Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes - where we're currently at (Part 6)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by hodgo, Nov 8, 2014.

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  1. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    Very slight? I think Woody Guthrie has influenced Bob throughout his entire career.
  2. Moth

    Moth fluttering by

    As a follow-up to my post about the first disc, here are my new-comer thoughts on the second:

    While the first CD's worth of material seemed very serious, disc two is much goofier and jovial. It kicks off with some covers, starting with the fun, wonderful melody that is "Johnny Todd", going to the silly "Tupelo" with Bob putting on a mock speaking voice and misspelling "Mississippi", and finishing with "Kicking My Dog Around". After a minor detour through two takes of "See You Later, Allen Ginsberg" (I guess he just had to get that one right), he finally explores his own absurd songwriting with "Tiny Montgomery". It, like so many other songs that he wrote around this time, completely eludes me, yet is so fun to listen to. Although, I seriously question whether a song with the lyrics "Now grease that pig, and sing praise, go on out, and gas that dog" (er, really any of them) has any deeper meaning than just being fun to say. Cool organ stuff by Garth at the end, too. Finally, we get to the last of the goofy (for a bit, at least) with "I'm Your Teenage Prayer", which so reminds me of something that Frank Zappa would have done with the Mothers of Invention. Making fun of pop culture, deep bass vocals, falsettos, the backing vocals interacting with and riffing on the actual lyrics... I have trouble picturing Bob actually listening to Freak Out!, though.

    Next are some wonderful, wonderful, wonderful covers. He is, of course, an extremely talented songwriter, but he also seems excellent at recognizing other people's great songs. Not only that, but he also seems to have an intimate knowledge and love of these songs that really shines through as he covers them. The first two, "Four Strong Winds" and "the French Girl" are excellent performances, with a rather heart-breaking delivery from Bob on the second song. The first take of "the French Girl" is probably the most superfluous song on the entire set (that I've so far heard, anyway), being a decent length, not complete, and not much different from the final take. Their rendition of "Joshua Gone Barbados" is really nice, and you wish Bob hadn't interrupted the whole thing just because it was a bit long (you had five minutes for "Ol' Roison the Beau", Bob?).

    They begin to sound like they're having fun again on "In the Mood", which also seems like good sequencing to break up the string of serious folk covers. "Baby Ain't That Fine" is a bit inconsequential - fun, and the harmonies are nice, but nothing special, especially when placed up next to the doozy that is the next track. "Rock, Salt and Nails" (which the first verse reminds me of "Pretty Saro" a bit) is easily one of the highlights for me so far. Thankfully, the sound quality is really nice on this one, and it's quite easy to make out all the different parts - the organ is a bit quiet for my tastes, but I suppose the quiet, sustained notes actually help to create a sort of ambiance for the song. Everyone does a stellar job of playing on this song, and the person to match Bob on vocals was a nice touch. Speaking of Bob, he gives a knockout delivery on this song. When he sings "Nothing is worse than a night without sleep," you're inclined to agree with his weary voice, despite their being a lot of worse things. Like, I dunno, being stabbed. A little later on is another highlight, "People Get Ready". Bob's once-again-weary delivery works wonders and Richard's(?) falsetto backing him up is solid. The guitar playing by Robbie is also a great complement to the song (does his solo get a bit out of tune, or is that just me), and the slow, thumping in the background works very well. Wonderful finish to this song, as well. Damn, does Bob know how to pick 'em or what?

    "One Man's Loss" and "Lock Your Doors" are pretty awesome, energetic rock songs - we won't be seeing that Bob again for a long time; "Big Dog" is too much a fragment for me to form any real opinion on it; "A Fool Such as I" hasn't really done much for me; "Song for Canada" is pretty good, nice vocal from Bob, nice piano playing; "Be Careful of Stones That You Throw" is fine, but it's probably just a joke on Bob's part. At the end of disc 2, Bob starts to write some songs that sound like they draw heavily from the songs they've been covering the past month, especially "I Can't Make It Alone" and "Don't You Try Me Now". "Baby, Won't You Be My Baby" sounds like you could switch it out with one of the two songs at the end of John Wesley Harding and it would fit perfectly. "Try Me Little Girl", which seems odd when you consider it's placed next to another song called "Don't You Try Me Now", has some excellent piano playing and a strained vocal from Bob, which I for some reason enjoy.

