Shot of Dylan: Chuck Plotkin recalls producing "Shot of Love" – Part One

Chuck Plotkin, best known for his crucial role in Bruce Springsteen’s production team, has worked with a wide variety of other artists, too. Now, just in time for Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, he recounts his role producing Bob Dylan’s under-appreciated 1981 album, “Shot of Love.” The second half of the story will follow tomorrow.

I got a message call in my studio in Hollywood that Bob Dylan was calling. I figured it had to be some friend of mine jerking my chain. But then I got another message a day or two later and thought, this is weird….maybe I should call back!

So I dialed the number and instantly began to panic. I mean, what do you say when someone picks up the phone? “Is Bob there?” I figured I can’t say, ‘is Mr Dylan there?” So there I was just trying to return the call and I I didn’t even know what to say. So when someone picked up I said, ‘This is Chuck Plotkin returning Bob’s call.’ The voice on the other end says: “Bob who?” and I thought, oh shit. But later I found out that there were like four Bobs who worked there. A lot of Bobs at his place.

So he gets on the phone, and is completely sweet. He must know how uncomfortable and weird it is for people he hasn’t met to call him back. He said, ‘Geez,  David Geffen said to call ya. I’m not sure if I’m ready to make a record or what. I’ve made a lot of records and I’m not very good at it. I need some help. Are you free? So I drove down to Santa Monica and it worked out nicely.

He was auditioning producers, is the thing. So I got there and as I walk in I hear the last 16 bars of something, I can’t make out the words. When they stop he says, ‘whadja think?” So I said, ‘I didn’t really hear it, would it bother you to do it again?” He said, ‘Sure, we’ll just play it again!” so it was like that. He was just very observant; very empathetic when someone new was coming into his thing. And in the end I told him that what I loved was that there was a fragment of his voice – his inner voice – that I remembered  from that time when I first heard his music. May not be important to anyone else, but makes me feel….well, I get a particular feeling I associate with it. 

So I got to make the record with him. It was weird, I could tell he was writing, going through something right then, so I said, ‘There’s something happening here; let’s just go get it before it flies away. I have a studio, won’t cost anything to work there. I’ll set aside a week, and think of it as demos. We’ll record some stuff and if it works, great. If not, no problem.” 

“Don’t you want a contract?”

“I’m not concerned. If something comes out of it you’ll figure out what to pay me, and you’ll pay me something. I mean, I’d do it for free anyway, so let’s just see what happens.”

“You sure?”


And that’s when we began recording.

(Tomorrow: What happened next!)

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