Bob Dylan: 1970

Three CD set, Columbia / Sony 2021

The Bootleg series lingers on. Or does it? I would have called it The Bootleg Series #16, but that appears nowhere on the disc or sleeve note. That’s because it’s not part of the series.

It’s a reissue of Sony’s 50th Anniversary Collection: 1970. These issues are put out to extend the term of copyright – after fifty years unissued tracks fall out of copyright, so Sony periodically issue a Dylan round up of unissued material.

The original CD release … 3 CDs

They don’t need to make many and they don’t. They release them unannounced to very few stores, in this case the UK store, Badlands, where they sell out in a day and then change hands for four figure sums. This time, interest was such that they decided to put it out. It’s in chronological order of recording (one track shifted from the Copyright Extension version) and contains all the viable takes of a song even if they differ little, and they are placed in order of recording, so not necessarily together. It seems unfair that you need to issue every take for copyright. I wonder even if you do have to. It’s like saying the final draft of a novel before the last spelling and punctuation check is not copyright.

The UNCUT review of the set:

All that activity, achieved in 10 sessions between March and August 1970, resulted in some of his most widely reviled music. He even reviled it himself, with brisk thoroughness, in the pages of Chronicles Vol 1: “I just threw whatever I could think of at the wall and whatever stuck, released it.” So much for Self Portrait. He was barely kinder to New Morning, even though it was hailed in some quarters as a return to the truth path: “Maybe there were good songs in the grooves and maybe there weren’t – who knows? But they weren’t the kind where you hear an awful roaring in your head. I knew what those kind of songs were like and these weren’t them.The 74 tracks included in these three CDs, recorded at 10 separate sessions between March and August, are not the work of a man gripped by inspiration. In scale they range from isolated fragments to several absorbing takes of a song – “Went To See The Gypsy” – on its way to near-greatness.
Richard Williams, UNCUT 13 March 2021

The first surprise is that ANYTHING is left at all from the era. We had Self Portrait in 1970. Then we had New Morning. We had the “revenge” album from Columbia / CBS when Dylan departed for Asylum, Dylan in 1973. Then we had the big and beautiful box set Another Self Portrait (The Bootleg Series Volume 10) in 2013.


We’re at the Self Portrait / New Morning interface, and I believe both were seriously under-rated at the time, and critics spill surprising ire on New Morning. I loved it and still do, and in Conor McPherson’s recent stage play Girl From The North Country the opening songs are Sign On A Window and Went To See The Gypsy.

So we’re at that same location between the two albums, with multiple takes of New Morning songs, other versions of Self Portrait tracks, and Thirsty Boots which was released as a single in 2013 to accompany the Another Self Portrait release.

“Three and a half hours of unreleased outakes that recount the development in those two albums.”
Sleeve notes by Michael Simmons

I like the sleeve notes title line, which echoes that 1970 Rolling Stone review of Self Portrait: What is this shit? by Greil Marcus:


The main selling point here is GEORGE HARRISON in caps, just as Johnny Cash was on Travelin’ Thru on The Bootleg Series Vol. 15. There’s very little of him, and both shared many bootlegs over the years.


Session credits are listed in the booklet.

Charlie Daniels: I was sitting around the hotel room in New York when Bob called and asked me if I’d like to come down to Columbia Studios and play bass on an impromptu recording session with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and a studio drummer named Russ Kunkel.  Of course, I wanted to, and the four of us spent a relaxed and pleasant day just doing whatever song Dylan felt like doing. We cut old songs and new songs, none of which could be released by Columbia Records because George Harrison didn’t have current working papers.
Steve Hoffman Forums online

Significantly George Harrison could not be credited on any tracks at the time as he had no work permit. That leads me to question the attribution on this set. I’d assume, given the strict chronology, no overdubbing, and the presence of piano (played by Dylan) that George Harrison is the lead guitarist on most of the 1st May 1970 recordings, whether credited or not.

1970 credits on exhumed tape boxes and session sheets are not Holy Writ. In those days a combination of artiste’s exclusive contracts with other labels, Musician Union regulations, and issues with work permits meant that they are not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Someone of George Harrison’s status did not need to be paid for a session anyway, and session sheets were for Musician’s Union and payment. As with so many tradesmen, some may prefer cash in hand and no credit (and no tax). Other times people do a favour for friends because they’re just visiting the studio, and don’t get paid or listed. John Wetton told me after he left Family he called in to see them recording It’s Only A Movie LP and while there on a social visit, played uncredited and unpaid bass on one track, to save them the trouble of overdubbing.