    This collection of tunes took a little longer to warm up to than the first one, but it was all worth it in the end. Maybe everyone else goes through the same thing, but some familiarity really opens these songs up. This thing has been filled to the brim with great stuff so far, and I'm excited to make my way through the rest, although I have already gone through the third CD a great amount as well. I'll post my thoughts on that soon.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
  3. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    To follow up: Do you think Tears of Rage and Mighty Quinn may have simply been unlisted on reel #10, or possibly resided on some other missing reel, like All-American Boy and Sign on the Cross?
  4. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    Great post. You hit all the highlights. :righton:
  5. fallbreaks

    fallbreaks Forum Resident

    Woody died around the time Levon rejoined them. If someone floated the idea of Bob appearing at a memorial concert, Bob may have reasonably assumed that the organizers wanted him to perform a set of his own songs. The basement arrangements of some of the songs are also close to the arrangements Levon would have remembered from the '65 (-'66) tour. At any rate, they were performing old songs for... what reason? Just to reacquaint Levon with playing? If so, then why did they bother giving One Too Many Mornings a new middle section? I think they must have had an idea of performing live together again, and given the timing, the Woody Guthrie concert makes sense.

    It's interesting to note that their arrangement of Woody's I Ain't Got No Home is somewhat similar to the basement arrangement of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues.

    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
  6. davenav

    davenav High Plains Grifter

    Louisville, KY USA
    Doesn't the bluesy version of Blowing In The Wind predate Levon's return?

    A question I have is - is it possible some folks might have got more basement recordings than the 14 song acetate?

    I ask because Big River 2 is basically a template for Honky Tonk Women.
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  7. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    I agree -- for all we know, Harold Levanthal may have initially asked Bob to do Blowin' In The Wind, but then changed the program. I wasn't there, so I don't know, either.

    Re: I Ain't Got No Home -- I hear strains of the Dylan/Band arrangement of the song in King of France, I swear!
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  8. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower

    Out of My Element
    A little too much "King of France" for you I'm afraid. Maybe you should lay down. Take two "Spanish Song"s and call the doctor in the morning.
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  9. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    Well, they sent for the ambulance
    And one was sent
    Somebody got lucky
    But it was an accident...

  10. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    You're right about Big River II/Honky Tonk Woman sounding suspiciously alike, but it must be a coincidence. It must be!

    Levon arrived in the Woodstock area a week or two before Thanksgiving '67. The BT version of Blowin' in the Wind was dated as late as February 1968 by Clinton Heylin, which may be stretching things a little. Again, the recording seems to date to around the time of the Guthrie Tribute, held January 20, 1968.
  11. soniclovenoize

    soniclovenoize Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I think they are for sure all on Reel 10, it's just we are not seeing everything written. It's in a different handwriting than the others, and it's written in a different way.
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  12. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    Thanks, I'll quote you on that, okay? ;)

    (You've been doing some great work around here, BTW, much appreciated.)
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  13. notesfrom

    notesfrom Forum Resident

    NC USA
    Very Odds and Endish as well.
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  14. fallbreaks

    fallbreaks Forum Resident

    Right, even if these arrangements of old songs weren't worked up for the Woody Guthrie concert, they must have have been inspired by the Woody Guthrie performance. The new middle section they worked up for OTMM indicates they must have had an idea about performing it live - otherwise why bother going to the trouble of updating their arrangement?
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  15. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

  16. fangedesire

    fangedesire Well-Known Member

    Getting back to the chronology... This may be of minimal interest, but I think it's possible to narrow down the recording dates for some of the Basement Tapes.
    The early reels are impossible to date precisely...could be anywhere from April to June '67. But midway through the sessions, the copyright dates start making it easier to tell when some songs were recorded.

    A little background: Early in 1967, Dylan had been in a label dispute - his contract with Columbia was about to expire, he wasn't keen on staying with them, and MGM was negotiating with him to sign on their label. Columbia reminded him that per their contract, he still owed them 14 songs, which on March 27 he agreed to record.
    However, on July 1 he signed a new contract with Columbia, after they gave him better terms. (Columbia publicly announced the signing on August 21.) This should have replaced the March agreement - he no longer needed to give them 14 songs, but could record albums at his leisure. But sometime during the summer, he decided to pick 14 songs from the basement sessions and send them as demos to his publisher for other musicians to cover. This may have been to get some royalties coming in, or he may have been pressured by his manager Al Grossman (who owned 50% of the publishing, so naturally was eager for more songs). Dylan would complain in '69, "They weren't demos for myself...I was being PUSHED again into coming up with some songs."
    Sid Griffin speculates that there must have been a recording break in mid-July for family matters (a daughter born & parents visiting), and that Dylan proceeded with the "official" demos once recording resumed. This sounds plausible. The reels certainly show an abrupt change from random fun covers & unformed originals, to multiple takes of finished new songs.

