Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bootleg Series Vol. 9 - Bob Dylan

This is songwriting 101. This is the Witmark Demos, recorded by Dylan with just his voice, guitar and harmonica, between '62 and '64. Basically you get to hear a young genius at work, who probably didn't know he would soon change the world a few years later. Listening to these set of mostly familiar songs, I can't help but wonder: how could someone possibly write stuff like this at 21, 22 years of age? It's just incredible. Remember this, every songwriter that came after Dylan owes a musical debt to him, no matter what genre they're from.

I've been a fan of Dylan's bootleg series for quite a few years now. In fact, it was Vol. 4 that got me into his music. That was the infamous 'Royal Albert Hall' show (actually it was in Manchester). First half was the acoustic set. It fucking blew my mind. I've never heard anyone sing like that before, let alone write words like that. I really was shocked. The music felt alien to me at that time. But it was magical. Then came the electric set, backed by The Hawks (who'd later become The Band). Again it fucking blew my mind. Ballad Of A Thin Man.....what the fuck was that? I actually remember feeling uncomfortable listening to it. But of course, the big one was Like A Rolling Stone. For the benefit of those who don't already know:

Man from audience: "Judas!" (followed by laughter and applause)

Dylan: "I don't believe you. You're a liar!"

Dylan (turning to band): "Play fucking loud!!" (before launching into the greatest song ever written)

P.S. For more of this, check out Martin Scorsese's excellent documentary, No Direction Home.