An uneasy fact: The Wallflowers’ “Bringing Down the Horse” has sold more copies – more than 3 million – than any album by Bob Dylan.
The Wallflowers’ frontman scowls at that: “It’s not a comparison anyone deserves because he is unmatched.”
Of course, the speaker is Jakob Dylan, 26, the youngest son of Bob Dylan.
Over several years, Jakob forged the Wallflowers away from his father’s skyscraper-long shadow and became one of 1997’s top acts.
With three hit singles, the Wallflowers also dominated prime-time MTV airplay, proving the video channel still helps make music stars between episodes of “The Real World” and “Road Rules.”
As a result, the blue-eyed Dylan often is described as heartthrob before musician. With a fair-sized teen audience, Jakob knows many of the band’s fans don’t even know his father.
“Some do, but a lot don’t,” he says before a show in Raleigh, N.C. “People frown on having young fans, especially young girls. But if people look back and get their education, they’d realize young girls discovered the Beatles before anybody.
“I’m not putting myself in the Beatles’ camp at all. But a lot of times you’d be surprised where the correct info about good music comes from.”
Jakob was 7 when his mother, a model named Sara Lowndes, and Dylan went through a bitter divorce. The young Jakob did (and still does) keep in contact with his father. Jakob’s the only one of his four siblings who entered the music business.
Initially, Jakob’s ties to his famous father created too much anticipation for an artist still gaining his footing as a singer and writer.
The Wallflowers’ debut album in 1992 nosedived. He found himself without a record contract and reorganizing his band. In October 1995, the Wallflowers opened for Chris Isaak at the Madison Civic Center.
“And it’s been a slow but steady escalation since then,” Jakob says.
“Nothing for us has happened overnight. When we were out on tour with Chris Isaak, our record (`Bringing Down the Horse’) didn’t come out for another six months after that.”
Tuesday’s concert in Madison is one of the band’s few headlining gigs. For most of July through September, the Wallflowers are touring as co-headliner with Counting Crows in amphitheaters nationwide.
As the only headliner in Madison, Dylan says the Wallflowers dig deeper into their two albums and offer some covers, ranging from tunes by Sam Cooke to the Replacements.
Dylan hesitates to discuss songwriting, but he did discuss the band’s biggest hit, “One Headlight.”
His message to listeners: Look deeper into the song or you’ll think it’s about a guy’s girlfriend who committed suicide.
“I tend to write with a lot of metaphors and images, so people take them literally,” he says. “The song’s meaning is all in the first verse. It’s about the death of ideas.
“The first verse says, `The death of the long broken arm of human law.’ At times, it seems like there should be a code among human beings that is about respect and appreciation.”
He adds: “I wasn’t feeling like there was much support outside the group putting together the record. In the chorus, it says, `C’mon try a little.’ I didn’t need everything to get through, I could still get through – meaning `one headlight.’ ” Dylan’s married with a 4-year-old son. Would Jakob want his son to become a musician?
“The thing about music is you don’t have to do it to this capacity. I’d encourage anyone to play if they enjoy it.”
Jakob remains defensive about comparisons to his father. In fact, he asked VH1 to stop airing a video which offered endless similarities between the pair.
“Yeah, I was influenced by him because his music was always around,” Dylan says. “But when I was 12 or 13, I started going to see bands quite different than that – like the Clash and the Jam.”
He says he never discourages teen screaming during his shows. But he’s got an idea for the band’s next video, “Three Marlenas.”
“Maybe it’ll be a real one when we’re on the tour bus, not looking so pretty,” he laughs. “The real us.”