    Using HominyRhodes' reel numbering for convenience (and just listing the songs, not the takes):

    Reel "8" - July/August
    Million Dollar Bash
    Yea Heavy & a Bottle of Bread
    I'm Not There (not included on the acetate; not copyrighted til 1970)
    Please Mrs Henry
    Crash on the Levee
    Lo and Behold

    Reel "9" - August
    You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
    I Shall Be Released
    This Wheel's On Fire
    Too Much of Nothing

    These songs, along with the earlier 'Tiny Montgomery,' were registered for copyright on October 9, 1967; according to Heylin they would have been submitted a month earlier, so the recordings would have been done by early September.

    Reel "10/11" - September
    Open the Door Homer
    Nothing Was Delivered
    Tears of Rage
    Quinn the Eskimo

    These four songs were copyrighted January 16, 1968, so they would've been submitted in December. Heylin suggests there was a delay in copyrighting them due to Dylan working on John Wesley Harding. They were finished by October, since they appeared on the 14-song acetate that apparently started circulating that month. Heylin & Griffin both think they were recorded after the Band's NYC demo session on September 5.

    Reel "12" - unknown
    Going to Acapulco [copyrighted 1975]
    Gonna Get You Now

    These are the only two songs known from this reel; I can only assume from the reel number (given by Heylin) that they come here chronologically. (Heylin thought in his earlier books that these came near the end of the basement sessions.)

    Reel "13" - September/October
    Odds and Ends
    Get Your Rocks Off
    Clothes Line Saga
    Apple Suckling Tree

    'Get Your Rocks Off' was also copyrighted in Jan. '68, but not included on the acetate, which was limited to 14 songs. The other songs were not copyrighted til Jan. 1970, for some reason. My guess is this reel was recorded after the acetate was compiled (or the songs chosen). This is also apparently the last reel recorded before Levon Helm's return in October; he mentions that 'Odds and Ends' was one of the songs he heard and was impressed by when he came back.
    (I should add that he also remembers playing on 'Nothing Was Delivered' after his return; Griffin supposes that the fragmentary take 3 is him; on the bootlegged tape dub of this reel, it came between the two takes of Odds and Ends here. I think it's simpler to assume that it's Manuel drumming, but will leave that to others to decide.)

    Reel "16" - October/November
    Don't Ya Tell Henry [copyrighted 1971]
    Bourbon Street [copyrighted 1973]
    Blowin' in the Wind
    One Too Many Mornings
    A Satisfied Mind
    We Can Talk [Band song, no Dylan involvement known]
    It Ain't Me, Babe
    If I Were a Carpenter
    Ain't No More Cane
    My Woman She's a-Leavin'
    Santa Fe [copyrighted 1973]
    Mary Lou, I Love You Too
    Dress It Up, Better Have It All
    Minstrel Boy [copyrighted 1969]
    Silent Weekend [copyrighted 1973]
    What's It Gonna Be When It Comes Up
    900 Miles From My Home
    Wild Wolf [copyrighted 1973]

    This is a composite of earlier reels, so the songs could be in any order; we can't assume their order on the reel is the order they were originally taped. Many of the song titles are not written on the reel, so this list is somewhat conjectural (some of them could be from reel 15). Levon Helm is on many of these songs, so much of this material certainly comes after his return in October; however I think it's possible that some of this (like the 'Don't Ya Tell Henry'/'Bourbon Street' duo) preceded his return.
    (Several songs - those two ('Bourbon Street' cutting off), 'Santa Fe,' and 'Silent Weekend' - had been bootlegged long before the discovery of this reel, since those were copied from another composite reel made in 1975.)
    At some point after Helm's return, the recording site moved from Big Pink to a new house on Wittenberg Road. Dylan also recorded the John Wesley Harding album in three sessions in Nashville in October and November, but evidently he was continuing the "basement" recordings at the same time with Helm, with a completely different batch of songs.