In the mid-90s Michael Krosgaard examined Columbia session sheets for Dylan magazine The Telegraph, and said that for example the lead guitar on Visions of Johanna is not Robbie Robertson because he is not listed on the session sheet. The argument went back and forth on The Band website until someone resolved it simply by contacting Al Kooper who was there on the day, and was with Robbie. Al Kooper confirmed that it WAS Robbie Robertson, just as your ears will tell you. Forget dates. Forget written records.

Bootleg versions of much of this were rife, so Dylanologists have commented. It’s said that Ron Cornelius was on more tracks than he’s credited for. Al Kooper adds on the early and late sessions (he was not there on 1st May):

Al Kooper
For the project Bob Johnston, Dylan’s producer, assembled a cast of players at the studios in New York including Ron Cornelius on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass and Russ Kunkel on drums. But after two or three sessions, Johnston stopped showing up. Just like that. When things were disorganized in the studio, I used to jump into the fray instinctively in hopes of getting a runaway session together. And that’s what I did here. I called some more musicians in, rearranged some songs, and even had a sweetening session with horns and strings (never released). I brought in Buzzy Feiten and David Bromberg on guitars, Harvey Brooks on bass and Billy Mundi on drums. I also hired my usual female backup singers, this being perhaps Bob’s first recorded instance of using this type of accompaniment.
Al Kooper Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, 1998.

On 1970, Feiten and Brooks re only credited on 12th August (but of course what we have here is UNRELEASED tracks, not the eventual New Morning.

Dylan called Kooper to ask what credit he wanted on the album and said it could not be ‘Producer’ because of the contract with Bob Johnson and CBS. Kooper asked for “Special thanks.”


I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound
Really excellent, but he gives up after just 37 seconds. It sounds like the first two albums, but with added guitar from David Bromberg. A Tom Paxton song, and a pity for Tom Paxton he never finished it and put it on Self Portrait.

Universal Soldier
This is a Buffy Sainte Marie song from 1965. However, for British listeners it was inextricably the title track of a best-selling Donovan EP. We all enjoyed Bob calmly taking the piss out of Donovan on Don’t Look Back. I recall seeing Tangerine Eyes on TV at the time and thinking, ‘Why doesn’t someone just say, Hey darling, Tangerine Eyes? that’s Mr Tambourine Man, you prat.’ I don’t think Bob is taking the piss here (Buffy Sainte Marie being an icon) but he gets fed up of it after a minute. 3 March 1970

Spanish Is The Loving Tongue
Set to re-surface on 1973’s Dylan. A sincere rendition, I’d say with just Bob, David Bromberg on guitar and Al Kooper on piano. 3 March 1970

Went To See The Gypsy Take 2, Take 3
Easily one of my favourite Dylan songs, even more so after the stage play Girl From The North Country. These are labelled Take 2, Take 3, Take 4. Take 2 plods on the bass and drums. Take 3 adds harmonica at the start. Neither are anywhere as good as the New Morning version, though Bob has the lyric and mood down. Take 4 keeps the harmonica. Al Kooper’s organ is higher in the mix, recorded a day later. The bass guitar (Stu Woods) and drums (Alvin Rogers) still don’t impress me.

Woogie Boogie
Working it out on piano and guitar. Just a demo.

Went To See The Gypsy Take 4
Strict chronology splits it from the other two.

Thirsty Boots (Take 1)

1966 LP, Vanguard USA

Eric Anderson’s Thirsty Boots would have been a major song, one of the very best, if it had made it to Self Portrait (and probably have changed Eric Anderson’s financial situation too.) It’s a superb song which Anderson recorded in 1965 and released on ’bout Changes & Things in 1966. This Dylan version just as good on this take as on Take 2 on Another Self Portrait and the 2013 single.

The 2013 single release

Little Moses (Take 1)
Incredible. For the third session of 5th March, three female vocalists were along: Hilda Harris, Albertine Robinson and Maeretha Stewart. This could have gone on the album (like All The Tired Horses) if he’d finished. They are having a LOT of infectious fun. This is a 1929 Carter Family classic and they’re hokey-ing it up as a novelty kiddy song. This is full of humour but falls apart in giggles. A huge loss!

Little Moses: The Carter Family, Victor 1929

Alberta Take 2
Both versions on Self-Portrait are great. So is this one, equally so. The bass works this time too.

Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies
This Appalachian ballad (aka Little Sparrow) was done on The Basement Tapes, though an official version had to wait for the box sets. The Basement Tapes version comes on CD6 of the complete set … that’s the bonus CD of the roughest recordings. Bob (or one of the others) is taking the piss out of the Joan Baez high soprano voice.

