A. J. Weberman stood near Bleecker and Elizabeth Streets recently, telling the story of how Bob Dylan got mad at him. It was the spring of 1972, according to Mr. Weberman, when Mr. Dylan grabbed him and shoved him angrily before riding off on a bicycle.
For years, Mr. Weberman had been rooting around in Mr. Dylan's trash, looking for insight into the songwriter's sometimes oblique lyrics. He had promised to stop the snooping, but had been visiting the trash cans again, he said, incurring Mr. Dylan's displeasure. "I deserved it," Mr. Weberman said the other day. "I don't hold it against him."
The anecdote, to whatever degree accurate or apocryphal, provides a prism through which to view two main themes in the life of A. J. Weberman, 61, a Yippie, author and longtime "Dylanologist," who also helped to popularize the practice of garbology, or searching through trash for journalistic clues.
In November, Mr. Weberman's new book, "Dylan to English Dictionary," was published by the Yippie Museum Press, with an initial print run of 1,000 copies. In the 536-page book, he seeks to analyze the metaphorical and allegorical language used by Bob Dylan.
"All these years I've been looking for some kind of code sheet," he said. "I'm looking for a Rosetta stone to understand Dylan."
Mr. Weberman said that he spent two years cataloguing Mr. Dylan's lyrics and identifying consistent ways in which the songwriter uses words, then applying those ideas to interpret songs. For instance, "As I Went Out This Morning," which was released in 1967, opens with the lines: "As I went out this morning/To breathe the air around Tom Paine's/I spied the fairest damsel/That ever did walk in chains." Mr. Weberman contends that the lines describe Mr. Dylan's experience in 1964 of receiving an award named after Tom Paine and feeling politically exploited.
Once in a while, Mr. Weberman sees himself in Mr. Dylan's words. He wrote that "Where Are You Tonight?" released in 1978 - which includes lines like "There's a neon light ablaze in this green smoky haze, laughter down on Elizabeth Street," and much later in the song, "It felt outa place, my foot in his face, but he should-a stayed where his money was green" - was a reference to the 1972 encounter.
Of course, it is impossible to know for sure. Mr. Dylan did not respond to a request for comment made through his record company.
For more than 40 years, Mr. Weberman has been a gadfly and obsessive questioner. He has written two other books, "Coup D' État in America (The Third Press, 1974), in which he and a co-author, Michael Canfield, speculated about the murder of John F. Kennedy; and "My Life in Garbology" (Stonehill, 1980), in which he described looking through trash belonging to public figures, like J. Edgar Hoover and former Attorney General John Mitchell.
But Mr. Weberman's most enduring fascination is with Mr. Dylan. In 1969, Mr. Weberman said, he used a computer at a university to cross-reference all the words used by Mr. Dylan. The resulting printout, which he called the Bob Dylan Word Concordance, was one foot high, he said.
Mr. Weberman met Mr. Dylan that year, he said, and hung out with him off and on until the relationship soured in 1971, when Mr. Weberman and other Yippies marked the songwriter's 30th birthday by holding a demonstration outside his West Village home. They wanted him to spearhead the movement against the war in Vietnam, even though Mr. Dylan had already made it clear that he did not wish to be a spokesman.
Howard Sounes, the author of "Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan" (Grove Press. 2001), said that at one point Mr. Dylan tried to befriend Mr. Weberman to try to get him to leave him alone, but stopped because he was alarmed by Mr. Weberman's behavior.
"He sort of pursued Dylan as a stalker," Mr. Sounes said. "He was the most unpleasant and notorious of all Dylan's obsessive fans." All the while, Mr. Weberman sifted through items discarded by Mr. Dylan. In November 1971, Esquire magazine published a story by Mr. Weberman in which he described going through Mr. Dylan's garbage. Mr. Weberman, who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives on the Upper East Side, began his dictionary in February 2001 while he was beginning a sentence of a year and a day for money laundering connected to the sale of marijuana. Some evidence in the case was found by federal agents who went through his trash.
"The garbologer was garbologized," "Mr. Weberman said. "I was hoisted on my own petard."
