Music

Bob Dylan – The 1966 Live Recordings

Bob Dylan 1966 live recordings

 

It’s been there since last November, but now is the time for this baby to be moved from the battlefield of “beside the CD player” to the Valhalla of “filed away/never seen again.” Which must mean that I’ve finished listening to it almost every day.
36 CDs covering 23 shows of Dylan’s 1966 world tour might seem excessive and I guess it probably is. If Dylan’s people had stuck to their pricing policy for The Bootleg Series issues, this would have come in about three grand. But this is pointedly not referred to as part of The Bootleg Series and the recordings are also that magical copyright age of 50…so I guess maybe Bob and Jeff generously decided to take only 100 quid for it as a early Christmas 2016 present.
It was a wee bit difficult explaining the necessity of this purchase to my colleagues at the time, but as the lingua franca of that environment was Lego and Star Wars, it shouldn’t have been too surprising…we all know who is right here.
The product is well presented in a nice chunky box, a bit like the Borg’s wheels in Star Trek. Like the Borg, it is futile to resist assimilation – here are four full, professionally recorded, shows from the UK leg of the tour and another nineteen shows which are presented in full or in part from (mostly) soundboard recordings or (a few) audience tapes.
The professional, stereo, recordings are immaculate, the mono soundboards, even when there are incomplete, are nearly as good and the audience tapes are pretty much what you’d expect from 1966 – it is good that they exist, but they can be a hard, if enlightening listen.
Enlightening because, as the audience bootlegs from the 1966 tour have shown, a loud rock band in some of these small theatres sounded terrible, no matter what the expectation of the audiences. Dylan famously was booed and got a lot of bad audience reaction on this tour, but it needs to be remembered that what we have heard over the years (and on this set) are professional recordings and/or soundboards. Even the earliest bootlegs of the Manchester show were from a Columbia professional recording.
So it may be that the audiences of the 1966 shows have been judged harshly for their negative reactions (and as this set shows, there were also positive reactions, the Edinburgh show for one.)
Here’s Bob probably on his way to that show and the same bit of Princes Street fifty years later…the windows at the top right of the Dylan picture are the giveaway.

 

Bob Dylan on Princes Street Edinburgh 1966

 

Starbucks Princes Street Edinburgh Bob Dylan 1966

The sticking point for some buyers, who will be big Dylan fans anyway (a product like this is unlikely to have casual purchasers) is the repetition involved. There are maybe half a dozen variations to the setlist over the 23 shows documented, and certainly the bulk of it is exactly the same setlist every night.
So, what nutter has been listening to this for the last three months?
I’ve rationalised it.
A few years ago, I had a friend who moved house with his family, to the house next door. I thought this was weird, but it was utterly rational; the bloke next door had a conservatory; my friend wanted a conservatory and had worked out it would be cheaper on balance to sell his house and buy his neighbour’s than to build a conservatory.
I loved the logic of this and the parallel to the Dylan set is this; my friend mentioned that although the move was easy, passing stuff over the garden fence, it was weird to look out the windows of the new house and see the same vista, but with a slightly different perspective, as he saw from the old house.
That is what listening to Bob and The Band doing the same setlist over and over again is like; the tiny differences between each night’s vibe become clear (especially on the soundboard recordings, adjusted for room ambience.) Every show is seen through a different “window” and if you have the time and inclination, it is a fascinating thing to do.

 

1966 live recordings Bob Dylan

 

Bob Dylan revisited 1966 - live recordings 1966

Music

Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait – Bootleg Series Vol 10

Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait

I bought this latest edition of The Bootleg Series this afternoon and have been playing it all evening since – 80% of the music on these two CDs is magnificent.

An absolutely epic piece of counterfactual turd-polishing.  All these years of hating Self Portrait, when we could have had music like this?

Who knew?

Postscript

In 2016, full details of Bob Dylan’s “secret archive” were released for the first time. According to the New York Times:

“For years, Bob Dylan scholars have whispered about a tiny notebook, seen by only a few, in which the master labored over the lyrics to his classic 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks.” Rolling Stone once called it “the Maltese Falcon of Dylanology” for its promise as an interpretive key. But that notebook, it turns out, is part of a trinity. Sitting in climate-controlled storage in a museum here are two more “Blood on the Tracks” notebooks — unknown to anyone outside of Mr. Dylan’s closest circle — whose pages of microscopic script reveal even more about how Mr. Dylan wrote some of his most famous songs.”

Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks notebooks
Blood on the Tracks notebooks

The excellent New York Times article

Gigs · Music

Bruce Springsteen is 63. I am not. And yet…

Bob Dylan In Show and Concert!

The other day I was sort of relieved not to be able to get very good tickets to see Bob Dylan “In Show & Concert!” (he’s had so much fun with variations on that ridiculous phrase over the years) in November.
Why relieved? Well if I had succeeded in getting anything in the first ten rows, I would have had to have gone on what has become the incredibly wearing schlepp to the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow. It’s a nice venue, but it takes ages to get there (and back) from Edinburgh, a city which sadly has nothing in the 4,000 and up concert venue line, although for trams, we will be fine.  Three nights of Dylan in Edinburgh would have been a no-brainer if travelling time was less than four hours (as would, recently, Rush, Neil Young, maybe even The Who…)
As for the Laura Marling shows in London…despite the kind offer of a place to stay in Tonbridge, I just couldn’t get the energy together for what will probably be the greatest shows ever. Even though you know this, sometimes you just have to let it go.