This has violin from Emanuel Green. This is better than the Basement versions, with those backing girls again. Pete Seeger did it. Joan Baez did it … The Carter Family, Dave Van Ronk, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy,. Odetta, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio … it is one of the most ubiquitous folk songs of all. Days of 61 for Bob, indeed. Though here it gets a way fuller treatment. The drums are loud, sharp, upfront. The bass burbles nicely. Lovely instrumental break from David Bromberg. It’s surprising that this long (4m 56s) and complete version never got used as on some other tracks we know he’s playing around, but this seems a conscious effort to get it down properly. It has a proper finish too (not a given).

Things About Comin’ My Way
In the 2000s we found out that Dylan loved the Mississippi Sheiks, and this is one of their great blues songs. It was first recorded by Sam Hill in 1931. The guitar embellishments by David Bromberg make it special.

I Went To See The Gypsy Take 6
The chronology is really for OCD Dylanologists. I bet Clinton Heylin loves it. Getting nearer.

Untitled 1970 Instrumental
An inaccurate title as Dylan Da da das merrily throughout, with a definite melody. I’d say backing track for a song he hasn’t done the lyric for yet. Maybe, just maybe, another attempt (Wigwam) to prove he is not just a lyric writer.

Come A Little Bit Closer Take 2

Come A Little Bit Closer: UK EP release, 1965, United Artists

This was a major US hit in 1964 (US #3) for Jay & The Americans. It did diddly squat in the UK. I put it down to the appalling cardigans and polo necks, exactly the same stage gear as The Spokesmen famed for Dawn of Correction, a right-wing answer disc to Eve of Destruction. The haircuts and surly expressions don’t help. It was written by The Monkees songwriters, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart along with Wes Farrell. It borrows the La Bamba rhythm to give a Hispanic air, and I’m unsure whether the lyric echoes the seductive Felina in Marty Robbins’ El Paso or even the floozy named Flo in Pat Boone’s Speedy Gonzales. Bob has been fond of Mexican references and clearly found this song funny and decided to go for it flat out with the three female vocalists. File with Little Moses. This would have been a REAL shocker on the original Self Portrait. I love what Bob does with it . What a shame he got fed up with it. Loud swirling cheesy 1964 organ from Al Kooper too (though you can hear it’s not a Farfisa or Vox Continental). I get the impression Bob didn’t know the next verse because it ends on instrumental plus girls for quite a while before it fades out.

Alberta Take 5
He never does it badly. The harmonica is piercingly close to the mic, as is his voice.

At this point the backing band changes, and we leap from March 1970 to May 1st 1970.
We get Charlie Daniels on bass and Russ Kunkel on drums. Mainly Dylan is on guitar, and David Bromberg is no longer credited. Charlie Daniels plays on Nashville Skyline, New Morning and Self Portrait. He was known for guitar, fiddle and bass, but was not, at least to me, a ‘dedicated bass guitarist.’

Sign On The Window (Take 2)
There’s a problem with this Dylanology business. You can find a fragment of lyric nagging at you for days, and try to chase what it’s all about. It’s happened to me here.

You don’t get many Take 1s, probably due to his method of launching in and letting the band work it out for themselves on take 1. The New Morning song. Clinton Heylin calls it ‘the uncut gem’ of the album. The balance isn’t great – bass is too loud. He has the song though. The New Morning words Brighton girls are like the moon had us laughing in 1970 (large, round and pale with visible blue veins). I grew up in Bournemouth. Brighton is the rival large South Coast resort, and at Bournemouth football ground, a filthy gravel and stone terrace at one end was called Brighton Beach (the beach in Brighton is filthy shingle … Bournemouth is fine golden sand). Once when I spoke in Brighton, I was introduced to the mayor who asked where I was from. When I replied ‘Bournemouth’ he said ‘I won’t shake hands then.’ (He was joking). As Bob’s UK tours in the 60s missed Brighton, we have to assume it’s Brighton, California as right before we have girl and her boyfriend went to California. There are two candidates, Brighton in Sacramento, and New Brighton with a view of Monterey Bay. Brighton is now generally known as East Sacramento. When did it change?

A huge disappointment for us Bournemouth people, though a Brighton UK website mentions that Dylan spent time in the 60s in the library in neighbouring Hove. Brighton UK is much better-known, it has an image … the phrases ‘A dirty weekend’ and ‘a weekend in Brighton’ are much the same, but they don’t involve local participation.

Here on Take 1, the lyrics differ.

Take 2:
Girl and her boyfriend went to California,
Girl and her boyfriend don’t change their game.
My best friend said, now didn’t I warn ya?
Brighton girls are all the same.
Brighton girls are all the same.

