"When we rehearsed for this (U.S.) tour, we did all new songs. We didn't go over the old ones," Epstein says. "He (Dylan) says, `Here's the song, here's the chords, let's do it.' There are no arrangements, we just play. I think we gelled in the rehearsals for the Australian tour."
Dealing with the Heartbreakers, Dylan has said, is like dealing with only one person. That's probably because the players have been together for so long: Epstein joined about five years ago, but the others have been playing together for about 15 years.
With Dylan, the Heartbreakers never know what song they're going to play next. They've rehearsed everything from Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra tunes to a Motown number and "Louie, Louie." The musicians simply have to pay attention and take their cue from the bandleader, who's even thrown them a song or two they've never rehearsed.
During their association of less than a year, Dylan's style has rubbed off on Petty's band. "He (Dylan) is easier to record with," says Epstein. "We're used to laboring more in the studio, but it's going faster now with us."
Rumor: Robert Allen Zimmerman adopted the stage name Bob Dylan as a tribute to poet Dylan Thomas.
Fact: "I just made up the name one night before I was going on at the Scholar (a coffeehouse near the University of Minnesota)," says Dylan, who legally changed his name in the early '60s in New York City. "Ask Dave Lee (who ran the Scholar)."
Rumor: Dylan - who last performed in Minnesota in 1978 at the St. Paul Civic Center, and before that, in 1965 at the Minneapolis Auditorium - harbors ill feelings toward Hibbing and the Twin Cities because he and his music were not accepted there when he was starting out.
Fact: "No," he says. "I've always been accepted." He laughs.
Dylan climbs into a plain van - not even tinted windows - with his teen-age son Sam (one of his six children), his acupuncturist and a few other assistants to head for his second concert at the Greek Theater. Someone hands a cassette tape to the visiting journalist. "It's my new album," says Dylan. "Don't tell anyone where you got it. Just give it back to Gary (Dylan's valet) tonight."
Dylan doesn't know when the LP will be released; that's the record company's decision, he says.
One quick listen to the not-yet-titled record suggests that Dylan is still mining the smoldering blues-rock vein of his last two albums,"Empire Burlesque" and "Infidels." The new LP features a trio of lost-love songs, including "Under Your Spell," which evokes Randy Newman. There's a bit of country-gospel and an 11-minute talking blues number, "Brownsville Girl," that's more cinematic than Dylan's earlier, long-winded story-songs. The centerpiece is "They Killed Him," a tribute to three holy men who dared - Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus; it's a stirring piece featuring a children's choir on the chorus.
Meanwhile, Dylan's van winds its way through the University of California campus. Students in front of fraternity houses wave the van to pull into a parking spot. A couple of young men approach the person in the front passenger seat to see if he wants to buy a ticket; two or three longhairs on the street hold signs that beg, "I Need a Ticket." No one seems to notice the passenger in the back seat with the familiar sunglasses and cloud of curls.
The van pulls into the Greek Theater. Unlike most places where rock concerts are held, this amphitheater offers no backstage entrance, so the van must crawl through a crowd to reach the backstage area. Dylan suggests everybody get out and walk.
The van doors open and the riders hop out. The pool of people parts like the Red Sea did for Moses.
"Hi, Bob," shouts one fan.
"Great show last night," yells another.