222 Bowery. Significant figures from the New York art world attend, including Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus, Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, Larry Rivers, and Barnett Newman. A review of the event appears in the April 24 edition of the New York Times and includes a description of Burroughs performing next to a painting of “horrifying tarantulas.”

April 25 — Burroughs attends Lester Persky’s “Fifty Most Beautiful People Party” thrown with Andy Warhol at the Factory. Edie Sedgwick also attends, and steals the show from more famous attendees, like Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift.

April 26 — Dylan departs New York for a tour of the U.K. and arrives in London after 9:00 PM. Traveling with Dylan is D.A. Pennebaker and a small film crew that will shoot DONT LOOK BACK.

April 27 — Dylan continues a series of interviews with the English press. During the course of those interviews Dylan demonstrates the cut-up method, references William Burroughs, and first calls his book-in-progress Tarantula

May 14 — After his stay at the Chelsea, Burroughs rents a loft at 210 Centre Street in the financial district of New York. 

July 25 — Dylan performs with backing musicians playing electric instruments at the Newport Folk Festival. The performance angers fans of Dylan’s “protest” songs.

July 28 — Burroughs writes Ian Sommerville, “Nothing here really, just stay in my loft and work.” Burroughs works primarily on The Third Mind.

August — Dylan is interviewed by Nora Ephron and Susan Edmiston. He calls Burroughs a “great man” and references their meeting earlier in the year.

August 30 — Dylan releases Highway 61 Revisited, an LP of nine songs. Like the three albums that preceded it, Highway 61 Revisited includes sleeve note poetry by Dylan. Both the sleeve notes and songs on the album recall Burroughs and the cut-up method.

Summer — The English Bookshop in Paris releases Call Me Burroughs on LP, possibly on the strength of Burroughs’ readings in the United States.

Burroughs learns that federal narcotics agents are considering a plan to frame him for possession. He begins making plans to leave the United States.

First week of September — Burroughs returns to London after nine months in the United States. He lives there until 1973. 

September — Dylan likely finishes Tarantula.

October and November — Dylan is interviewed by Nat Hentoff for Playboy. Dissatisfied with how the interview is edited, Dylan and Hentoff construct a hilarious put-on replacement interview that is published in the February 1966 issue of the magazine.

Fall — Between tour dates Dylan sometimes occupies a room in the Hotel Chelsea, where he works on songs for his next album, Blonde on Blonde. Dylan’s girlfriend, Sara Lownds, lives in a nearby room. They are married on 22 November.

Playboy declines to publish “St. Louis Return” and pays Burroughs a $300 rejection fee. The piece is published in the fall issue of The Paris Review, alongside Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview.

2 and 3 December — While in San Francisco for concert appearances, Dylan spends time with Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Michael McClure and visits the City Lights Bookstore.

Late December — Dylan visits Andy Warhol’s factory and sits for a screen test. 

December 28 — Dylan parties with Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick in New York’s Club Arthur. 

Written by James Adams and published by RealityStudio on 7 May 2016.