New Morning lyric is:
Her and her boyfriend went to California
Her and her boyfriend done changed their tune
My best friend said, “now didn’t I warn ya
Brighton girls are like the moon,
Brighton girls are like the moon”

Like the moon? So they have 28 day cycles? They change? They wax (and wane)? They light up the night? They’re female goddesses?

Then why Brighton? Normally references to a place are not random. Essex girls? The Beach Boys’ California Girls, Chris Rea’s Stainsby Girls, Bruce Springsteen’s Jersey Girl, Sham 69’s Hersham Boys, David Bowie’s The London Boys. If I said Golders Green Girls and Brixton girls in the UK context, it might be classist, sexist, racist or all three, but we’d conjure up a picture and a difference. I checked, and prior to 1970, Dylan as a star played Sacramento just once, 29 November 1964. Go figure. The trouble is that ‘Brighton Girls (USA)’ conjures up no images.

Sign On The Window (Take 3, 4, 5)
Three takes only add up to 1m 32 s, he’s playing with the first verse and changing pace. The existence of all three show that Sony were obsessive about copyright

If Not For You, Take 1
51 second fragment. Too fiddly on the piano.They are finding the guitar theme which must be Harrison’s idea. The lead guitar sounds, um, too good for Bob Dylan, who is playing piano according to the credits. George Harrison is not listed on credits for this one, but surely it is him? He co-wrote it.

Time Passes Slowly Rehearsal
Why a rehearsal with tape running rather than a take? George Harrison is present on guitar. Not that you’d know. He is clearly there on vocals with Bob on the la-la-las.

If Not For You Take 2
A full 3m 28s version. Again Harrison is not listed on credits on guitar, but this time the piano isn’t there. Maybe it is Bob. Clinton Heylin below will be talking about the take that made it to the original The Bootleg Sessions (4 seconds longer):

Clinton Heylin:
The Dylan / Harrison version of If Not For You supposedly once due for inclusion on New Morning, became one of the biggest disappointments on the Bootleg Series. Though Harrison delivers a lovely guitar intro, Dylan’s vocal is one of those exercises in stripping a song of its tune.
Clinton Heylin, Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions 1960-1994

If Not For You Take 3
Harmonica gets added, which isn’t a positive for me. The strong guitar theme again sounds unlikely to be Bob.

Song to Woody
From the very first album, Bob Dylan in 1961. Overpowering bass again. There are two guitars, rhythm and lead. I really doubt overdubbing in the situation. I more and more think “George Harrison guitar Tracks 20 & 24” should be “Tracks 20 to24.” He decided to do it in full but now with a band rather than solo. Had he thought about reviving it for Self Portrait? It made sense in away.

Mama You Been On My Mind
Taken fast. George is credited on guitar and vocal. George Harrison revisited it on Living In The Material World but only on the de-luxe edition bonus tracks. It appears in various versions dating back to 1964. Much covered … Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt, Jeff Buckley, Bettye Lavette, Dion, Jack Johnson. It is said to have been written in London for Suzy Rotolo. This was another attempt to nail a recording of a song they all knew he did but hadn’t released.

Ouch. Bob struggling through this previews the Sinatra discs by years. Approaching a major ballad which he simply doesn’t have the pipes to manage. Charlie Daniels’ bass guitar is loud and clear (and not as good as Paul McCartney, but we already knew that very, very few bass guitarists are in Paul’s league). Bob Johnson tinkles away on piano. George Harrison does NOT appear according to the credits. But then he doesn’t appear on The Beatles original either. Richard Williams suggests the guitar is an uncredited Ron Cornelius.


All of we long-term Dylan fans have heard the criticism, ‘But he can’t sing!’ I started with Dylan at Freewheelin’. In my house, I had The Times They Are A-Changin’ LP on constant replay, driving my father to deep despair. My father had sung on the radio every Sunday as a youth in the 1920s – Bournemouth had one of the early radio stations. He was a great Gilbert & Sullivan light opera fan. He explained at length that Dylan could not sing and why. We laugh it off, and point to Dylan’s great performances.

Unfortunately, CD2 is my dad’s “I told you so!” far too often. Dylan inexplicably does retakes of great songs with an inferior band. They’re just not as good as the Nashville crew on Blonde on Blonde. Then he attempts stuff that he shouldn’t have gone near. OK, he knew what worked and what didn’t, which is why this material remained unreleased. He cherry-picked the most interesting covers for Self Portrait … love it or hate it, it’s an INTERESTING version of The Boxer on that album. Here as with Yesterday are the songs he tried, listened back to, and rejected. It also sounds worse because the ones he DID use are not here spacing them apart.

Mostly the George Harrison session was done ad lib. The George Harrison tracks have been circulating for years.

