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Tell me behind what door your treasure lies
July 2, 2014 9:53 AM   Subscribe

149 previously-unknown Bob Dylan acetate recordings were recently discovered in two boxes labelled "Old Records" in the back of a closet on W. Houston Street in New York City.

Dylan rented the ground floor of 124 W. Houston Street in Greenwich Village between 1969 and 1972. When he left the studio, he either threw away or left the recordings behind. They were discovered by chance after the owner of the building passed away earlier this year. They were purchased by the private collector Jeff Gold, who is selling a very small selection of the recordings on his website.

The find includes early works-in-progress, alternate takes, and different mixes of songs from three albums: Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning. There are also previously unreleased covers of Johnny Cash songs, including Ring of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues, in the collection. Some of the paper covers on the recordings have handwritten notes and sketches by Dylan and his producer Bob Johnson.

This follows the sale of the manuscript for "Like a Rolling Stone" just last week, which was sold at Sotheby's for over $2,000,000 to an unidentified bidder.
posted by sockermom (41 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like a complete unknown.
posted by fairmettle at 9:59 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


It will probably take years for these to get into a box set, which is a pity.
posted by Catblack at 10:11 AM on July 2


And just think: one day, maybe 40-50 years from now, while rummaging through a junk drawer, some lucky so-and-so's gonna stumble upon a dusty old thumb drive full of unreleased Skrillex mp3s!
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:12 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


It will probably take years for these to get into a box set, which is a pity

Maybe they never will; directly. It's not really clear if there's anything on these acetates that Columbia doesn't have master tapes of sitting in its vault. Nor is it clear if anyone but the most die-hard completist would really want to own every incremental variation on the mix of a song for which we ultimately have the mix Dylan approved for release.

This sounds like a cool haul, but the extent to which it contains stuff which either opens up new angles on Dylan or which would otherwise have been lost is not entirely clear.
posted by yoink at 10:17 AM on July 2


Why did they need to cut a new acetate just to figure out sequencing? Couldn't they just be sending tapes back and forth?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:27 AM on July 2


I'm halfway through The Dylanologists, a new book on Bobby D fanatics, so this is a timely post.
posted by jonmc at 10:34 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Atom Eyes: “And just think: one day, maybe 40-50 years from now, while rummaging through a junk drawer, some lucky so-and-so's gonna stumble upon a dusty old thumb drive full of unreleased Skrillex mp3s!”

It's hard to express how much this comment annoyed me, so I'll just leave it at that.
posted by koeselitz at 10:40 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


And just think: one day, maybe 40-50 years from now, while rummaging through a junk drawer, some lucky so-and-so's gonna stumble upon a dusty old thumb drive full of unreleased Skrillex mp3s!

I was actually thinking the reverse honestly. Everything is password protected these days. Cloud storage, systems themselves. Even phones are starting to nag you to create a pass code when you first set them up.

Not that I think this is a bad thing, but it's going to end the "barn find" of content from well known or even obscure but interesting artists.

And unless it's part of the estate of some famous artist, how will you even know that random protected/encrypted thumb drive is worth trying to crack? What if you can't anyways?
posted by emptythought at 10:58 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Little known factoid: In the original draft of the song asking, "How many roads must a man walk down before they will call him a man?" Dylan answered the question. (spoiler alert) Six.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:07 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


how will you even know that random protected/encrypted thumb drive is worth trying to crack?

Hell, in 40 or 50 years, where will you find something that still has a USB port? Right now I wouldn't know where to start trying to hook up one of these to my computer.
posted by echo target at 11:23 AM on July 2


And I bet they all have too many verses and are sung by a guy whose voice sounds like an old friction-drive toy being endlessly, endlessly revved against a worn nylon carpet.
posted by Decani at 11:23 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Well, I just meant: there's nothing intrinsically wrong with Skrillex, and there's no reason to bring him up in a thread about Bob Dylan.
posted by koeselitz at 11:28 AM on July 2


– I mean are we seriously going to start up with that "Dylan was wonderful, musicians these days are total crap" nonsense? That's what that sounded like, which is why I was annoyed, but I guess that might not have been what you meant, Atom Eyes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:30 AM on July 2


And I bet they all have too many verses and are sung by a guy whose voice sounds like an old friction-drive toy being endlessly, endlessly revved against a worn nylon carpet and are works of absolute genius.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:31 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Little known factoid: In the original draft of the song asking, "How many roads must a man walk down before they will call him a man?" Dylan answered the question. (spoiler alert) Six.

Actually the original draft reads "Siri, how many roads must a man walk down..." Dude was prescient.
posted by yoink at 11:34 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Why did they need to cut a new acetate just to figure out sequencing? Couldn't they just be sending tapes back and forth?

I think in those days, if you had a lathe that could cut acetates in house, this was just as easy, if not easier than making tapes, and certainly easier to play back on the other end since turntables were ubiquitous.

It's like going home with a burnt CD of a rough mix was back in the early 00's before MP3's & players became a thing.

