Es el momento de retomar la idea que tuve la semana pasada (La Cocina Bien Aseada), y hablar de ese video de Dylan que mi amigo Laurent publicó en Facebook entonces. Se trataba de un vídeo oficial con material de archivo tomado de la ya clásica película de culto, “Renaldo y Clara”. La película, dirigida por Bob Dylan, se rodó en 1975 durante la gira por EE.UU. con su Rolling Thunder Revue. Se realizó al estilo “cinema verité” siguiendo la técnica de rodaje de D. A. Pennabaker para documentales basada en la teoría del Cine-Ojo de Dziga Vertov. El vídeo muestra el rostro de Dylan en primerísimo plano captado por una cámara estática.
Mi amigo introducía su publicación de esta manera: “Simplemente mirad su cara”.
Yo ya lo había visto. De hecho, lo tengo en mi colección, ya que fue incorporado al DVD incluído en la Edición Limitada del Bootleg Series Vol. 5 – Bob Dylan Live 1975 (2002)
Nunca había pensado en ello desde un punto de vista técnico, sin embargo. Pero esta vez, por alguna razón, empecé a verlo desde una perspectiva profesional, como lo haría un director de cine.
Pensé que no solo era una asombrosa versión en directo, sino que el rodaje de su actuación en tan primerísimo plano era excelente. Laurent me decía que, para ser sincero, él creía que ahí estaba la esencia misma de “His Bobness (su Majestad Bob)” ¡Jajaja! Bueno, es cierto, el plano realmente captura la esencia misma del arte interpretativo de Dylan, pero, como yo le dije, alguien tuvo que poner las luces en los lugares adecuados, emplazar la cámara en el lugar correcto… y probablemente otra persona se encargaría de la filmación de la excepcional toma con el ángulo correcto, el objetivo apropiado y la apertura del diafragma exacta. Y lo que es más, debió de ser capturada con un teleobjetivo, lo que implica que era fácil irse fuera de foco cuando el intérprete movía la cabeza, por lo que es probable que el operador de cámara tuviese que hacer un gran esfuerzo para mantener la imagen enfocada todo el tiempo. Por supuesto, el realizador fue el propio Dylan, pero supuse que debió de tener a alguien muy experto a su lado que le asesorase.
Siguiendo las indicaciones de mi amigo Laurent busqué en Google a un tal Howard Alk, editor y camarógrafo, para descubrir que era un antiguo amigo y colaborador de Dylan, responsable de la filmación y la fotografía de “Renaldo and Clara“. También trabajaron juntos en la edición de la película. Parece que, aunque sin acreditar, colaboró incluso como operador de cámara en “Dont Look Back” de Pennabaker y ayudó a Dylan en las tareas de edición de “Eat The Document“.
Fotograma del documental “Eat The Document”
Así que, respecto a las secuencias de vídeo de este “Tangled Up In Blue”, hay que concluir que Howark Alk fue brillante; alguien con habilidades sorprendentes como director de cine y como director de fotografía. Sin duda fue también un gran iluminador y operador de cámara. Esos trabajos podrían haber sido realizados por dos técnicos diferentes del equipo de cámara, pero en este caso parece que fue todo obra de Alk. Por desgracia, murió pronto, a los 52 años, en enero de 1982. Poco antes había filmado varios conciertos de la gira de Bob Dylan de 1981. Descanse en paz.
It’s time to take up the idea I had a week ago (Clean Cut Kitchen), and talk about that Dylan video my friend Laurent posted on Facebook back then. It was an official video using footage taken from the cult classic movie “Renaldo and Clara.” The film, directed by Bob Dylan, was shot in 1975 while touring the USA with his Rolling Thunder Revue. It was made in the “cinema verité” style following D.A. Pennabaker documentary shooting techniques based on Dziga Vertov‘s Kino-Eye theory. The video shows Dylan’s face in a close up taken by a static camera.
My friend introduced his post like this: “Just look at his face.”
I had already seen it. In fact, I have it in my collection as it was released on the DVD included on the Limited Edition of the Bootleg Series Vol. 5 – Bob Dylan Live 1975 (2002.)
Never thought of it from a technical point of view, though. This time, however, for some reason, I started watching it as a filmmaker, from a professional perspective.
