Bob Dylan’s outtake jams part 1

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

One selection of music of Bob Dylan that we have not yet looked at are the instrumental outtakes from various sessions, particularly from the 1980s.

These are not completed works, and they don’t deserve to be added to the list of 600+ Bob Dylan compositions (although we might reconsider this at some stage in the future), but they are interesting in terms of the context of the sessions in which they were recorded,  who the band are, what the guys are doing under Dylan’s direction, what songs were recorded or worked on before and after the jam session broke out and how they might have influenced the main work of the day in question.

Which when you come to think of it, is quite a few unresolved issues.  And since no one else seems to have tackled the topic and this is, after all “Untold Dylan” it seems like a good area to consider.

Regarding the titles of the outtakes that they were probably just assigned a title by whoever put the first bootleg copy together, or maybe they had something written on the tape or something, who knows! All that means is that sometimes there is confusion about which outtake was recorded at which session, but we’ll do our best to work it all correctly…  (which actually means Aaron will.  Keeping things in the right order is not one of Tony’s skills).

So let us start with:

Delta Recording Studio, New York, July 26th 1984

The order of the Tracks worked on :

  1. Driftin Too Far From Shore
  2. Outtake 1…known here as “Firebird”.

This is a typical instrumental piece from this era – it is a chord sequence – a variant extended 12 bar blues in fact, which the band get used to playing before they try a few variations.  In most cases what happens is the band leader (here, obviously Dylan) starts to play the sequence, and the musicians, being talented folk, follow his lead and pick up the thread.  The percussionist as you can tell is having great fun, and gets more and more engaged with the effects as the song builds.

What they don’t know is whether Bob has got some lyrics ready, or if he is going to improvise some lyrics, or if, as on this occasion, he is going to stay quiet.

Pieces like this can sound annoyingly familiar because most of us, musicians or no, have a feeling for the chord sequence that exists as the bedrock of the song.

As it is here, none of the musicians decides to make a go of improvising a lead line over the top of the chord sequence, until about 2 minutes 55 seconds.  It is not that exciting, but it does give us a few variations.    There’s a bit of pulling back to give some variation, but that is it.

  1. Who Loves You More

We didn’t include the audio of this track when doing the original review, so here it is

4. Outtake 2…known here as Groovin’ At Delta (but it might also be known as Wolf).

This is easier to classify – it is a 12 bar blues with a distinctive riff – a song that is just made to have a singer like Dylan provide lyrics and melody over the top.

What makes life much easier here is the fact that everyone who has played in a rock band for more than five minutes knows the 12 bar blues – whereas the chord sequence in the first song is, as far as we know, unique.

Hence when the lead guitar takes off this time, everything stays together.  The guys have done this a million times before.  They even know how to finish the piece together.

  1. Clean Cut Kid

1 & 5 are actually the released versions, minus some later overdubs at future sessions. So with the inclusion of these two outtakes and Who Loves You More we get a real picture of how the session unfolded that day.

The band at the session was

Musicians: Ron Wood (guitar), Brian ? (guitar), John Paris (Bass), Anton Fig (drums), Bob Dylan (guitar, piano, vocal & synthesizer) and Carolyn Dennis (back-up vocal).

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who teach English literature.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with around 5500 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.  Not every index is complete but I do my best.

But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page.  I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information.  Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.

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