Bob Dylan’s “Royal Albert Hall” concert (which actually took place at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall) is one of those seminal moments in music history that has gone down as legend. Think The Beatles’ or Elvis’ first appearances on Ed Sullivan’s stage, or Dylan’s own electric coming out at the Newport Folk Festival.
The “Royal Albert Hall” show was just one stop on that year’s tour, but the shout of “Judas!” by a fan toward the end of the show turned this particular show into an encapsulation of the atmosphere that surrounded Dylan as he embarked on this new leg of his career.
I promised to feature ‘Positively 4th Street’ and ‘Just Like a Woman’ for my sister, but I’m hedging a bit by posting a live version of the latter today. This track comes from the fourth volume of the Bootleg Series, Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert.
This concert didn’t take place at the Royal Albert Hall (as mistakenly reported at the time), but at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. This is the show that contained the infamous shout of “Judas!” from the audience.
My sister, who has been reading this blog from the beginning and listening to me talk about movies and music for more than three decades, has been a real trouper when it comes to these Dylan Weekends. She’s not the world’s biggest Dylan fan (though she likes and appreciates him) and isn’t exactly thrilled to take the scenic route through every step of the man’s career.
Recently she e-mailed me asking that I at least throw in some of the hits, “like ‘Positively 4th Street’ or ‘Just Like a Woman.’ So this weekend is for her.
My favorite tracks on Bob Dylan’s first Bootleg Series release are the demo versions of two other Blood On the Tracks classics.
The first is ‘Idiot Wind,’ which I featured on the blog nearly two years ago. That slow, aching version of a song that became so frantic and angry on the finished record, is one of the finest Dylan recordings I’ve heard.
It’s partner is today’s track, ‘Tangled Up in Blue,’ which hews closer to the final version but is equally enchanting.
For me, the biggest highlight of Volumes 1-3 of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series are the New York versions of a few Blood On the Tracks songs.
As the story goes, Dylan recorded the whole album in New York then decided at the last minute that he wasn’t happy with some of the tracks and laid down new versions in Minneapolis. Those Minneapolis recordings are the songs we all know and love from the finished album.
But the New York tracks, largely acoustic versions of such classics as ‘Tangled Up in Blue,’ ‘Idiot Wind,’ ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ and Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,’ are equally revelatory. In fact, on the whole I think I prefer those original versions to the songs on the official release.
Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 was the first box set I ever bought, and remains one of only two I own. I’ve always viewed box sets as extravagant purchases, the musical equivalent of buying a solid gold hat. Paying $50+ for something that won’t even fit on the shelf alongside your other CDs? No, thank you.
But the promise of this first set of bootleg recordings — 58 tracks spanning Dylan’s earliest days to his most recent — was too much to pass up. So I laid down my hard-earned cash and cradled that package like a newborn.
So after last week’s look at Bob Dylan’s 2009 Christmas album, I now jump 47 years back in time to a 1962 track that a young Dylan recorded for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan but wound up not including on the album.
Dylan’s Bootleg Series, which includes eight released volumes and a ninth due next month, is an extraordinary supplement to his catalog of live and studio albums. Dylan has treasure troves of unreleased material, much of which tops his official output, and it’s a treat to see those songs so lovingly resurrected.