I just thought it was not only an astonishing live version, but the filming of his performance in such a close up was superb. Laurent said to me that, to be true, this was the essence of his Bobness. Hahaha! Well, it is true, it really captured the essence of Dylan’s performing art but, as I said, someone put the lights on the right places, set the camera up in the right location… and someone else took the exceptional shoot with the right angle, the suitable objective and the accurate diaphragm aperture. What is more, it had to be taken with a teleobjective, which implied it was easy to run out of focus when the performer moved his head, so the cameraman was probably concerned to keep the image focused all the way through. Of course, the filmmaker was Dylan himself, but I guessed he must have had someone very good an expert to advice him.
Following my friend Laurent indications I googled Howard Alk, editor and cameraman, to find out he was a long time friend and collaborator of Bob Dylan, who was responsible for the filming and photography of “Renaldo and Clara.” They also worked together on the movie edition. Looks like, though uncredited, he was also a collaborator in Pennabaker’s “Don’t Look Back” and helped Dylan out with the editing task on “Eat The Document.”
So, regarding this Tangled Up In Blue video footage, we must conclude Howark Alk was brilliant; someone with amazing skills as a film maker, as cinematographer. No doubt he was also a great light operator and cameraman. Those jobs might have been made by two different fellow technicians of the camera team, but in this case it seems like it was all Alk’s work. Sadly, he died too soon, at 52, in January 1982. He had just filmed a few concerts of Bob Dylan’s 1981 tour. May he Rest In Peace.
I’m returning to my origins trying to tell the experiences and first impressions I had discovering Folk Singers such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Gordon Lightfoot and Phil Ochs. I can’t remember now how I came to get in my hands Joan Baez album titled “Farewell Angelina.” The B&W picture on the cover was showing a seductive image of a young woman with a sort of pleading expression in her face and insightful sight. She was wearing a plastic raincoat, so one might deduce the photo was taken on a rainy day (Later in 2007 I came to determine the shot took place at Newport Folk Festival on 24th July 1965, Contemporary Songs Afternoon Workshop.)
I was just a kid back then, most likely around 14, but maybe already aware of things that matter. No wonder so many things on the mentioned album called my attention. First intriguing subject I noticed was that four of the most beautiful songs on it were attributed to the same author, a certain B. Dylan. Of course I had never heard of him before and I was curious to know who he could be and what more he had ever done. I was thinking he was an old songwriter, a traditional folk singer from the 30’s. I was surprised he was just a youngman of around 20 when “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” came to my hands just a little bit later. I soon became highly interested in such kind of music, searching for everything related to Joan Baez and the artists mentioned on the back cover of that album. Next step was acquiring another LP of the so called ‘Queen Of Folk Music’. The recording was an Hispavox release titled “Lo Mejor de Joan Baez (Best of Joan Baez)” including “It Ain’t Me Babe,” one more song composed by Bob Dylan. Langstone Hughes liner notes refers to the mentioned songwriter as one of the most talented contemporary troubadours. However, the very exciting thing about this album, the most revealing listening experience through the whole LP, was the discovering of a new tune by another unknown artist, written down as P. Ochs on the back cover. It was first track of the B side and it was so beautiful you couldn’t help but stop the record player once done, try and put the needle down in the groove back to the beginning of the first track and listen to it over and over. The name of the song was “There But For Fortune”. The liner notes, oddly, did not even mention that song, nor the origin, neither anything about the composer.
One day one of my best friends came to me telling he had invitations to attend live ‘”Caravana” de Angel Álvarez’, a famous radio show by one of the best DJ’s ever in Spain, most likely the best of his time. My friend had only 3 free tickets so only 3 of us among the usual mates, including himself, had the chance and inclination to attend the program at the Radio SER network studios. So we made the appointment for the day at issue and we met earlier that morning not to miss the show. That was an eventful morning. Angel Alvarez, whose true profession was that of a radio operator on Iberia flights, took advantage of his trips to New York to bring us those magnificent musical jewels, new sounds that made the country wake up and change the pace of our nation. We sat on one of the first few rows. The show began and there he was, with a Long Play on his hands and a gentle deep voice like cotton candy on stormy weather, announcing that he was going to play for us, for the first time in our country, just one track of a remarkable album by Phil Ochs, the outstanding folk singer of the Greenwich Village scene. He warned the attendees that many of us among the audience would already know Joan Baez’s cover of the song, but the heartfelt version by the composer himself would most likely become poignant even for those listeners who knew it first in Joan Baez’s voice. He carefully put the disc on the turntable and dropped the needle on the groove. Listening to it was a revelation. We had a feeling that something was happening and just like new born souls felt touched by the depth of Ochs’ performance. The piece had an emotional meaning for us and it was creating a bond of sympathy between us and the man who wrote it, the same soulful guy who was singing for us through the speakers of the radio set.