My kids are going to inherit 3 or 4 fat wallets full of roughs on CD, but unfortunately for them, they won't fetch much at auction.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:40 AM on July 2


Paul F. Tompkins, on learning of Dylan's Christmas album, said something along the lines of "Now here is a man clearly in love with the sound of his voice." I've always been a fan of Bob Dylan, his writing AND singing, but that offhand remark tweaked my perception of him slightly. Like, it doesn't even matter if I think he's a good singer. He does. He keeps singing. He keeps recording and releasing countless hours of material. He could have quit music altogether decades ago and focused on making those ugly rusty gates, showing paintings based on the weight of his name but, nope, he'd rather play a couple hundred shows a year, and what's more, singing the old favourites people wanna hear with melodies they won't even recognize.
posted by Lorin at 11:42 AM on July 2


Well, I just meant: there's nothing intrinsically wrong with Skrillex, and there's no reason to bring him up in a thread about Bob Dylan.

I think the point was less about Skrillex vs. Dylan as it was about the nature of analog recording (i.e., a relatively stable artifact) vs. digital recording (i.e., a relatively unstable artifact), no?
posted by scody at 11:48 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Ah, that might be true. Sorry, Atom Eyes.

It's interesting, though. The first thing I thought of was John Darnielle, who now (so I've heard) tends to destroy anything that isn't a master for a released album, because he doesn't trust people not to leak them. He's an intriguing case because he spans that digital divide – he was making analog tape recordings on a little boom box twenty years ago, but now does professional recordings with a full band. I guess the little analog tapes were easier to keep track of and keep to his chest, as it were. But I would bet he still has a lot of things that he hasn't released but is holding onto.
posted by koeselitz at 11:51 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I think semi-permanent (at least multi-generation) archiving of our digital media is something that people really aren't thinking enough about. How many of us have digital snapshots--not art, just snapshots, the kind you might have had boxes of before--that will never be printed? Will your grandkids be able to sift through them the way we sift through old, stuck-together photos now? Unlikely, given changing standards, local/cloud storage, password-protection, and so on.

I've got a hard disk full of masters and multitracks that won't ever be worth a lick to anybody else, but that I've thought about how to preserve. Not because they're great works (spoiler: they stink) but because somewhere down the line, somebody in the family might find them an interesting curiosity.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:57 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


It's too bad we can't have a Dylan thread without it getting derailed into whether or not we like his singing voice. There's not much left these days, but dammit, go listen to Corrina, Corrina. To me, it's a thing of singular emotional beauty that stands up to any great vocal performance of that decade. He was indeed at ease with his sining abilities, such as they were, from the very beginning.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:58 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


When asked for a quote on the finding, Dylan replied, "a hemnea humna heeem a dreeem hum nen grem dremumn."
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:00 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I think the point was less about Skrillex vs. Dylan as it was about the nature of analog recording

scody has it! But koeselitz, your reading is entirely justified. I should have used someone with less cultural baggage than Skrillex (whom I've never even heard) but I know fuck all about electronic music. Is Basement Jaxx still a thing?
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:17 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Is Basement Jaxx still a thing?

Someone should release an album called "The Basement Thumbdrives."
posted by yoink at 12:22 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Why did they need to cut a new acetate just to figure out sequencing? Couldn't they just be sending tapes back and forth?

People had cassette recorders/players but mostly not hi-fi ones yet. Dolby B was a recent development, and chromium dioxide tapes were just around the corner. If you wanted to judge the sound of a record you'd need to cut a lacquer disc.
posted by in278s at 12:41 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Acetates of the day's recording studio work were often brought home by the artist to listen to that evening/morning/weekend. They were often kept as personal archives, as well.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 12:47 PM on July 2


"Nor is it clear if anyone but the most die-hard completist would really want to own every incremental variation on the mix of a song for which we ultimately have the mix Dylan approved for release."
That's really the bottom line. I love Dylan and I love the Beatles. I can tell you that there are only so many bootleg takes of "Get Back" you can listen to before you start to dislike the song. I don't think I need to hear umpteen attempts at songs that Dylan himself didn't consider worthy of release. Historically speaking: Sure. Hold on to them and musical archivists can use them to follow the development of a song. Box set? No. Please, No.
posted by TDavis at 12:56 PM on July 2


TDavis: “I don't think I need to hear umpteen attempts at songs that Dylan himself didn't consider worthy of release.”

Well – I get that sentiment, but I feel like Bob Dylan is sort of a weird anomaly, y'know? I mean, Basement Tapes. Those are some incredibly good recordings right there, high-quality stuff that is not in any sense an inferior version of something else he "considered worth of release." It's his own thing – apparently not demos for any album, just music recorded among friends who were enjoying themselves. And yet Dylan himself never actually saw fit to release those recordings, and it was only when the bootleg tide got so thick that the record company cajoled him into doing it that he agreed and went ahead and let them make an album out of it.

