Saturday, May 10, 2014

“Dylan Mystery Album”

For several years, mostly while I was in college, the most precious dream-theme was the “Dylan Mystery Album”:  in sleep, I would imagine some unreleased Dylan song, which would come as an ineffable revelation.  This motif was triggered, of course, by the “basement tapes” and various other pirated releases.  The closest actual item to these oneiric imaginings, was “Please, Crawl out your Window”, which is sufficiently strange even when completely awake.

Later, his career went on and on, evolving in a direction that no longer interested me, his springy voice gone.  He released album after album, most of which I never listened to.

But as the years go by, ever new material is released, including from that golden early period, which he later churlishly repudiated,  but which lives on as a nonpareil, for those of my generational cohort.  Such is the age we live in:  Nothing remains buried; everything gets posted on YouTube.  I fully expect  sometime soon  to witness the actual “I come not to praise Caesar, but to bury him” speech, by Brutus, in the original Latin, recorded on-site at the time.

Anyhow -- Just stumbled on a bunch from the year of our Lord nineteen sixty-two -- when I was only twelve, and quite unaware of Dylan (nor could I have fathomed him then, had  by some chance  I heard).

Try this.
This is why we love the guy.

“Standing on the Highway”  (Not previously heard.)

“Fixing to Die”.

A version of this was on his first commerically released album:  and that performance was vastly more powerful:  distilled, as it were, and concentrated, from innumerable previous performances  that most of us never heard.   This earlier version  thus constitutes a contribution to lyrical aetiology.
(Additionally, this version includes a verse  not included on the Columbia album.) 

(I’m stealin’ -- I’m stealin’ -- pretty mama doncha tell on me:
 I’m stealin’ back  to my   old-time  used-to-be …)


Oh my!  Just learned this:

On youtube it’s stupidly hard to find Bob Dylan songs, especially with all those cover version trying to catch you out. Turns out that in order to prevent Bob Dylan videos from being taken down, a few crafty buggers have been uploading his songs with one of his earlier stage names – ‘Elston Gunn’. I don’t know if this should count as a meme, but there seem to be an endless amount of videos with ‘Elston Gunn’ instead of ‘Bob Dylan’.

As witness (“Percy’s Song”):

And (kind of terrible, actually) a guitarless version of "Positively 4th St.":

With guitars this time, but even worse;  late Dylan:

"It Ain't Me Babe".
Not as good as the soulful album version, but FWIW:

OK ... Let's give some credit to the guys in suits, at corporate Columbia,
who selected from among (evidently) many possibilities,
such as should be consecrated to History,
on the albums.
By and large, they chose well.


"Desolation Row".
OTOH ...  I like the tempo on this *much more* (and the delivery as well, upon mature consideration) than the album version:
Nonetheless, it must be said, that this version is somehow 'posterior'.   It is most effective  for those of us who already (long ago) heard the original version, and memorized the lyrics (which are a bit less distinct here).  Also, additional harmonica work.  (Not especially memorable; but we savor His harmonica  as we recall each ... [redacted].)

For a Norwegian version of this classic song, click here:

"Visions of Johanna".
Neither better nor worse than the "Blonde on Blonde" published version,
but personally I prefer it,
simply because I, too often, took in the official recording,
while smoking,
and self-pitying ...

Yipes! Another that's even better ... Amazing ...
Srsly ... I need to retire ... and take up smoking ...

Oh Lord!  1961 no less.

[Zip to the very end of this, for a wonderful parable about East Orange, New Jersey.]

Dreams are a cheat.  I would awake from a “Mystery Album” episode, shaken, trembling and cherishing it:  but the lyrics and music had quite melted by morning.  And as for the deep inner Meaning … It had the feel of an epiphany, but the epiphany was empty.  It was like the ineffable insights of the stoned, which, upon resipiscence, if recalled at all, are revealed as silly and shabby.
Whereas these can be savored in complete lucidity.

My earliest memory (if it be real) is of climbing out of my crib, and plopping onto the floor.   One of these days (before I die), a video of the event  will appear on YouTube.
One can only conclude  to the imminence of The Rapture.


Quite an interesting concept, really, this "Elston Gunn".  Self-concealing, much like the "Traveling Wilburys".
We have, then:
Real name:  Robert Zimmerman.
Stage name (exoteric):  Bob Dylan.
Conundrum-inside-an-enigma name (esoteric):  Elston Gunn.
But for the real cognoscenti -- what?  Yet another level down ...

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