Our first thoughts, at the very moment Ochs’s voice was surrounding us, were about the privilege to be there, being the chosen ones allowed to listen to such a gem, and, immediately, about what else we could discover about him.
It was difficult at the time to find information on protest singers or artists fighting pro civil rights, but we managed to get some knowledge regarding Phil Ochs works and facts.
He used to be among the crowd Bob Dylan was in, both of them performing in the Village at Gerde’s Folk City, Gaslight and other clubs in the same area. They soon became good friends, though they later had also some pronounced misunderstanding and disappointments at times. They even felt a certain rivalry. It’s been said that at one point Phil Ochs could have felt peeved by the success and fortune Dylan and others had gained. We have now reasons to believe he was a wounded soul divided between honesty, devotion for the truth or any altruistic cause and eagerness for fame and recognition.
Anyway, the comparisons between them were unavoidable in the early 60’s. Even if Phil Ochs might sometimes turn out disadvantaged in that confrontation, the fact is that he was actually the true voice of a young generation’s protest. While Bob Dylan was a poet able to open our minds to a different world, looking at it with new eyes to find a philosophical truth, Phil Ochs was more a journalist, but one who would provide us awareness of the events with an angry, driving, urgent passion. Actually, Ochs was also a minstrel. His work sheds light on what is wrong in the world and how we could help make it right.
For what we know the singer/songwriter from El Paso was a talented lyricist with sardonic sense of humor and an insisting voice wanting to be heard, as Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra Records, said. Ochs main virtues as a performer were a fantastic sense of rhythm, vibrant guitar picking and a especially haunting diaphanous ringing voice. His deep passion that he would drive through neatness, wit and conviction, could always transcend his technical and vocal skills, though.
“Another Side Of Bob Dylan” release meant a step in a different direction for the musician from Minnesota. Dylan leaves his convictions regarding the fight for the civil rights and becomes more intimate, surrealistic and concerned about soul’s issues. Phil Ochs, instead, remains faithful to his beliefs, defending his ideals, becoming the voice of the oppressed ones. The assassination of three civil right workers in 1964 inspired one of Phil Ochs’ angriest ballads, “Here’s To the State of Mississippi.” As the Vietnam War raged he dedicated himself fierily to his political activism, writing generational anthems like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” protesting and leading the crowd in demonstrations against the war.
He had also a keen musical instinct to create insightful ballads that have already become part of our collective memory, mainly the widely praised “Changes,” and the haunting “When I’m Gone,” which, far from setting down his last will, meant a commitment to take advantage of the time left for him, as if he already knew he wouldn’t last long. But things changed all of a sudden. Dylan’s move to electrified rock and The Beatles psychedelic success likely made some negative impact on him. Whatever happened, looks like he had come to a turning point. Maybe he was disillusioned because of his lack of a big hit, a success which was denied for him that other singers of his generation were enjoying. His new releases included compositions of outstanding lyrical beauty, such as “The Flower Lady” and the melancholy “Pleasures of The Harbor,” reportedly inspired by John Wayne’s movie, “The Long Voyage Home,” but the overly orchestrated arrangements were bleak and turned out outdated.
Years later of our discovering of his performing art, one of my brothers bought in the USA an album by Ochs titled “Rehearsals For Retirement”, which I loved from the beginning, especially the title song. That particular track contained a heartfelt statement of intents, a manifesto against the consumer society with the will to leave this world in which someone like him did not seem to fit. I don’t know why I thought the album was a posthumous release, published after his death. Maybe I was misled by Phil Ochs graveyard portrayed in the front cover. My mistaken idea was also reinforced by the requiem of the title song, a stirring melody with pessimistic lyrics about the end that’s looming. However, the “topical singer,” as he liked to call himself, died by his hand in 1976, though the LP was released in 1969. Looks like the reason why for this cover was his deception because of the events at the Yippies’ “Festival of Life,” one of the many demonstrations outside the Democratic convention, in which he was one of the organizers. It happened in Chicago in 1968. He was caught in the standoff between peaceful protesters and the boundless charge of a police brigade, a clash that resulted in a huge mess of lavish bullets, teargas and beatings. Many people were arrested, including Phil Ochs. For someone as sensitive as Phil was that was a devastating experience leading him to use on the cover of his next album a picture of a gravestone engraved with his name professing his death happening in Chicago in 1968.