That's not really the only example, either. Bob Dylan is notorious, and rightly so, for capriciously holding back really fantastic recordings, or for otherwise not caring enough to go to the trouble of securing a proper release for them. The stuff on those Bootleg Series boxes, some of it is insanely good. The Rolling Thunder tour one is, in my mind, the best thing Bob Dylan ever released, and he didn't even really release it, the record company just culled it from live recordings. There are so many hidden gems all over his unofficial output that it's impossible to write them off as mere unformed sketches. He was a guy who sometimes made sketches that were fully-formed works in their own right.

So while some stuff I'll totally agree on, and while I get the idea that sometimes this is just an exercise in futility, I get why people listen to this stuff carefully expecting to find at least a chunk of amazing music we haven't heard before.
posted by koeselitz at 1:39 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


And koeslitz, the flip side of your argument is, can you really say Dylan is an infallible judge of what material of his is worth releasing? Because "All the Tired Horses."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:18 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


"Nine or ten" scans better.

The answer, my friend,
Is nine or ten.
The answer is nine or ten.

posted by Meatbomb at 3:08 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Those are some incredibly good recordings right there, high-quality stuff that is not in any sense an inferior version of something else he "considered worth of release."

Sure, but from the article we seem to know that most of these discovered acetates are simply alternative mixes of already released material. That is, the guy who purchased them was able to listen to them and say "a-yup, that's from the recording sessions for X-already-released-Dylan-song." He says there are just a "few" cases of the recordings being of previously unreleased material.
posted by yoink at 3:41 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


This discovery should keep Old Crow Medicine Show busy for awhile.
posted by 4ster at 3:42 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Dylan? Dylan was alright. wasn't god, ya know. And god wouldn't be from Hibbing anyway, that's a laugh.

Dylan wasn't god, Clapton wasn't god. Not Hendrix either. As it turned out, not even Baba Ramdass was god.

Who the hell does that leave? Fess up, mufuh
posted by Twang at 4:14 PM on July 2


The stuff on those Bootleg Series boxes, some of it is insanely good.

Agreed. "She's Your Lover Now" ranks with his best.
posted by jonmc at 4:38 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


"All the Tired Horses." You know, I've always found that song to be intriguing and charming,
a refreshing start to an enigmatic album. You could keep everything off "Planet Waves"
except "Forever Young", though.
posted by Chitownfats at 7:45 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I mean, Basement Tapes. Those are some incredibly good recordings right there, high-quality stuff that is not in any sense an inferior version of something else he "considered worth of release." It's his own thing – apparently not demos for any album, just music recorded among friends who were enjoying themselves.

That's the official story but I've always had my doubts. According to Robert Shelton's "No Direction Home," Dylan owed Columbia 14 songs in 1967, while he was in negotiations to jump ship to MGM (which ended up not happening). Now if you look at the contents of the original Basement Tapes acetate, which surfaced on one of the early bootlegs, it consisted of 14 original tunes. That can't be a coincidence. Bob & the Band also did a lot of fooling around with old folk and blues songs, for sure, but there's a real difference between that stuff and the strong & much-covered set of classic Dylan songs, which I think were intended for his farewell-to-Columbia LP.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:50 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the time my friend Graeme belatedly realised that he owned the "mother" stampers of Elvis' 'That's All Right' and 'Mystery Train'

The night that he showed it to Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana was crazy. After the gig we went for a pizza and left the priceless rock and roll artifact in the boot of his car. Which didn't lock. He just reversed near a bush for security. He is the coolest cucumber I know.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:15 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


One thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere and I don't quite understand is where Bob Dylan himself fits in. Why doesn't he have a claim over these records? Doesn't he own copyright as the original creator? Are they no longer his because he left them behind? I would think that he or his lawyers would be unhappy about this, especially considering the fact that he never intended on these being released or even heard by anyone but him and his producer.
posted by sockermom at 8:33 AM on July 3


One thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere and I don't quite understand is where Bob Dylan himself fits in. Why doesn't he have a claim over these records?

I think he'd have the final say over whether or not anything on the records gets copied and published (and he'd get royalties if they were), but I don't think he has a say over the fate of the records themselves (he abandoned them and therefore has no ownership claim to them). But IANAL.
posted by yoink at 9:00 AM on July 3


Are there links to the recorded audio tracks anywhere that the author made digital copies of?
posted by mathowie at 11:02 AM on July 3


Gold actually commented on both the legal issue and the absence of the digital copies online in the comments on his blog:

"Bob Dylan owns the rights to the music here, and I've given his office a digital transfer of everything here. It’s his decision as to what he does with this, not mine."

Someone admonishes him and says that they would release them anyhow despite the fact that Dylan has legal rights to the material and he says further down the page:

"As someone who worked for major labels for 20 years, I’m not about to bootleg anyone–especially an artist I respect so much. Jeff Rosen does an outstanding job with Dylan’s catalog."

So, these may someday see the light of day (I'm searching for a sound metaphor here but coming up blank) in one of the many Bootleg Series discs, but maybe not. They just released Bootleg Series 10 in August 2013, which contains material from '69-'71, so it's possible that some of these will be on the next disc. I'd love to hear some of those Johnny Cash covers in particular.
posted by sockermom at 11:47 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


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