It's Bob Dylan's 80th birthday today. We're dedicating this issue of Sidecar to some of our favorite Bob Dylan pieces from the Aquarium Drunkard Archive. Let it roll, Bob.
As Dylan enters his eight decade, the internet is abuzz with countless think pieces about the songwriter’s importance. They’re trying to figure Bob Dylan out. Good luck with that. “I’d like to interview people who died leaving a great unsolved mess behind, who left people for ages to do nothing but speculate,” Bob once told an interviewer. And even as more pieces of the puzzle are filled in—the opening of the Tulsa Archive next year will provide even more data—Dylan will likely leave a great unsolved mess behind.
That’s not frustrating. It’s fun. Bob’s greatest skill may be in leaving things unfinished. It’s a lifelong strategy. “He not busy being born is busy dying,” he sang in 1965. In 1983: “Shedding off one more layer of skin/Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within.” Last year: “I ain’t no false prophet–I’m nobody’s bride /Can’t remember when I was born and I forgot when I died.”
Incompleteness is Dylan’s forte. For proof, take a look at his ongoing Bootleg Series, which kicked off 30 years ago now. Across multiple expansive boxed sets, these archival releases have provided a rich, alternate timeline of the man’s career, every disc rife with possibilities, with paths not taken, with stolen moments never to be repeated again. Incomplete, but perfect somehow. Abandoned Love, to borrow one of Bob’s castoff masterpieces.
Amazingly, The Bootleg Series isn’t even close to done yet—there are rumors that an Infidels-focused set will be released later this year. Until we know more, here’s a mix (approximately 80 minutes for Bob’s 80 years) of unreleased gems, stretching from 1973 to 2019, including studio outtakes, rehearsals, live performances and television appearances. It’s a mess. It’s beautiful.
Up next, something on the usual side: Strike Another Match: Dylan Translated, a mixtape gathering a selection of vintage Dylan covers with lyrics translated into Greek, Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, and more. Ranging from the mid-1960s to late 1970s, it’s a sweet (if occasionally disorienting) listen, as these singers attempt to force Bob into new linguistic zones.
Next up, straight from the airwaves of Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard, Pretty Good Stuff: Dylan historian James Adams’ now concluded program Pretty Good Stuff, 10 volumes of deep dives into the depths of all things Dwarf Music.
Another RFAD entry—from the May installment of our monthly broadcast on dublab, here's Tyler Wilcox with an hour’s worth of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”—is this too many “One Too Many Mornings”? Give it a try. These 14 different versions, stretching from the original recording released in early 1964 to a live tape from 1995, illustrate Dylan as an artist in constant motion.
Last summer, Dylan released his 39th album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. To commemorate, Jerry David DeCicca cracked open a bottle of Heaven's Door Straight Rye and let his mind wander toward Dylan's endless sounds and timeless imagination, sounds that can’t be taught or suppressed.
Next, we take a turn toward Blanks and Postage, author Jesse Jarnow's column of the strange and wonderful, and his look Louie Kemp’s memoir, Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures. It's built on a premise so far out that it almost requires the reader to posit an alternate universe. In Louie Kemp’s timeline, somehow, Bob Dylan is just a regular guy you can call on the phone or hang out with in the kitchen talking theology into the wee hours. In Dylan & Me, the songwriter is just a regular ol’ Bob who herds his family onto the Long Island Rail Road for a weekend in Montauk.
How about some visual Dylan? In “Tight Connection To My Heart,” director Paul Schrader envisions a glittering, metropolitan Tokyo, wrapping our hero up in a surreal web of imagery. Wide pans and sudden zooms only add to the disorienting effect, as Bob Dylan wanders the city, searching for something we wouldn’t even know how to begin to describe.
Journeyman bassist Rob Stoner has played with nearly every rock & roll legend you could name, from Dylan to Chuck Berry and Link Wray. In our 2019 interview, he shines a light on the fact, fiction, and myth of Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. “He’s always trying to put people on, to put people off his trail.”
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