After the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, added to the debacle of the police riot, he became depressed and progressively affected by bipolar disorder, compounded by a severe case of alcoholism. Also his political involvement and existential bitterness caused him serious troubles, being arrested In Uruguay at a political rally in 1971 and again in Argentina. While touring South America he met Chilean singer Victor Jara and they became good buddies.
Pinochet’s military coup forced Allende from power in 1973. With president Allende already dead, Jara, along with thousands of other victims suspicious of activism, was brought to a giant stadium where he remained arrested and tortured for 4 days. They kept him on a corridor in the basement under close surveillance. On the 5th day, brought up to the stadium, soldiers beat him brutally and trashed his hands with rifle butts. The putschists guards mocked him telling “Sing now, if you can!” Then he was ordered to sing. Jara stood up with bloodied hands and led thousands of other prisoners in singing the anthem of Allende’s unity party. Then they peppered him down in the basement corridors, along with the director of the State Railway Company. His body was thrown into some bushes near the Metropolitan Cemetery and found 3 days later with 44 bullets on it. News broke Ochs’s heart and clouded his mind. He went nuts, but still was able to regain some willingness and put his soul and understanding to serve another noble cause organizing “An Evening with Salvador Allende,” a Friends of Chile Benefit Concert. He invited Bob Dylan to take part of the event, performing at the Felt Forum in New York. While they were so drunk during the show that they could hardly sing at times, the benefit became a complete success, thanks to Dylan’s involvement. In fact it was also the first time people publicly announced that the CIA was likely behind the Chilean coup, planned and financed by the Nixon administration.
Phil Ochs & Bob Dylan at Friends of Chile Benefit Concert May 9th, 1974
Unfortunately, while visiting Africa in 1973, he was assaulted by a thief, who strangled him damaging his vocal cords.
He still played a few shows yet, even became part of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue for a short time. Reportedly, he was filmed doing four songs for “Renaldo and Clara” that were never used in the final cut of Dylan’s film.
Returning home his behavior became increasingly erratic. He alarmed friends with paranoid delusions about CIA plots against him [Although that certainly was not going totally misguided, since recordings of his made by the FBI as part of the corresponding investigation file were found later.] There was even a time when his rant came to the point that he invented an alternative identity, calling himself by another name for months. During that time he used to live out on the street, saying he had killed Phil Ochs and had impersonated his identity.
Finally, in 1976, he did it: he killed Phil Ochs. He hanged himself up with a belt in his sister’s house in Far Rockaway, Queens, in New York City. Perhaps he never got to see that “young land with so many reasons why”, but he was able to show us a country ravaged by bombs and ruins of buildings once so tall; And he sowed in us the hope that one day a young land, where we could live in peace, would be shown to us mortals who look at the world with clean eyes… there but for fortune, may go you or I.
Traigo aquí, como introducción, el primer artículo que escribí para la revista monográfica Desolation Post, consagrada a Bob Dylan (Nº4, Febrero 2007):
La Cripta del Chamán
Iniciamos aquí esta sección dedicada a fomentar el coleccionismo e informar de las fuentes, antecedentes y medios para lograr una primera selección de grabaciones imprescindibles y orientar a los aficionados sobre cómo, dónde y qué buscar para ampliar sus colecciones o iniciarse en este mundo plagado de archivos, cifras y códigos, en el que se encuentran las esencias, o al menos porciones sustanciosas, de aquello que aún permanece oculto en la cripta del Chamán.
Cuando uno termina por admirar sin reservas la figura y el trabajo de alguien tan lúcido, inclasificable y enigmático como Bob Dylan, no puede evitar intentar acaparar toda su obra, o al menos aquella que ya ha sido editada oficialmente. Pero si un día alcanzas a juntar toda su discografía oficial (difícilmente toda, pero sí la aún catalogada y todavía disponible) y tienes la fortuna de entender el arte del judío en directo y disfrutar de su talento para recrear cada noche sobre el escenario su propio mundo y el de sus viejas, nuevas y no tan nuevas canciones, sin duda te verás abocado a intentar descifrar algo de ese mundo y coleccionar todos y cada uno de los conciertos que el juglar de Minnesota ha ido ofreciendo a lo largo de su carrera, descubrir cada día una nueva versión o hallar una interpretación sublime que colme tu necesidad de emociones. Un solo de armónica, un único y singular fraseo, un riff de guitarra, unos cuantos y arrebatadores acordes, cualquier cosa que llene el vacío que deja en el alma la ausencia prolongada de un Dylan nuevo y misterioso, un tan imitado como inimitable creador con el imprevisible don de aunar la belleza desnuda, e indómita, y la furia de la razón, en medio de la locura, porque uno ha llegado a entender al fin que sus canciones, así como cada una de sus interpretaciones, no son sino mapas de carretera para el alma, torrentes de emociones de una riqueza tal que te mueve a reconsiderar tu propio sentido de la percepción y te anima a buscar, poseer y completar todo lo que dejó tras de sí y lo que está por llegar, porque no basta con alguna, unas cuantas, muchas, las más logradas o las menos conocidas versiones, uno acaba necesitando todas para intentar abarcar al genio.