One of many bootleg CDs

Charlie Daniels:
It was a day I’ll never forget. It wasn’t Bob Dylan and George Harrison. It was four guys in the studio making music. (The musicians called out songs for Bob to sing). Anything you threw at (Bob), he could sing. It was such a nice thing. Such a great day, hour after hour.
Quoted in Down The Highway, Howard Souness

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
Taken too leisurely. Why bother to do this? I guess because someone called it. The ultimate version is the original on Highway 61 Revisited, one of his greatest ever recordings. Then there’s a fine version live in Liverpool with The Hawks in 1966, which was released as the B-side of I Want You, then again with the Hawks at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, erroneously known as “The Royal Albert Hall” concert.

Liverpool 1966 Live: this is the one you want

All three blow this way off the stage. Russ Kunkel is a fine drummer indeed, but the explosive Mickey Jones 1966 drumming with The Hawks is what the song needs. You can see Dylan doing it with new musicians as a prelude to a tour, as a rehearsal, but he wasn’t going to tour again until 1974. Is it an indication of the Never Ending Tour (or Ever Declining Tour) where well-known songs got steadily worse the more often they were performed?

I Met Him on A Sunday / Da Doo Ron Ron
With George Harrison, coming in first with a Yeah Yeah too. Phil Spector with The Crystals original is an all-time favourite. Tom Petty recounted touring with Dylan in 1986 in Australia, and they had a list of about 140 songs which might be called. One night Dylan just started strumming and The Heartbreakers joined in and it took them a while to realize he was doing Da Doo Ron Ron with no notice to the band and it wasn’t on the list. Here it’s being done with George Harrison for fun.

The credits on I Met Him On A Sunday are Shirley Owens, Beverley Lee, Addie Harris and Doris Coley
Da Doo Ron Ron is Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich

One Too Many Mornings Take 1
Originally solo on The Times They Are A-Changin’. With George Harrison here, again for fun. Another 1966 tour speciality, though that benefitted hugely from Rick Danko’s support vocal in the chorus and storming Mickey Jones drum and swirling Garth Hudson organ again. Listening to both, Charlie Daniels proves conclusively that he’s not as good a bass guitarist as Rick Danko (as well as not being as good as Paul McCartney). A pointless excursion.

Ghost Riders In The Sky Take 1
The vocal sounds as if from another far away room (ghostly?), though it was often done as an instrumental. The bass is better here – sounds like a different player to me, but not according to the credits.

Cupid Take 1
We can all hear why this never got on an album. Sam Cooke’s great song is murdered languidly.

All I Have To Do Is Dream
Bob quite rightly rates The Everly Brothers and the Boudleaux Bryant songs written for them… Take a Message to Mary and Let It Be Me made it onto Self Portrait. However, Bob and George are definitely not Phil and Don in the vocal department. All I Have To Do Is Dream made #1 on every US singles chart, and also #1 in the UK for an unprecedented seven weeks in 1958. It’s a bit ponderous here. Yet both the Everly songs on Self Portrait worked for me. This didn’t.

Gates of Eden
Originally from Bringing It All Back Home. Bob da-da-da’s here with odd piano plunks in the background. He decided to try an electric version. George Harrison is along on lead guitar. Bob is the plunking piano. Done out of curiosity and because someone suggested it, rather than a serious effort,.

I Threw It All Away Take 1
So why is it Take 1? The song was first recorded in February 1969, and released in 1969 on Nashville Skyline, so then very recently. George Harrison had been one of the first to hear the song, back in 1968, so maybe Bob was just reprising it for him. They were hanging out in a studio, having fun with guitars strapped on and a drummer and a bass player, but no one was considering releasing any of these versions. The positive is it led to The Travelin’ Wilburys.

I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
Another 1966 tour triumph is trashed. Originally on Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. Bob Dylan performed it with The Band at The Last Waltz in 1976, probably the ultimate version. Like One Too Many Mornings it was an acoustic song electrified for the 1965 / 1966 tour. I’m beginning to dislike Charlie Daniels bass playing … again, both electric comparisons are Rick Danko. There is no contest.

George Harrison is credited again on the Carl Perkins rock n roll classic. It was a Beatles staple in 1961 and 1962, and was released on the Long Tall Sally EP in the UK. It had started out as a Pete Best number, migrated to John Lennon, and ended up as the obligatory Ringo Starr showpiece. Basically, a song George knew backwards and forwards. Going back to the Charlie Daniels quote, it’s astonishing how many lyrics Dylan knew.

Your True Love (Take 1)
Boogie. Bob and George. One Carl Perkins song leads to another – but only just over a minute of it.

Telephone Wire
The Spoonful riff. No credit to George, but there’s piano and guitar, so it figures. A 12 bar, incomplete, making it up as he goes along probably.

