Dylan on Letterman

This is not a retrospective on all of Bob Dylan’s appearances on David Letterman’s shows. In keeping with the personal reminiscences of my recent Letterman post, and given that it’s Bob’s birthday, it seems appropriate to post the three songs Dylan did on his first appearance on Late Night on March 22, 1984.

This was a show I saw on the night it first aired. In a post I wrote last year when Letterman first announced his retirement (a post I’d completely forgotten by the time I wrote the more recent one), I mentioned one distinct memory I have of that show:

It’s funny how certain things stay with you. In 1984, Bob Dylan appeared on the show (playing, if I remember correctly, a Stratocaster borrowed from Keith Richards). It was a Thursday, so there was a Viewer Mail segment after the monologue. One of the letters was from a guy named Eric Anderson. When Paul Shaffer heard the name, he butted in. “Eric Andersen? Wow, it’s a big night for The Bitter End.” The joke died because no one in the audience understood the reference. But Dave did, and he delighted in how Paul’s joke fell flat. “Too hip for the room, Paul.”

Unless you’re middle-aged, a folk music fan, or both, you’ll have to do some Googling to get the joke. And then it won’t be funny.

Here are the three songs Dylan did on the show:

Don’t Start Me Talkin’

License to Kill