Dicen de Bob que cuenta con varias cámaras acorazadas donde conserva todo el material que su gente ha ido grabando durante toda su trayectoria artística. Miles y miles de kilómetros de cinta con cantidad de material obtenido de los conciertos que ha celebrado hasta la fecha ¿Será cierto? Si así fuera, ese sería el sueño de todo coleccionista dedicado a su obra, conseguir todas aquellas grabaciones y guardarlas en su propia cripta para escucharlas en la intimidad, conservándolas como oro en paño entre los muros de su templo privado. Pero si no dudo que el propio Dylan debe tener buena parte de su mejor obra en vivo grabada por sus acólitos y mantenida a buen recaudo, lo que ya me parece menos verosímil es que el alcance de ese material llegue a cubrir todos y cada uno de los conciertos que a lo largo de la historia ha dado el de Duluth. Sin embargo existen grabaciones realizadas desde la audiencia de gran parte de su obra en los escenarios, prácticamente toda desde el 1974 en adelante, material más que suficiente de los 60, principalmente del 63 al 66, y un gran número de grabaciones tomadas de la mesa de mezclas (Soundboard). Todas esas grabaciones, tanto realizadas desde la audiencia, como extraídas de la mesa de sonido, serán el objetivo de nuestro estudio y nuestros anhelos.
Para empezar con una o varias listas de los imprescindibles, como la mayoría de vosotros ya sabréis, basta con tener acceso a internet y obtener la lista de los “must have” (los que hay que poseer) de la ya famosa página de Craig Pinkerton donde se hace recuento de aquellas ediciones extraoficiales que contienen las más impresionantes grabaciones y remasterizaciones de los conciertos legendarios o las interpretaciones más destacables del judío errante. Otra de estas listas a considerar es la muy recomendable de John Howell que enumera aquellos conciertos de los que existe una grabación decente, o hasta excelente en muchos casos, que desde un punto de vista personal y subjetivo merecen ser escuchados al menos una vez por todo buen aficionado; También interesantes las recomendaciones de Paul Williams y Clinton Heylin, por supuesto. La documentación más exhaustiva y generalmente fiable acerca de los conciertos, actuaciones y sesiones de grabación celebradas por la figura más influyente del rock se encuentra en los archivos de Olof Björner, que la gran mayoría ya conoceréis. Grandes coleccionistas que son y han sido de la ingente y asombrosa obra en directo del amigo Zimmerman cito aquí a continuación como fuente de información, origen y actual documentación de una gran parte de la obra grabada durante el último cuarto del siglo pasado y los años previos. Se trata de figuras tan relevantes para el estudio, recopilación, documentación y valoración del legado interpretativo de la pequeña gran maravilla blanca, como Les Kokay, Michael Krogsgaard, Glen Dundas, Jeff Friedman o Bill Pagel (autor de la inevitable página Bob Links), todos ellos investigadores, recopiladores y la gran mayoría autores de las más destacables grabaciones que uno pueda encontrar de algunos de los períodos míticos en la historia de Dylan y por tanto del rock.