Fishing Blues
26 seconds of da da da, I’m goin’ fishin’ / You’re goin’ fishin’ This one dates back to 1911, written by Chris Smith. Most famed by Taj Mahal who did the definitive version in 1969. There are many other versions, including The Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian solo, John Martyn, Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band.

Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance
Again, I reckon someone in the room mentioned they liked it. It was on Freewheelin’ but the original was by Henry ‘Ragtime Texas’ Thomas from 1927. Dylan rewrote the lyrics in 1962. On this he really throws himself into the song with energy. It’s a good version, though you’d think Bob Johnson might have made some effort to balance the bass guitar volume.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
They felt like a minute of this. Nice choppy guitar. then fluid lead guitar. Surely George? (Not listed).

It Ain’t Me Babe
A full version with Bob on harmonica. There’s piano too. George is credited and plays beautifully, but you have to wonder how Bob could have managed piano and harmonica. With a little more care in the mix this was a viable version of the Another Side of Bob Dylan song. Full out twin vocal on the chorus.

If Not For You
This proves the credits are wrong. Obviously George on guitar, Bob on piano. Unlike Take 2 and Take 3 above this is the plain song. It’s a serious effort, and is probably the one considered, though it tails off. It’s just done too slowly, and loses the bounce.

Sign On The Window, Take 1 Remake
A slow take. This still has the “Brighton girls are all the same lyric”. We’re now on “done change their game”. Bob gets a bit lost in the middle section, possibly concentrating on his piano part, which is excellent. Who puts the snatches of guitars behind the piano in the last verse then?

Sign On The Window, Take 2 Remake
Another full version with piano and guitar. The bass and drums have improved as they’ve had time to polish their parts. Guitar is further forward in the middle.

Sign On The Window, Take 3 Remake
Here we go again. More guitar. Still those girls are all the same.


We move on to 1st June 1970, and a different line up. Charie Daniels and Russ Kunkel remain, but are joined by David Bromberg on guitar, dobro and mandolin, Ron Cornelius on guitar and Al Kooper on organ and piano. The backing vocalists are unknown. See Al Kooper above – they are almost certainly the same three, but just didn’t get listed on the session sheet.

Alligator Man
Written by Jimmy C. Newman and Floyd Chance from Louisiana. A US country hit in 1962 (#22).

Alligator Man (Rock version)
Rocked a little more, faster. The female backing vocals are there. Straight rock lead guitar.

Alligator Man (Country version)
Piano comes to the front with Dobro. The best backing of the three for me. This must have been a song they considered using for Self Portrait with three full versions on tape.

Sarah Jane 1
He does like those La la la introductions, and this has a flat out female backing chorus, raucous guitar … terrific stuff. A version made it onto Bob Dylan in 1973. Like much on Self Portrait and Dylan (1973) the Bob Dylan credit is inaccurate. It’s based on Rock About My Saro Jane which exists in an early version by Uncle Dave Macon. Odetta did a version in 1959. Dylan’s revision was picked out for harsh criticism when the 1973 Dylan album came out. I like the backing vocals and I enjoy this version especially.

Sign On The Window
Wot? No take numbers? Very carefully thought out piano, presumably by Al Kooper, which is the only instrumental accompaniment. Then the girl chorus is added. Lyrically, we have the eventual words: done change their tune and Brighton Girls are like the moon. A splendid version in fact. This mist be getting there:

Ron Cornelius: Dylan had a pretty bad cold that week. You can hear it on [‘Sign on the Window’], y’know, that bit about ‘Brighton girls are like the moon,’ where his voice really cracks up. But it sure suits the song. His piano playing’s weird…because his hands start at opposite ends of the keyboard and then sorta collide in the middle—he does that all the time—but the way he plays just knocks me out.”

Sarah Jane 2
Lots of strummed guitar and the girl chorus. Bob’s voice is too far back in the mix. The bass is too loud. Maybe Bob Johnson went out for a coffee. Al Kooper is giving the piano a good workout.


We start on 2nd June.

If Not For You Take 1 (2 June)
The piano is absolutely sparkling on this, as is the dobro, and the girls are there and prominent. Really good.

If Not For You Take 2 (2 June)
Acoustic guitar is higher in the mix with harmonica. Tremendous piano again. To me, Dylan is working on the drama in his phrasing on the vocals. Another significant version.

Moving to June 3rd and three covers.