His current book is the first to be published by the Yippie Museum Press. This summer the press will publish a second book, called "The Pie and the Mighty," by Aron Kay, a Yippie known for flinging pies at elected officials like Jerry Brown, the former California governor, and James L. Buckley, the former New York senator.
Mr. Weberman said that he did not expect widespread endorsement of his book - certainly not from Mr. Dylan - but insisted that the songwriter should be grateful that he was around.
"I'm like Verlaine to Dylan's Rimbaud," he said. "There's a natural tension between the poet and his critic."FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES - Monday January 16, 2006
On a radio show that was aired soon after the Dylan to English Dictionary was published Dylan reviewed the book, "Today's e-mail comes from John Rudolph. ... He writes, "Dear Bob: I've got a hammerhead of a mother-in-law, an ugly, evil-lookin' old woman, so pitiful. She's careworn, drawn and pinched — gaunt and lank. I bought her a new chair, but she won't let me plug it in. She belittles me, depreciates me, disparages me. She downgrades me, berates me, censures me and condemns me, libels me and raps me, dismisses me and rejects me. Could you please play a song for her?" Buy the book at TARGET
"The perfect book for Dylan fanatics." --Paul Krassner, author of One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Satirist.
"The Answers My Friend, Are Written in This Book" - Colin Moynihan - The New York Times
and The International Herald-Tribune. and The South African Sunday Times
"A fascinating, meticulous and hilarious study of Dylan's lyrics, written by his arch-fan and stalker, the one and only Weberman" - Boaz Gaon, Maariv, Israeli newspaper
"[Weberman is] a hammerhead of a mother-in-law, an ugly, evil-lookin' old  woman, so pitiful. She's careworn, drawn and pinched [yeah I got pinched and did time] - gaunt and lank. I bought [him] a new chair [position of eminence], but [he] won't let me plug it in. [Weberman] belittles me, depreciates me, disparages me. [he] downgrades me, berates me, censures me and condemns me, libels me and [bad] raps me, dismisses me and rejects me." Bob Dylan on his XM Radio Program as quoted in New York Times
“It’s not the kind of thing that comes through to me. I think I will send the Dylan to English Dictionary back to you.” - - Professor Christopher Ricks author of Dylan’s Visions of Sin
"Back in the tie-dye days, those lyrics were read like the entrails of a sacred bird. No one searches his garbage anymore, but the frenzy of interpretation remains". Richard Goldstien - The Nation
“While still in college in East Lansing, Michigan, A.J. heard from his roommate Dana Beal of a kid from Minnesota who had grafted his sophomoric poetry onto imitation folksongs in the vain hope of a large advertising contract. So far Bobby Zimmerman had only managed to attract the lewd attentions of various Bohemian writers. But A.J. had an epiphany. He realized there once had been real folksingers: Joe Hill of the Wobblies and Woody Guthrie with his guitar labeled “This Machine Kills Fascists” had led people’s insurrections. He understood that, other than the anonymous tip to steal the name of a real poet, Zimmerman needed but one thing to rocket starward: a celebrity stalker. And so for many years, A.J. hounded Byron Zimmerman, Bob Chaucer, Sappho Guthrie, and at last Bob Dylan. The subtlety of A.J.’s approach became evident even then. He was the first underground press writer to use a computer - he put every word of Dylan onto punchcards at NYU, finishing just as his igor Aron “Pieman” Kay lugged in a stolen prototype of the Apple Macintosh.” -- Steve Conliff - Columbus Free Press
FEATURED IN The Long Island Press Holiday Gift Guide.