Les Kokay publicó en el 2000 su catálogo de todas las grabaciones de la gira de 1974, “Bob Dylan/The Band (A Collectors Guide to the 74 Tour), actualizado en 2005, que el consiguió recopilar y remasterizar en gran medida, gracias a lo cual han llegado hasta nosotros en un estado todavía aceptable, algunas de ellas (pocas desde luego) excelentes registros para la época. Sin embargo, cita en el encabezamiento a Clinton Heylin, como forma de reconocimiento a la aportación de este autor, con una afirmación que no es del todo incierta pero que yo no comparto, “There are two problems with the 1974 tour: the tapes are crap and Dylan’s performances are crap.” – C. Heylin, Telegraph 32 pag 86. Las cintas son en su mayoría de una calidad lamentable, eso es indiscutible, pero no así las interpretaciones del furibundo artista de Columbia que, si bien es cierto cantaba y tocaba su guitarra, o se sentaba al piano, en un estado probablemente resacoso cuando no directamente bajo la influencia del alcohol u otras sustancias tóxicas, de lo que no cabe duda es que su desinhibida entrega y alto grado de emotividad resultan hoy sobrecogedores. Para muestra tenemos el “Before The Flood”, la edición oficial de la gira que contiene en mi opinión una de las mejores versiones en directo del clásico “Just Like A Woman”, puro fuego y tormenta clamorosa de lluvia purificadora antes del diluvio. También es de obligada escucha el concierto íntegro del que se extrajeron algunas de las pistas de ese disco oficial (entre ellas ese Just Like A Woman), del 14 de Febrero de 1974 en el Forum de Los Angeles, sesión de tarde, que contiene otra autentica pieza maestra del arte interpretativo del autor de Like A Rolling Stone, una imprevisible y subyugante “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” que deja al atento oyente tan desconcertado como lleno de admiración. El imprescindible “bootleg” que incluye la grabación obtenida de la mesa de mezclas de este impresionante e irrepetible concierto es el titulado “Paint The Daytime Black” de Q Records ediciones (Ref.: QR 23/24).
Otro disco imprescindible de esta trascendental gira que uno podrá ver incluído en la correspondiente lista de Bobsboots es el “Oakland Flood”, primero de los dos conciertos del Alameda County Coliseum de Oakland, California del 11 de Febrero de 1974. El sonido es de mesa y ciertamente esplendido, aunque defectuoso en ocasiones debido a daños irreparables en la cinta. Contiene una extraordinaria y vibrante versión de la siempre magnífica y en cierto sentido apocalíptica, “Gates Of Eden”. Para no perdérsela. Existe además un recopilatorio de la gira, obra de Ronnie Z, reconocible por su apodo, Barefoot, y difundido posteriormente por Stewart (Stew711), cuyo título “Sound The Battle Charge” recoge muchas de las más intensas y emocionantes interpretaciones de algunas de sus canciones durante aquél período, especialmente algunas de su álbum “Planet Waves” (Inmediatamente posterior al comienzo de la gira), que no ha vuelto a hacer en directo desde entonces, como por ejemplo “Wedding Song”, “Something There Is About You” del citado álbum , y la excelente y conmovedora “Nobody ‘Cept You”. Cómo Dylan canta en esa actuación del 4 de Enero en Chicago esta lúgubre, sombría y existencial, pero altamente apasionada declaración de amor nunca publicada oficialmente hasta 1991 (“Bootleg Series Vol.1-3, Rare and Unreleased”) es algo que estremecería a cualquier alma sensible. Todas ellas vieron su debut durante los primeros conciertos de su vuelta a los escenarios en Enero del 74, como anticipo del hoy infravalorado LP que paradójicamente llegó a ser el primero del artista en alcanzar el Nº1 en USA en las listas de ventas.
El propio Les Kokay publica también su guía “Songs of the Underground (A Collectors Guide to the Rolling Thunder Revue 1975-1976)” en 2003 y en ella encontramos la documentación relativa a ambas partes de la gira RTR, tanto la del 75 como la del 76, los conciertos celebrados y todo el material disponible. La guía del 74 traía incluso una dirección de correo electrónico donde contactar con el autor. Desconozco si aquella dirección sigue estando vigente, pero hoy en día estas grabaciones han circulado ampliamente y no resulta difícil para cualquier aficionado hacerse con cualquiera de ellas, incluso corregidas y aumentadas, y hasta reparadas, ya que la reproducción o transferencia a disco digital de alguna de ellas corría a diferente velocidad que la del equipo de grabación original (magnetofones Niagra, por lo general) y otras, incompletas, se han ido completando con los años mezclando diferentes fuentes.
De los años previos, cintas de las grabaciones Pre-Columbia realizadas por amigos y colegas del propio Bob, las Gleason Tapes o las archireproducidas Minnesota Hotel Tapes, así como de los conciertos de los 60 y la documentada trasgresión del Folk con su conversión al Rock de acompañamiento eléctrico y su adopción de la cultura pop, hasta el dramático episodio del accidente de moto que truncara su carrera en la cumbre de la fama tras la gira del 66, daremos cuenta en un próximo capítulo y comentaremos los más destacables registros, las grabaciones coleccionables, tanto descartes de las sesiones oficiales de grabación como conciertos y títulos de los “Bootlegs” correspondientes y todo lo referente al material existente en circulación.
