Through the good agency of one more assiduous and worldly than I, I should soon have a copy (and I’m about to explore that word) of the recent Bob Dylan release from Sony, shown below.
It came into the world a limited edition of one hundred copies, supposedly distributed at random to record stores throughout Europe; thence it retailed for between 40 and 140 euros, although I’d be surprised and frankly disappointed if any got beyond the staff of these randomly selected stores.
This has also been baldly referred to as the Copyright Extension CD, which is supposedly the reason for its existence. As it is in 2012 fifty years since the material was recorded, the owner (Sony) has to be seen to be making use of it in order that they don’t waive the copyright – if they don’t, anyone can use the tracks without paying. (I admit that this is where my understanding gets a bit hazy, as I’ve already seen a cheap CD which was essentially the Bob Dylan album from 1962 with the tracks in a different order to the official version – there are also loads of excellent CDs available which compile the seminal work of artists from before the rock era; Sinatra, Miles Davis, even Elvis Presley.)
It gets hazier still when looking at the tracklisting; if the ostensible reason is to copyright songs, it makes no sense that “Baby, I’m In The Mood For You,”, “Rambling Gambling Willie” or “Blowin’ In The Wind” would be on there as they have all been used in the last years; if it’s to copyright performances, as I suspect it must be (the latter two of the four discs appear to comprised of already widely circulated live recordings from folk clubs and private parties,) it’s a weird way of going about it; to put pristine digital copies of un-bootlegged material out into the world as a way of protecting future copyright seems barely thought through. Do Sony think people will be swapping this material on inferior quality cassette tapes and so lust after whichever volume of The Bootleg Series will be destined to eventually carry them?
No. This material will have already been (perfectly, digitally) copied many, many times and will already be in the homes of those who want it, which will be far more than the number of copies made of this weird little release and probably about the same number as those who will (would) buy the material if (and when) it is released.
Or is Jeff Rosen behind it? Surely his client doesn’t need the royalties he would in theory get from the release of this material; maybe Rosen (and Dylan) are fed up with the fans being fleeced for each archive release and saw this as a way of getting the material out into the public domain behind a legitmate purpose. (I realise there is as much chance of this being true as there is of going for a quiet pint with Lindsay Lohan, but you never know.)
[As an aside about Jeff Rosen, I noticed he is thanked in the credits to the movie Silver Linings Playbook, probably because of the use of “Girl from the North Country” from Nashville Skyline – seems he’s still looking after the shop.]
Either way, I’m looking forward to hearing it. Maybe hearing it will explain the point. No appreciation of Dylan’s work approaches being worthwhile without access to many underground recordings, an astonishing number of which have become overground since the release of the Biograph compilation in the mid-eighties (another Jeff Rosen baby, I believe.) The journey of discovery that used to require was a road well worth travelling and I’ve been well served by many friends over the years.