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April 19, 2021

Bob Dylan’s ‘Screen Test’ at Andy Warhol’s Factory, 1965

Between 1964 and 1966 Warhol and his assistant, Gerard Malanga, used a 16mm Bolex camera to make 472 short films of people, both famous and obscure, who came to visit his Factory on East 47th Street in New York. The idea of calling them Screen Tests was something of a joke. According to Malanga. “None of these screen tests amounted to giving those people the opportunity to go on in the underground film world. It was kind of a parody of Hollywood.”

In late July 1965, a time when Dylan had just performed his now historic ‘electric’ performance at the Newport Folk Festival and became the only name worth any weight in the rock world, he strolled into Warhol’s studio and, for a few short moments, became his subject. With two rolls of film lined up for a close-up and a wide shot, Warhol let the camera roll and captured Dylan.

Warhol biographers Tony Scherman and David Dalton, who created the book Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol, wrote that “he [Warhol] was clearly star-struck, in awe of Dylan’s sudden, vast celebrity. He had a more practical agenda, too: to get Dylan to appear in a Warhol movie.”

Bob Dylan had significant connections with a number of people at the Warhol Factory; he was a friend of Barbara Rubin’s, who introduced him to Allen Ginsberg; he wrote a song for Nico, “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which she later recorded. His manager Bob Neuwirth encouraged Edie Sedgwick’s defection from the Factory at the end of 1965, and he was also friends with Patrick Tilden-Close, the star of Warhol’s 1967 film Imitation of Christ.

Rumor has it that once filming had finished, Dylan walked over to a large painting of Elvis Presley that Warhol had just completed and said: “I think I’ll just take this for payment, man,” but Warhol had arranged to hand it over to Dylan as a gift anyway. Dylan never liked the painting, Double Elvis, so he traded it with his manager, Albert Grossman, for a couch. It’s now in the Museum of Modern Art.

Bob Dylan leaving the Factory with the Elvis Presley portrait that he would later trade for a couch.

It didn't fit, so it ended up on the roof...


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