I’m bringing here, as an introduction, the first article I wrote for the monographic magazine “Desolation Post”, devoted to Bob Dylan (#4, February 2007):
The Shaman’s Vault
We start this dedicated section here to encourage collecting activities and provide information about the sources, antecedents and means to obtain a first selection of essential recordings. So this is meant to orient the fans on how, where and what to look for to extend their collections or to begin in this world plagued of archives, numbers and codes. I’m referring to a world in which the essences of what still remains hidden in the Shaman’s vault reside. When someone finally comes to admire without reserves the works and figure of somebody as illuminated and visionary, unclassifiable and enigmatic as Bob Dylan is, he can hardly avoid to try and monopolize all his work, or at least all that has already been officially released. But if one day you come to get all his official material (hardly everything, but still catalogued and available) and have the fortune to understand the live art of the gifted songwriter, you will want to go further. If you enjoy his talent to recreate his own world every evening on stage and the universe of his old, new and not so new songs, without a doubt you will be led to try to decipher something out of that world. That will make you eager to collect all and each one of the many concerts the minstrel of Minnesota has been offering throughout his entire career. You will want anything to help you discover every day a new version or find some sublime performance that could eventually quench your need for emotions. It could be a harmonica solo, just a singular phrasing, a guitar’s riff, a few captivating chords, anything that fills up the emptiness inside your soul due to the prolonged absence of a new and mysterious Dylan. A dedicated collector might soon become fascinated, yearning for anything related to such an imitated yet inimitable creator with the unforseeable gift to combine the naked and untamed beauty, and the fury of reason, in the middle of madness. All of this happens because one has come to understand that his songs, as well as each one of his performances, are nothing but roadmaps for the soul, flooding torrents of wealthy emotions that moves you to reconsider your own sense of perception. There’s always something that animates you to look for and search, to catch them all and complete everything that’s been left behind him and what is about to come. Because it’s never enough with some, a few, many, the best achivements or the less known versions, one ends up needing all of them to try and totally include the whole genius.
They say that Bob owns several armored vaults where he keeps all the stuff his crew has been recording all along his artistic trajectory. It would include thousands and thousands of miles of tape with endless footage obtained from the concerts he has already celebrated to date. Could it be true? If so, it would be the dream of every collector dedicated to his work, to obtain all those recordings and keep them in his own vaults to listen to them privately. One would want to preserve them like gold in cloth between the walls of his private temple. I do not doubt Dylan himself must have a good part of the best work he’s done, live recorded by his acolytes and carefully maintained under lock and key. But what seems to me less probable yet is that the reach of that material covers each and every one of the shows the icon from Duluth has given throughout history. Nevertheless audience recordings of a great part of his work on stage exists. We may certainly find practically everything from 1974 on, more than sufficient stuff of the 60’s (mainly from 63 to 66) and a great number of soundboard recordings.
All these recordings, either taped from the audience or extracted soundboard, will be the subject of our study and our yearnings.
In order to begin with one or several lists of the essential ones, as most of you might already know, having access to the Internet would be enough to obtain the “must have” selection off the famous Craig Pinkerton’s website http://www.bobsboots.com. Here a list can be found including a one-by-one description of those unofficial editions. The complete site is a huge catalog of bootlegs containing the most impressive recordings and remastered works of legendary shows or more remarkable performances of the nomadic artist. Another one of these lists to be considered is the very recommendable one of John Howell. His project enumerates those shows for which a decent recording exists, or even excellent in many cases. They are those that from a personal and subjective point of view deserve to be listened to, at least once, by every good fan. Also interesting are the recommendations by Paul Williams or Clinton Heylin. The most exhaustive and generally trustworthy documentation about the concerts, performances and recording sessions made by the most influential figure of Rock might be found in Olof Björner’s archives. Great collectors of the enormous and amazing live work of our friend Zimmerman will be mentioned next. Their work should be taken as an origin, information source and present documentation of a great part of the works recorded during the last quarter of the last century and the previous years. We are talking about excellent researchers for the study, compilation, documentation and evaluation of the performing art’s legacy of the little great white wonder, such as Les Kokay, Michael Krogsgaard, Glen Dundas, Jeff Friedman or Bill Pagel (author of the unavoidable site Bob Links). All of them investigators, compilers and most likely authors themselves of the most remarkable live recordings one can find of the mythical periods in Dylan’s history and therefore of Rock.
