Saturday, July 20, 2013

'What is this shit?'

…were critic Greil Marcus's infamous opening words to his 1970 review of Bob Dylan's Self Portrait album in Rolling Stone magazine. Well, time heals many wounds, and now Marcus is writing a more sympathetic essay in his introduction to the tenth volume of the Dylan Bootleg Series, called Another Self Portrait (released next month).  The cover features another painting by Dylan, which looks even less like him than the painting on the original Self Portrait. The new portrait may be Jack Kerouac or Tom Clancy or Richard Prince. I love the Bootleg Series. I also almost love the fact they never release what we really want. This has been Dylan's way for the past fifty years, of course, not giving the audience what they want. It may take us some time, but we always come round in the end.

But (I have a but), releasing this ragbag of demos and alternative versions of the much-maligned Self Portrait and New Morning albums from 1969-1971 (after the fairly recent Bootleg Series Vol. 8, which was a ragbag of demos and alternatives from 1989-2006... but still great, of course) seems especially perverse. Or maybe just flippant or trivial.

Especially when Dylan and his camp know that what we really want is:

A Tree with Roots (the complete Basement Tapes with over 100 songs on four CDs)
Blood on the Tracks (alternate New York sessions)
The Supper Club (CD and DVD, 1993)
Johnny Cash sessions (1969)
Rock Solid (a 1980 official live recording never released of born again Dylan, a period in his career more controversial than 1969-71)
Stadiums of the Damned (Live in New Orleans 1983)
The Never Ending Tour (1988-forever; still no complete concert has been released)
... to name just a few.

Yes, of course we have all these on bootleg CD or MP3 but we want the official release, remastered, with booklets, rare photos and essays by Greil Marcus eating his words.

Due to copyright ceasing, lots of semi-official bootlegs have been released recently from Dylan's early years: Freewheelin' Outtakes, Finjan Club, The Minneapolis Party Tape, Carnegie Chapter Hall 1961, Gaslight Cafe, Studs Terkel's Wax Museum, Folksinger's Choice... I started buying them but the quality is variable and they just don't have the excitement of an official release. God, I'm a sucker for a bit of official Dylan hype.

Previous Bob Dylan posts here.


Caspar said...

Blimey, you really are big into Dylan, aren't you? It's actually quite scary. But thanks for turning me onto I'm Not There - great song. Last night I heard The Ballad of Hollis Brown for the first time - and the second, and the third, etc, cos I had to download it straight away. An astonishing song - absolutely chilling.
Did you see the exhibition of Dylan's paintings at some gallery in Mayfair about 8 or so years ago? One of the worst art shows I've ever seen. Fucking awful stuff.

Barnaby said...

Believe it or not I'm not half as into Dylan as I used to be. Yup, saw the exhibition, got the book. I don't mind his paintings but then I am biased!