Bob Dylan is never far from my mind, my heart, my stereo – if he’s not on the turntable, he’s in my thoughts in some way or another, often informing the music that I’ve chosen to listen to. It’s that deep. He is one of the great musical forces for me – and surely the most influential songwriter of the 20th Century, certainly in his liberation of the ugly singer being allowed to create and own beautiful songs; I think he’s a beautiful singer too of course, but such has been his influence. Next week we’ll see the new Netflix doco (if we want to) about the Rolling Thunder Revue. There’s a new boxset of rehearsals and performances too and there’s already a great deal of official and bootlegged recordings from this famous time. So I thought why not celebrate his Royal Bobness with some Rolling Thunder Favourites of mine in this special edition of a Five For Friday. Right-o then…
1. Tangled Up in Blue
This footage – this very clip – was my introduction to this song and to the concept of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. I only saw a snippet of it, in a documentary about 20 years of rock’n’roll. A documentary that, as a kid, I watched over and again…and as part of my introduction to Dylan I was captivated by this; the storytelling. He has changed the words in this and many other songs and that’s always been a source of fascination too. This is surely one of the very best versions of this great song though.
2. Easy And Slow (Seacrest Motel Rehearsals)
Lovely recording here of a wonderful ballad. One of the obvious standouts from the new box-set – all at once this reaches back to Dylan’s earliest folk-inspired compositions and points forward to where he was heading.
3. If You See Her, Say Hello (S.I.R. Studio Rehearsals)
So many versions of this song – I never list it among my favourites from Dylan but it’s one of the songs (the version from the first Bootleg Series) that showed me the genius of Dylan’s lyrics, in terms of his emotional storytelling. Profound in that sense. And I love this rehearsal-take.
4. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Live at Montreal Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, December 1975)
Another of his great songs – another of the versions from the new box-set. And a stunning example of just how shit-hot-on-fire the band was. Dylan too, is in such fine vocal form around this time. Just a tremendous live singer. Such passion in his voice, such energy.
5. Idiot Wind [from the TV Special]
Idiot Wind has long been one of my very favourite Dylan songs, there on the first version of a Greatest Hits album I heard (the Masterpieces compilation) and on the first Bootleg Series (in two very different versions). The Hard Rain-related TV Special is a thing of beauty – in terms of Dylan’s fire; the band too. It’s something I go back and watch often now and he was maybe never better than when spitting the venom of this song. Hard. Certainly anyone thinking he’s not a master of his craft and not a great singer hasn’t heard this particular version of this particular song. Because it’s all here. It’s absolutely all here.
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