Kokay published in 2000 his own catalogue of the complete recordings of the 1974 tour, “Bob Dylan/The Band (A Collectors Guide to the 74 Tour)”, updated in 2005, which he compiled and remastered to a great extent. So, thanks to him they have finally arrived to us in a still acceptable condition, some of them (few of course) excellent registries for the time. Nevertheless, in the heading he quotes Clinton Heylin, as a form of recognition to the contribution of this author, with a statement that is not totally wrong but I do not share it, “There are two problems with the 1974 tour: the tapes are crap and Dylan’s performances are crap.” – C. Heylin, Telegraph 32 pag 86. The tapes are in their great majority of a lamentable quality, that is unquestionable, but instead I believe the performances of the furious artist of Columbia are quite convincing. Although he most likely sang and played his guitar, or sat at the piano, in a post-moonshine state when not completely under the influence of the alcohol or any other intoxicating substances, we can tell he was fervent and still focused. For that matter, I think there is no doubt that his uninhibited delivery and high degree of emotional load turns out to be now a terrific moving experience. For instance we’ve got “Before The Flood”, the official edition of the tour containing, in my opinion, one of the best live versions ever of the classic “Just Like A Woman”, true fire and clamorous storm of purifying rain just before the flood. It is also obligatory to listen to the complete concert from which some of the tracks on the official disc were extracted (among them the mentioned Just Like A Woman). I’m talking about February 14th, 1974 at The Forum in Los Angeles, late show, which contains another true masterpiece of the performing art from the author of Like A Rolling Stone. An unexpected and subduing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” that leaves the kind listener disturbed as well as full of admiration. The essential bootleg that includes the soundboard recording of this impressive and unique concert is the one titled “Paint The Daytime Black” of Q Record editions (ref: QR 23/24). Another essential disc of this transcendental tour that one should be able to find included in the corresponding Bobsboots list is “Oakland Flood”, first of both shows at the Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California on February 11th, 1974. The sound is PA and splendid, although certainly defective sometimes due to irreparable damages on the tape. It contains an extraordinary and vibrant version of the always magnificent and in a certain sense apocalyptic, “Gates of Eden.” Not to be missed. There also exists in addition a compilation of the tour, work by Ronnie Z, who should be easily recognized by his nickname, Barefoot. This compilation, whose title “Sound The Battle Charge” gathers many of the most intense and exciting performances of some of his songs during the period, was later spread by Stewart (Stew711). I would especially mention some of them from his album “Planet Waves” (immediately subsequent to the beginning of the tour). I mean songs that he has never done live again since then, like “Wedding Song” for instance, “Something There Is About You” off the mentioned album, and the excellent and stirring “Nobody ‘Cept You” never officially released until 1991 (“Bootleg Series Vol.1-3, Rare and Unreleased”.) The way Dylan sings in that performance of January 4th in Chicago this dismal, shady and existential, but highly enthusiastic declaration of love, is something that would shake any sensitive soul. All of them saw their debut during the first concerts of his return to the stage in January 1974, in advance of the nowadays underrated LP that paradoxically got to be first from the artist to reach Nº1 in the USA top sales lists.
Les Kokay himself also publishes his guide “Songs of the Underground (A Collectors Guide to the Rolling Thunder Revue 1975-1976)” in 2003. In it we found documentation relative to both parts of RTR tour, the concerts and all the available material. Nowadays these recordings have been widely circulating and wouldn’t be difficult for any fan to acquire them. They have been now corrected, even completed and also repaired, since the reproduction or transference to digital disc of some of them ran at different speed than the equipment used for the original recording (Nagra Tape recorders, usually.) Others that were incomplete have been completed through the years mixing different sources.
As for the previous years, tapes from pre-Columbia recordings made by friends and Bob own’s colleagues, the Gleason Tapes or the multi-reproduced Minnesota Hotel Tape, as well as many of the concerts from the 60’s, we will give account in a next chapter. On subsequent issues we will continue through the documented transgression of Folk, his conversion to electrified Rock and his adoption of pop culture, until the dramatic episode of the motorcycle accident. All of this will be main subject of future installments of this section and we will comment on the most remarkable captures, the collectable recordings, corresponding outtakes of the official recording sessions, concerts, titles of bootlegs and everything referring to the existing material in circulation.