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THE LAST TIME I HEARD BOB DYLAN

by Richard Lewis


In fact it was last night at a friend’s 50th birthday party and the band (The Travelling Billberets) had Dylan in their repertoire. As well as Dylan they played songs by The Clash, Van Morrison, The Stones and T Rex. They introduced the first Dylan song as “the greatest rock song of the last 40 years” before playing a great version of “Like A Rolling Stone”. By the time they were doing their third set, approaching midnight, I had managed to put away several pints and to my great surprise found myself, with Jenny, on the dance floor. It’s not often that you can say you were dancing to a hard rocking version of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall”!

Prior to that my recent Dylan listening has been to the remastered “Blonde On Blonde” in the car and to Hollow Horn’s ‘Reference Recordings’ at home on the Hi-Fi.

Blonde On Blonde” is a 2 CD set with 8 tracks on Disc 1 and 6 on Disc 2. Having heard recent (and not so recent) live versions of many of the songs it was a real pleasure to be reminded of the originals. As well as containing my favourite Dylan song (“Visions of Johanna”) it also has another that I think is up there with the best. That song is the wonderful “One Of Us Must Know” where Dylan who was not yet 25 is able to deliver the lines

When you whispered in my ear
And asked me if I was leavin’ with you or her
I didn’t realize just what I’d hear
I didn’t realize how young you were

and really mean it. As he said “the closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands on the ‘Blonde On Blonde’ album. It’s that thin, that wild mercury sound. It’s metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up.”


Bob Dylan
 

So far Hollow Horn have issued 5 volumes of their ‘Reference Recordings’. Each one is a 2 CD set with all the available studio outtakes from Dylan’s albums in chronological order. So far they have reached 1981’s “Shot of Love” and there are three further volumes to come. It’s a great idea as, like you, I’m sure, I have bits of Dylan scattered around on reel to reel, cassette and CD and I can never remember
exactly where something is when I want it.

Listening to the outtakes from each album, playing the actual released album and looking in the newly released “Lyrics” provides a fascinating glimpse into Dylan at each stage of his work over his first twenty years of recording. So far I have only managed a first listen to each of the 5 volumes but even this has revealed things I had forgotten and some I don’t remember even hearing before.

Each volume is a 2 CD digi pack (larger than the average CD – same size as the new “Blonde On Blonde”) with a colour cover and track listings on the back with little notes to help you identify particular tracks e.g. Suze …fade at cough or I’ll Keep It With Mine….bank account blues. Each volume then opens out to reveal 4 colour photos all in a sort of colour-sepia style and several of them are new or certainly uncommon.

When you put your 5 volumes in your CD rack the spines also reveal a well known 65 picture of Dylan in sunglasses. The final volume is also going to have a 36-page booklet to compliment the series. As Bob has said “some of these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff” and as these things go this is one of the best.


Dylan
 

Another recent purchase has been “The Complete A&M Recordings” by Joan Baez. Here the Dylan connection is very strong. On here first A&M album is the well known “To Bobby” written in 1971 followed by her even more famous “Diamonds and Rust” which mentions Dylan calling her from a booth in the mid west. She reveals that this did indeed happen and Dylan “read me the entire text of ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ out of nowhere. Over the phone, I couldn’t figure out what it was about, or anything about it except the words were cool and he wanted to know what I thought, ‘What d’ya think?’ That phone call and hearing his voice brought everything back and that’s when the song ‘Diamonds and Rust’ came about.” While she was recording it in January 1975 “Blood On The Tracks” came out and she immediately added “Simple Twist of Fate” complete with her Dylan voice on one verse.

Also on the album, and often over looked, is another song about Dylan called “Winds of the Old Days” which is a much more sympathetic view of Dylan compared to the earlier “To Bobby”. It was written while she was on tour in Australia in late 1973 and read that Dylan was going to go on tour with the Band. She refers to her own self-righteousness saying

Singer or saviour, it was his to choose
Which of us knows what was his to lose

And then sings

So thank you for writing the best songs
Thank you for righting a few wrongs
You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus
But you stepped down and sang for us


Bob Dylan and Joan Baez
 

So the last time I heard Bob Dylan I too heard that “savage gift” and remain thankful that he still wants to sing for us. 

 
 
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