Jamaica Farewell
Harry Belafonte from Calypso (1957)and a US #14 hit in its day. It was allegedly written by Irving Burgie, though Belafonte has said it was around for years before. It is said that Dylan’s first released session recording, made in the autumn of 1961 was playing harmonica on a Harry Belafonte track, Midnight Special. Released March 1962. (It was actually the second, as he recorded with Carolyn Hester earlier, though it was released later). I feel I’m being harsh on Charlie Daniels bass playing, but let’s just say he’s certainly no Aston “Family Man” Barrett on a Jamaican feel. The girl backing is good. The intro piano, and the swirling organ are really good. The rhythm section let it down.

Can’t Help Falling In Love
There’s a version on Dylan (1973). The original was Elvis’s double-sided hit with Rock-A-Hula Baby from Blue Hawaii in 1961. Can’t Help Falling In Love was the more popular side in the UK (#1 ). The melody is lifted from Plaisir d’amour which was written in 1794, so that the composer was unable to sue. LikeYesterday, Bob is pushing his luck in attempting to get through it. Somehow, I actually like Bob’s hesitant and stained effort with the girl chorus and organ part. He does, sorry, ‘tries to do’ an Elvis on ‘take-uh my whole life too’ I like the instrumental section with Al Kooper doing the pub Hammond player thing and playing the top melody line. I liked it when Dylan came out too.

Long Black Veil
I’ve written at length on this song on The Band website. SEE LONG BLACK VEIL. It appeared on Music Fromn Big Pink.

From that review: The Long Black Veil (its full original title) was inspired by the real life murder of a New Jersey priest combined with newspaper accounts of a woman in a black veil who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino’s grave. Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin set out to make it sound like an old Appalachian ballad so as to hang onto the coat tails of the then burgeoning folk music revival. Within days of writing it, they got the then fast-fading country star Lefty Frizell to record the song in March 1959 (with a line-up that included Grady Martin and Harold Bradley on guitars and Marijohn Wilkin on piano). The result was released in May 1959 and the hit record revived Frizell’s career. Other artists have recorded the song, including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and The Country Gentlemen, but The Band learned the song from Frizell’s original version. The song fits the mood of the album perfectly (it would have fit the next album too). 

Back to this album. And Bob Dylan too. The dobro starts sounds almost Link Wray style. He very much “Dylanizes” the vocal, sounding almost pastiche Dylan and twisting the tune a tad and trying to over-dramatize. I spoke not A WORD! Charlie Daniels may be no Rick Danko on bass, but Bob is no Rick Danko on vocals either! There’s nearly seven minutes of it too. With a story song, you really don’t repeat the verses, and basically there’s a solo and he does it all again. Maybe he thought of it as two takes and wanted to lose the guitar start by doing it all again.

One More Weekend
A New Morning track. It was always a generic blues song so one of the weaker tracks on that album. Well-played here with first-rate guitar work.

4 June 1970

Bring Me A Little Water, Sylvie (Take 1)
The Leadbelly song, first noted in 1936, but it could be older. Leadbelly said Sylvie was his aunt taking water to his uncle in the fields and that he wrote it. It appeared on Another Self Portrait box set. Well performed. Intriguing guitar lines. It’s a full version. The girls are still around.

Three Angels
A version got onto New Morning. Semi-spoken here as on New Morning. I always found the picture painted by this song fascinating. Churchy organ.

The angels play on their horns all day
The whole earth in progression seems to pass by
But does anyone hear the music they play
Does anyone even try?

Tomorrow Is A Long Time Part 1
The guitar’s on that old Spoonful riff. The chorus surprises. Slow. Excellent. This one has history, dating back to December 1962 as a demo. That first version came out in The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Whitmark Demos in 2010.

Then he recorded it live in April 1963, but that wasn’t released until Bob Dylan Greatest Hits Vol II in 1971. It was around and covered by Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Odetta, The Kingston Trio (I have done just that list of covers earlier here). Elvis Presley released a version in 1966, long before an official Dylan release. Charlie McCoy had played Elvis the Odetta version, and he liked it. Rod Stewart put it on Every Picture Tells A Story in 1971 and that’s the most familiar version to me. (Alright, I admit it, Rod the Mod is my favourite version).

So here he’s reclaiming it. It’s odd that it had to wait until The Greatest Hits Vol II.

Tomorrow Is A Long Time Part 2
This sounds like a serious effort to get a releasable version. Both takes are good. Dylan has a cold, his voice is raw. It helps the song.

New Morning
Presumably a rejected take.
Greil Marcus: The musicians as a group at at their best on the title song, playing hard rock. The surprising toughness of the cut – which in other hands might have been (and probably will be) just another bland hymn to optimism – results not from dump truck heaviness, but from perfect timing, a jolt of pure excitement near the end of the number, and from Bob’s singing. As the lyrics give us a pretty picture, Dylan sings out with a hard-edged vengeance, not submitting to the obvious way to sing the song, but intensifying the simple enthusiasm of the number with such firm determination that a whole conversation of emotions comes into play.
New York Times, 15 November 1970, reprinted in “Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010”

Amen. It applies to this take too.