"It's the kind of treatment given to things like the Talmud and other religious works of supreme significance..." The Pacific Northwest Inlander
"It's a culmination of a life's work -- a meticulous, original work with a wealth of insights into Dylan's words. It also includes everything from a look at his impact on other artists to speculation about his health, welfare and religious beliefs." David Spaner - The Province, Vancouver, Canada
"A.J. Weberman is a self-styled "Dylanologist" and the inventor of the form of journalism known as "garbology" for picking through Zimmy's cans. In his new Dylan to English Dictionary (Yippie Museum Press) he presents a reference work that attempts to get at the hidden meanings happening in Dylan's songs. The book is demented, whacked-out, nigh-on unintelligible and a good advertisement for why unlimited access to LSD in one's youth is probably a bad thing. It's also wildly entertaining. I have long believed that if Weberman hadn't appeared, Dylan would have had to invent a gadfly like him. He plays the role of the Greek chorus, pointing toward a deeper level of meaning behind the language Dylan uses. Definitely one for the semiotics buffs out there." Metro Times Detroit
"Bin A Long Time - AJ Weberman, infamous for rooting through Bob Dylan's rubbish in the late 60s, has made his Dylan To English Dictionary available once more. Analysing 605 special words used by Dylan in his lyrics, the book purports to be 'The Most Useful and Authoritative Translation of Bob Dylan's Poetry You Can Own.'" Mojo February 2006
"The most provocative and perhaps the most detailed and original attempt to decode Dylan’s work appears in AJ Weberman’s 536 page treatise called “Dylan to English Dictionary." This very personal book is comprehensive, dense, stimulating, infuriating and at times brilliant. It strikes me as be a unqiue work driven by unrequited love and unqualified dismay from someone who started a culture war before there were culture wars. If you are a Dylan fan, here's something new to puzzle over." - Danny Schecter News Dissector, and producer of the movie Weapons of Mass Deception”
"A.J. Weberman, a Yippie and Dylanologist - takes a hermeneutic approach to Bob Dylan’s lyrics - recently published The Dylan to English Dictionary .” Lincoln Anderson - The Villager
"No matter what you or I think of A.J. Weberman, it cannot be denied that his name will always be associated with Dylan. Already through his own writings other writers now freely associate Dylan’s “Where are you tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat) and it’s meaning/association to Weberman. Michael Crimmins - The Freewheelin On Line
AJ has spoken about his book on The Rick Barber Show out of Denver and on Pacifica Radio.
A.J. Weberman invented Garbology, the study of famous people’s garbage, as a spinoff of Dylanology. Weberman formed the Dylan Liberation Front to free Dylan from heroin addiction and Dylan beat him up on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan in the early 1970’s after Dylan’s wife stumbled upon Weberman riffling through her trash. Dylan viewed his attack as the “laughter down on Elizabeth Street / And a lonesome bell tone in that valley of stone / where [he] bathed in a stream of pure heat” (Where Are You Tonight, 1978). A few other Dylan poems deal with the AJ-Dylan relationship that lasted until A.J. had a 30th Birthday Party for Dylan outside his Greenwich Village townhouse.
A.J. is featured on Joel Gilbert’s DVD Bob Dylan World Tours 1966 to 1974, and appears on Gilbert’s The Gospel Years. Chromedreams in the UK released Weberman’s legendary telephone conversations with Dylan. Rolling Stone Books will soon publish an interview Weberman did with Dylan. Weberman is featured in Mark Jacobson's book, Teenage Hipster in the Modern World. An independent film company in the UK is currently putting together The Ballad of AJ Weberman and LUMANITY PRODUCTIONS is completing a film entitled DYLANOLOGY. AJ is the author of My Life In Garbology (Stonehill Press, 1980) and Coup D’Etat In America: The CIA and the Assassination of JFK (The Third Press, 1975, Quick Publishing Co 1992). The latter book is in its fourth edition and also available from amazon.com as is The Dylan To English Dictionary. ‘Years from now all these people, all these assholes, are going to be writing about all the shit I write...and what it means…’” (Dylan as quoted by Joan Baez in No Direction Home ) "The King of Garbology" - Andy Warhol in The Andy Warhol Diaries
“Weberman discovered, albeit in an odd and interesting way, an axiom at the core of archeology; there is a comprehensible relationship between human behavior and the objects they made used and discarded... Weberman’s term garbology, after all, is not that inaccurate in describing what it is archeologists do.” - Kenneth Feder - Linking to the Past - Oxford University Press 2004