    Reel X - October/November?
    Yazoo Street Scandal
    You Say You Love Me
    All You Have To Do Is Dream [the only Dylan song on this reel]
    Ferdinand the Imposter
    + some Tiny Tim & instrumentals

    Helm says that 'Yazoo Street Scandal' was the first song he worked on with the band when he came back. Since he's definitely on the Dylan song, I'm assuming he's on the Band tracks as well. This appears to be the last known Dylan original recorded with the Band that year, as they started working seriously on their own demos. (Columbia had rejected them after the September demo session; but they were talking with Capitol Records, they asked Helm to come back in October, and they would start recording their album in January; so it seems they became a lot more focused on their own work around this time.)
    I don't know how many other late-Basement reels mixed Band and Dylan songs together on a reel.

    Reel "20" - unknown
    Wildwood Flower
    One Kind Favor
    Comin' Round The Mountain
    Flight of the Bumble Bee
    and two Band instrumentals, no Dylan involvement.

    This has long been considered to be the last of the "Basement" reels, since it's so different in feel from the earlier reels. Heylin suggests that it probably comes from February 1968, but I don't know where he gets that date. At any rate, if the earlier Basement Tapes showed Dylan working up to John Wesley Harding, this reel shows him well on his way to Nashville Skyline.
  17. TeddyB

    TeddyB Senior Member

    Jesse may not agree with you.
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  18. Bennyboy

    Bennyboy Forum Resident

    I played some of the tracks to my girlfriend and she said it sounded really raw and unfinished and amateurish and would be embarrassed to let that stuff out into the world if it was her music.

    I think she has a point.
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  19. TeddyB

    TeddyB Senior Member

    Lo Fi, baby. Dylan connects the Harry Smith project to Pavement et al!
  20. Bennyboy

    Bennyboy Forum Resident

    Hmm. I doubt Dylan humself has had any tangible involvement in this release.
  21. streetlegal

    streetlegal Forum Resident

    So you are saying through your girlfriend that you don't like it, and regret buying it? Why can't you speak for yourself?
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  22. Bennyboy

    Bennyboy Forum Resident

    No, I really like it myself. I didn't buy it though.

    But I am reporting her view as someone who is not a Bobsessed as I am.

    As standalone music, does it stand up? Or is context all? I am too far into the swamp of Dylan now to really have innocent ears, but part of me can see how keeping the Basement Tapes buried would have in some ways been better.

    I dunno. Now the first flush of listening joy has worn off, I am torn. I have already moved on, and am actually finding my previous sense of the legend of the Basements has been normalised and ironically made a little more tawdry for their official releasing.

    Bit then I am weird so you should probably just ignore me.
  23. streetlegal

    streetlegal Forum Resident

    Well, I guess it is easier for me as I don't have the prior attachment that you do, coming to most of this stuff fairly new. To my own ears there is a fair amount that is pretty jarring and has to be taken in a certain spirit, so I sympathize with your partner.
  24. dee

    dee Senior Member

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    So when will this thread be available in book form?

    Listening to 'I'm '
    Not There' this morning, I started thinking of Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

    The plumber was next door yesterday. I thought about "and that is that one must always flush out his house if he don't expect to be housing flushes" and I expect during the next hand of poker, I'll be thinking of the same line.
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  25. notesfrom

    notesfrom Forum Resident

    NC USA
    I played some of the 6-disc set around the house a few days during the first week of release. The sounds were met with some curiosity. The humor of some of the off the cuff lyrics, plus the BT participants cracking themselves up, is entertaining enough to illicit chuckles and quizzical looks here and there from bystanding listeners - parts of 'Lo And Behold' ('I’m goin’ down to Tennessee, get me a truck or something’), 'See You Later Allen Ginsberg', 'you ain't no head of lettuce', 'Teenage Dream' particularly.

    The important part in all this, perhaps, is not to force it on someone - 'you just gotta gotta hear this, now; this stuff is ground zero for the whole Ameri-cana movement it self '. If it's just playing in the background, it's intriguing enough that people will tune in on their own at some points on some level. I'd just tell 'em flat out, 'It's Bob Dylan recording demos in his basement in 1967'. Of course, I don't mention that it's from a 6-cd set! Don't want people to know you're crazy, now.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2014
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