“Liverpool Gal” the lost early recording of Dylan’s song now found

By Tony Attwood

When we started the search for a copy of “Liverpool Gal” we knew there was a very early recording around somewhere but just couldn’t find it.  So we advertised for any reader on this site who would take on the job of recording the song, from the information we had.

The result was twofold – one part was that one of our readers produced his own version, and the other was that Aaron traced more information on the original recording from an anonymous source.

Dear Anon, thank you so much.   Here it is…

As we have noted Dylan has not copywrited the song – which is unusual – and the only recording from around the time of its conception was made at Tony Glover’s Minneapolis home in 1963.

But the references to snow in London are most certainly real at this time and that gives us the opening clue to the fact that this work was based on a real situation.

Of course, we don’t know who the Liverpool gal was, although many have speculated, but we can see the song’s importance as coming from a time when Dylan was starting to based his music around folk songs from the British Isles.   It was something that was dominant through to “Restless Farewell” as we have noted elsewhere.

Here many commentators cite as the source “The Lake s of Pontcha rt ra in” with the story of the lonely traveller who meets the fair maid who he then leaves but he remembers her forever.  It is the very stuff of this folk tradition which formed the basis later for “Girl From the North Country,” and “One too many mornings.”   The physical songs of moving on, which I have written something about in my reviews of Dylan’s themes year by year, combining with emotional expression.

In this case however Dylan’s writing about the girl in the song is clearer than normal – she is more real, whereas normally it is the moving on that is the fundamental reality of the song and because of this the song becomes more potent.  Where the moving on is the dominant power, the people left behind are just people left behind.  But not this time – he still has to go, but that woman never leaves his mind.

And this is emphasised by the fact that the woman understands.  And that is a poignant force – because those who do not experience the need to keep on moving on find it near impossible to understand how one can leave behind the person one leaves, just to keep on moving on.

But here there is no begging for her him not to leave.  She gets it too.

So who was she?  The most popular thought is that she could have been Pauline Boty, generally regarded as the founder of the British Popart movement.  The current wikipedia entry for her says that her “paintings and collages often demonstrated a joy in self-assured femininity and female sexuality, and expressed overt or implicit criticism of the “man’s world” in which she lived.”     She was born 6 March 1938 and died 1 July 1966.  The Guardian has a good piece about her online.

What else is on the site

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to all the 590 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article.  Email Tony@schools.co.uk

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, links back to our reviews

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8 Responses to “Liverpool Gal” the lost early recording of Dylan’s song now found

  1. Robert Ford says:

    What a great song ! Another marvellous throwaway and for me up there with his very best. Any idea who the singer is ? I dislike Dylan covers but this performance deserves recognition.
    We appear to have had two new Dylan songs on the two recent 1960’s archive releases ‘Western Road’ and ‘Running’ although the chances of hearing the latter song are rare given that there were apparently only 200 cd’s released and second hand copies are being offered for £1000 !

  2. Aaron G says:

    Hi Robert

    The singers / musicians are called Lennon & Hyam and this was performed on John Bauldie’s radio show on Radio Merseyside In 1992.

    I’ve heard rumors that a future Bootleg Series release will include some of these early Party tapes with Dylan’s own take of Liverpool Gal being included. Fingers crossed!

  3. Nice! My version wasn’t too far from theirs, which may not be too surprising since the tab y’all provided was presumably based on their version. I will be very interested to hear the original Dylan version. I’m assuming these guys heard his version first? Or did they just set their own music to his published lyrics?

  4. Also, you might want to consider changing the misleading title, and some of the text, of this blog post because what’s been found isn’t Dylan’s early recording. It’s not a recording of Dylan, and I’m not sure that the recording date of 1992 should be considered “early”, as it’s 30 years after the song was written. Also the song is described in the post as “the original recording”, which is misleading as it’s not the original recording of the song, it’s just the “original” (?) recording of the 1992 cover by Lennon & Hyam. Not meaning to be picky, just a recommendation for clarity to online readers who might jump in here and be confused, misled, or disappointed.

  5. Aaron G says:

    Yeah it was interesting to hear both takes back to back. Whilst I like the L & H version I feel like their arrangement is a bit too modern and wouldn’t have been something Bob would have done, certainly not in 1962/63.

    I think that Matthews version is much similar to what Bob would have done himself.

    L&H did not have access to Bob’s version either. They just had the sheet music (I believe Bob did eventually copyright it in 1965). I think someone either bought or somehow received some of these papers in the 90s and this one was in the middle. There is some audio from the radio show that I received where they talk about this.

    I don’t think I can attach it here but can figure something out if there is interest

  6. Robert Ford says:

    Thanks Aaron. It is astonishing to think that Bob Dylan composed at least 262 songs during the 1960’s. The quantity, of course, would not be important if was not for the quality of these songs. Many of these songs were not released despite being some of his finest songs such as ‘Tomorrow is A Long Time’, Mama, You’ve Been on my Mind’ and ‘She’s Your Lover Now’. The Basement Tapes alone would be justify his mythical status as an artist. Let’s hope there is a Dylan performance of ‘Liverpool Gal’.

  7. PC says:

    I believe Bob Dylan has released 99 albums. When you think that many of these albums are multiple discs ( some comprising 30 plus discs! ) then the quantity of great music is remarkable. Add to this the amount of high quality bootleg albums then you have a body of work that is surely without equal.
    Within the collection of 99 albums are,most significantly, 13 live albums which cover most periods of his incomparable artistry as a performer. It would be greedy but an album of new songs would be a great start to a new decade or a multiple disc collection of some of his most recent Never Ending Tour performances…the compilers would truly be spoiled for choice.

  8. PC says:

    Correction…21 live albums as the discography on wikipedia separates the Bootleg Series live albums and other live albums such as the Copyright Extension series live albums into their own categories. It is, sadly, a generally inaccurate and misleading discography.

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