“Perhaps the most persistent, informed spokesman of the anticommercialization forces was A. J. Weberman, the founder of the Dylan Liberation Front.” R. Serge Dennisof - Solid Gold - The Popular Record Industry - Transaction Press 1995
"AJ claimed his goal in life was to explain Bob Dylan but in practice he strove to expose him." Dylan Bob Spitz Norton 1989
“The corpus of reliable knowledge can be likened to a sphere, which continually grows in volume and surface area. The expanding volume represents the sheer amount of knowledge that has accumulated (thanks to the written tradition coupled with the scientific revolution, backed by laissez-faire economics and democratic politics). The expanding surface represents both new and recombinant areas of knowledge open to study and research: from molecular anthropology to genetic engineering, from garbology to neuroendoctrinology from Dylanology to queer studies…” - - Lou Marinoff Philosophical Practice Academic Press 2002
“I bet that Weberman’s a hard working fellow, though. I bet he really does a good job if he could find something to do, but it’s too bad it’s just my songs, ‘cause I don’t know if there’s enough material in my songs to sustain someone who is really out to do a big job. You understand what I mean? I mean a fellow like that would be better off writing about Tolstoy, or Dostoevsky or Freud …doing a really big analysis of somebody who has countless volumes of writings. But here’s me, just a few records out. Somebody devoting so much time to those records when there’s such a wealth of material that hasn’t even been heard or read; that escapes me. Does it escape you? I understand putting time into it, but I read this, in this East Village Other: I read it…and it was clever. And I got a kick out of reading it on some level…” -- Bob Dylan Rolling Stone Magazine
“During the 1970s, A.J. Weberman was briefly famous (in certain circles) for having decided, by virtue of extremely close, drug-fueled analysis of the lyrics to Bob Dylan songs, that Dylan was a heroin addict. In an effort to prove the point, Weberman then began collecting things.” -- David Tell The Weekly Standard September 16, 2002
"Detwiler had been a fringe figure in the sixties, a garbage guerilla who stole and analyzed the household trash of a number of famous people. He issued mock-comintern manifestos about the contents, with personal asides, and the underground press was quick to print this stuff. His activities had a crisp climax when he was arrested for snatching the garbage of J. Edgar Hoover from the rear of the Director's house in northwest Washington and this is what people remembered" -- Don DeLillo - Underworld
“One writer, named AJ Weberman, has devoted his life to unraveling Dylan’s songs in order to examine the man himself; just as every artist once had his patron now every auteur has his critic it seems…” Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader edited by Benjamin Hedin Norton October 2004
“Those were my diapers” - Jakob Dylan in The New York Times May 8, 2005
“The spirit of A.J. Weberman hovered over “His Back Pages: Writers on Dylan” a panel discussion at the Housing Works Bookstore Café in SOHO” - The New York Times May 7, 2005
“Dylan proved he was a rock star and not just some folk-singing pussy when he attacked A.J. Weberman” - FHM Magazine November 2003
“...you have to admit A.J. Weberman was a complete visionary when it came to anticipating that nothing to do with Dylan is above - or beneath - scrutiny” - VIT WAGNER TORONTO STAR
"“Acting on his creed that “you are what you throw away” Weberman inspected the Dylan family’s disposable diapers, fast food containers and what not for clues to the personal habits of the reclusive rock star. Weberman invented garbology in his quest to decipher Dylan’s symbolism” - But Is It Garbage: On Rock and Trash by Steven L Hamelman - University of Georgia Press 2004
The Yippie! Museum (photo above) and The Yippie! Museum Press are dedicated to preserving the works and artifacts of the leaders and members of the Youth International Party, a loose-knit organization founded in 1968 by Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner, Stew Alpert and others. Dana Beal, an organizer for Cures-Not-Wars, serves as Curator and the Board Members include: William Prop of WBAI radio, John Sinclair, former Prisoner Of Weed (POW) and founder of the White Panther Party, Stewart Albert, founding member of the Yippies! and Vietnam Day Committee, Paul DeRienzo, radio journalist, Steve Conliff, historian of Native American History, historian Dennis King and several other surviving political activists.