Untitled 1970 Instrumental #2
Great playing all round, and not “a backing track” for something else but a feature harmonica workout. Russ Kunkel is on superb form on drums.

5 June 1970

Went To See The Gypsy
It’s along with Sign On The Window a major song for me, one of the best on New Morning. This sounds rough at the start, possibly demonstrating it to let the band find it. The girls sound miles away, but also what they’re doing reminds me of what was to come in Street Legal, repeating to emphasize lines. He sounds strained.

Sign On The Window – Stereo Mix
Still playing with the song. If the chronology is right, he has tried the eventual lyrics (done change their tune / Brighton girls are like the moon) and reverted to the earlier (done change their game / Brighton girls are all the same). The stereo mix is all choppy guitar left, all piano right.

Another New Morning song. Harmonica at the start. The pretty guitar playing suits the C&W feel..

I Forgot To Remember To Forget 1

American 78 disc on Sun, British 45 on HMV

Though that cold is making his voice sound increasingly shot, he’s doing his formal Nashville Skyline delivery. The second Elvis song on this set, it was written by Stan Kesler & Charlie Feathers. It was the B-side of Mystery Train in 1955 and a US #1 hit in 1956. The Beatles also did it on Live At The BBC sung by George Harrison – so maybe they’d discussed it on 1st June.

It appears on The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Volume 11. It’s an early basement tape, on CD1 of the six CD set. That’s much slower, and not a polished version though it does the whole song. Bob and The Hawks must have both loved that Elvis single, with The Band recording Mystery Train on Moondog Matinee and Bob choosing the other side here. Garth Hudson contributes some fine organ, but the 1970 version is an improvement. There was a third Elvis song, A Fool Such As I which made it intact on to the 1973 Dylan album.

I Forgot To Remember To Forget 2
Just another take. His voice can cope with this song far better than it could cope with Can’t Help Falling In Love.

Lily of The West Take 2
The opening track of Dylan in 1973. He pauses to let the chorus stand alone with no backing. There were times when Dylan enjoyed having a poke at the folk songs of his early New York club days. He did it on the Basement Tapes version of Ye Fair and Tender Ladies, and Belle Isle on Self Portrait is surely a pastiche in its lyric. The song dates back to at least 1820 in England and Scotland and got transposed to American locations, and also it was parodied. Joan Baez was doing it back in 1961 and it was still in her live set fifty years later. Dylan is choosing the lyric in the Baez version.

Father of Night (rehearsal)
The New Morning song done much faster. Busy piano opens it (Bob I think) then the chorus joins in. Only 1m 29s, exactly the same as on New Morning.

Lily of The West
Possibly a more serious take, though why is the earlier one Take 2?

August 12th 1970

A new band:
Al Kooper-organ / Buzzy Feiten – guitar / Harvey Brooks- bass guitar
Again the credits on the sleeve leaflet are crap. No drummer credited, but there is one. From Al Kooper’s comments (see above) this would be Billy Mundi.

If Not For You Take 1
The vocal at the beginnings suggests he’s trying it out with the new line up.

If Not For You Take 2
They launch in more confidently. Still not at the final version. Buzzy Feiten’s guitar is fiddling around the lyric and accentuating odds and bits, much as Robbie Robertson used to.

Day of The Locusts Take2
The locust SFX is louder! Famed as the New Morning song about Bob being awarded a doctorate, taking its title from Nathanael West’s Hollywood novel. The voice is a little back, but again pretty near ready to go. The drummer does sound different. Billy Mundi and Russ Kunkel are both credited on New Morning. The bass and drums are definitely different to earlier tracks … and they sound the same on New Morning.

Overall, it has got me playing New Morning again. My CD is an early one and sounds dull. I bought it in the UK, and it was a US import so it has the red American spine lettering and COLUMBIA has been snopaqued (tippexed) out by hand on the back cover and on the CD itself. BY HAND? How and why did they do that!

2014 CD remaster

It was remastered in 2009, but I don’t have that version. There is a Mobile Fidelity Soundlab vinyl version from 2017. That is also on hybrid CD / SACD from Mobile Fidelity in 2014, but at a swingeing £29.64.

Nonetheless I agree with Greil Marcus’ 1970 review:

Greil Marcus: Bob Dylan’s New Morning is his best album in years, a set of twelve new songs that hide their real power to move the listener within the bright pop flash of entertainment.
New York Times, 15 November 1970


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