The column of lasting insignificance…
March 28, 2015 by John Wilcock
from the archives…
Bob Dylan in the Village
One of my assistants, Nancy, spent a lot of time over at Bob Dylan’s place in the late Sixties, playing shesh besh (backgammon) with the rising star, and when I asked her about those days she told me of how they first met (long before he bestowed on her another name, Lola). She recalls going to a party upstairs at Max's Kansas City, opposite the Warhol ‘factory’, where everyone was arguing about Dylan's participation, or lack of it, in politics.
“People”, Nancy continued, “like the ridiculous AJ Weberman who was pillaging his garbage; Anthony Scaduto, his biographer; and one-legged Terry, an American Jewish radical who lived part of the time in Israel with his wife Sally. There was a heated exchange about Bob's desertion of the left. I had already been to Ibiza, dressed in Moroccan caftans and envisioned myself an expatriate who was above it all. I thought the whole conversation was insane and they were all nuts. I remember saying ‘you people need to move on in your lives’.
“One legged-Terry and Sally offered to drive me home to my apartment on Cornelia Street. The next morning I got a call from them--I must have dropped my passport in their car --so I threw my clothes on and ran over to their 13th Street apartment to pick it up. To my shock and surprise there was Bob playing sheshbesh with a guitar of his lap. I had no idea Terry knew Bob but he must have told him about my Chicago 7 friends--Jerry, Abbie, Phil Ochs, etc.--and he was not amused. The JDL was trying to get him on board but he just wasn't interested. Some of Terry's friends from Israel stopped by and one of them Danny Litany, (also a friend of Bob's) was a folk singer of note in Israel and they began playing and translating God on My Side into Hebrew. It was so moving.
“Years later when Bob invited me to be part of the Rolling Thunder Review you gave me the entire collection of Other Scenes and other underground papers to take on the road with us”.
Dylan had first arrived on MacDougal Street in early 1961, making Israel Young’s Folklore Center his early workplace, arriving daily and parking himself in the back to try out his new songs among his new friends. He wanted to talk a lot about folk music and though Izzy didn’t use a tape recorder, he kept a diary writing down Bob’s memories of learning blues songs from Arcella Gray, a blind street singer in Chicago; listening to Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl album and to a Texan named Mance Lipscomb whom he met through his rock ’n roller grandson.
“The stuff I do” Bob said, “is nearer to ‘folk music’ but the stuff I do now is old blues and Texas songs. I don’t want to make a lot of money, want to get along. The more people I reach—and have the chance to sing the kind of music that I want to sing—people have to be ready and (have seen me) once already. People often say that first time, ‘this isn’t ‘folk music’. My songs aren’t easy to listen to”.
Read my blog at Crowdsourcing survival.
National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook
(download Burma right now! (PDF))
Now on Boing-Boing!
An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
This IS a book-length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.
January 2, 2011
A way with Andy Warhol : John Wilcock recalls life in iconic pop artist's inner circle
During a journalism career that began when he was 16, John Wilcock has interviewed celebrities — Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Bob Dylan, to name a few — was part of enigmatic pop artist Andy Warhol's intimate circle in the 1960s, traveled to exotic locations all over the globe, has written dozens of books ranging from frugal travel to magic, was one of five founders (Norman Mailer was one of them) of the Village Voice and co-founded Interview magazine (still in circulation) with Mr. Warhol.
“The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Jewcy Top 10 Art Books of 2010
This brilliant remake of a pop primary document is brought to you by John Wilcock, probably the Most Interesting Man in the World in the realm of writers. The Village Voice cofounder had also edited Warhol’s seminal mag Interview in the 70s. The fruit of the book is in the genius of its redesign. After 40 years out-of-print, the newly edited edition is “beautifully redesigned in a bright, Warholian palette” that surrounds a trail of Harry Shunk’s internationally Pop-art-informed camera as well as transcribed interviews with those closest to Warhol that ultimately make up an oral history of the artist’s Factory period. By looking at him through the scope of his peers, this book is the equivalent of Pittsburgh’s Warhol Museum in illuminating qualities of Warhol’s warped mirror on which our American culture was briefly reflected.
Monday, November 15, 2010
A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,
It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my Săo Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."