Dylan: Uncensored

In a rare message to his “fans and followers” posted on his official website, Bob Dylan endeavored to “clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy.”

When Dylan performed for the first time in China last month, media from all over the world covered the historic concerts and derived special meaning from the setlist, the size and composition of the audience, and even the ticket prices.

Last year it was rumored that Chinese authorities had refused permission for him to perform in the country after a local promoter offered to organize some concerts on the mainland. In both cases, the singer remained silent, but not any more.

In the dry, succinct post, Dylan explains that last year’s situation was “drummed up” by the Chinese promoter, whom Dylan “guesses … printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made.”

At the time, Dylan was touring through Japan and Korea but had no intention of stopping off in China. When the concerts didn’t materialize, “most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry [of Culture] had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook.” The Chinese authorities, Dylan says, “were unaware of the whole thing.”

With regard to the April shows he did play, Dylan refuted an article in Mojo magazine that said “the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats.” Dylan says that if you ask anyone who was there they would tell you that the audience was made up mostly of young Chinese, and that “out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them.”

He also said that the people who attended “responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records,” and “probably wouldn’t have known my early songs anyway.”

This last remark is clearly meant to counter charges by some commentators that Dylan had bent to Chinese officials’ supposed demand he not play certain songs.

Dylan admitted that the government did ask for the names of the songs he would be playing and that “we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months.”

That seemed to be the end of it, since “we played all the songs that we intended to play.”