Grand Eagle Hotel

Age encroaches. We’ve lost a lot of good people too early recently so I wouldn’t make light of preferring ageing to its alternative while I still carry only one life threatening condition. Still, it’s rushing by…let me illustrate with a few examples.Yellow school satchel

I really like these reproduction school satchels in brightly coloured leathers that are out just now; I doubt if a male with even as developed a sense of style as I have could get away with one in Gorgie, Edinburgh, so it’s probably a no-go for me.  However my eye was caught the other night by one getting on a bus, attached to a woman has been a friend of mine for a long time. I noticed how old she looked, then realised this was not unsurprising given that I am only about three years older than her.
She didn’t come upstairs, so we didn’t make conversation. At the level of gallantry my brain was on, that’s probably just as well, and I was listening to Laura Marling’s new album. A lovely woman nonetheless.
Yesterday, I was speaking with another old friend on the phone, who came out with a sentence I had not yet come across in life, viz, “I need to buy a dinner suit.”
When I asked him why, he said he was fed up with hiring dinner suits. This was taking a weird twist, I felt.
“Why do you hire dinner suits? For business things?”
“No, for parties. You know how it is…”
“No.”
“Well, people invite you to these things and expect you to dress in a certain way…”
I had to point out that no party I had ever been invited to had required the penguin suit; a dinner suit to me is a combination of one’s clothes and slovenly eating.
We were clearly on different planets at this point. What have I lost here? Or what have I gained? I will never wear a dinner suit…I will never play The Dane…

Bruce Springsteen Wrecking-Ball Tour

Finally, going to see Bruce Springsteen in Glasgow tomorrow evening needs two days off work; one to make sure I have descended on Hampden in time for the show and a second because we’re staying over to have a relaxed journey back. I remember the days I would have been driving my orange Mini to Hampden and back, overtaking BMWs on the M8.
So for the second consecutive set of shows in Glasgow, I’ll be missing Bob again. At least we’ll always have Barrowlands.

Gigs · Media · Music

Record Store Day at Coda…

 

Vinyl Room Coda Music

My good friends Dougie and Rose at Coda Music on The Mound, Edinburgh, have a special reason for celebrating Record Store Day.
They’ll be opening The Vinyl Room to sell a range of LPs – not just folk and roots stuff like the main shop.
They’ll also be welcoming some guests into the shop to play live music and will have a full range of the Record Store Day special releases – see details at their website here.
Below is one of these special releases – outtakes from Self Portrait! No, really!

 

Wigwam Thirsty Boots Dylan

 

Kim Edgar at Coda Music
The great Kim Edgar with Brad Pitt at the launch of her first album in Coda.
Gigs · Music

Reasons to be cheerful…

There’s lots of great music to look forward to this year.

Teenage Fanclub recording in France
Teenage Fanclub have been recording in France…

Pearlfishers recording in GlasgowThe Pearlfishers have been recording in Glasgow…

Kim Edgar Edinburgh concerts

Kim Edgar has announced shows in Edinburgh in June and August (see Kim’s website for details here.

Laura Marling Where can I go?

And of course, Laura Marling releases a new album at the end of May. The track that’s available on her website is called “Where Can I Go?” and is frighteningly good. She seems to have gone from Another Side of Bob Dylan straight to Blood on the Tracks without the bits in the middle, if you go for the Dylan analogy I’ve used before.

Music

Bob Dylan and Jersey boys

 

Jersey Beat Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons

Over the last week or so I’ve been enjoying listening to the Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons boxed set …Jersey Beat…, the latest of the expensive boxed sets from a few years back that Warners have repackaged in a slip case and bunged in the supermarkets for a tenner, after Rod, Fleetwood Mac, Bee Gees. Happy days for the indiscriminate consumer such as myself as we approach the apocalypse of the physical carrier.

For me this is a re-approach to this material, as many years ago when CDs were just coming out I was given a very similar compilation. So I was aware of the embarrassment of riches contained within a three CD compilation of Valli, Gaudio, Crewe et al.

I had not forgotten, however, the horror of The Wonder Who?, an alter-ego used by the band presumably when they were sick of having hit singles (although it didn’t stop the run.) Under this name, they recorded a version of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” which is almost unlistenable. God knows what they were thinking of.

This compilation boasts comments on each track from someone somehow involved, so here we have comments from Bob himself on the slaughter, ending “They had a completely different take on the song. Sort of like adding rouge to a bloodless stone.”

Seems like he may even have liked it, which brings me to the point.

The other hit by The Wonder Who?, which is included on …Jersey Beat…is Nathaniel Shilkret and Gene Austin’s “Lonesome Road,” which suffers the same cartoon cat fate as the Dylan song, but maybe Bob was still listening and even enjoying.

Dylan’s 2001 album Love and Theft concluded with a song called “Sugar Baby,” which many really enjoyed. It didn’t do much for me, but I immediately recognised the bulk of the melody of “Sugar Baby” was that of “Lonesome Road,” which I knew from Sinatra’s version. It soon became apparent that the album title Love and Theft also described Dylan’s songwriting method of the time, as several songs were revealed to be influenced by other American classics.

Knowing Bob’s respect for the older man, I’d always assumed that he had lifted “Sugar Baby” from Sinatra’s version of “Lonesome Road,” but now I’m wondering if he actually remembered the other hit by the other Jersey Boys’ evil twin, The Wonder Who?

Movies · Music

The Bob Dylan “Copyright Extension” CD

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.

 

Bob Dylan copyright extension CD

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.)

Greenwich Village Stuart Ferguson Freewheelin
Waiting in The Village for Lindsay Lohan…be there a long time...

[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.