Bob Dylan’s first songs: the cello tapes revealed and a plea

By Sir Hardly Anyone,

Senior lecturer in Childhood Studies at the Dept of Dylanology, University of Certain Things, Duluth.

As you will know, these are exciting times for those of us who spend our moments researching all things Dylan, what with the developments that have already been reported in this excellent organ, through the articles The Lost Bar Mitzvah Tapes, and then The Childhood Tapes.

I was delighted to see this reportage as it brings forth, and indeed to the fore, the dedicated research that my department, and indeed many other university and institute faculties, now undertake on a daily if not hourly basis in discovering more about the origins or otherwise of the creative forces that drive our cultural heritage back and forth, to and fro, in and out.  And so forth.

My colleagues and I in the Department (or Dept as it has been renamed by errant journalists who drop in from time to time and steal letters from our door, as is their wont) have been particularly focused in recent years in analysing the early sounds made by children who in later life become famed as musicians.

Of course we are not alone in such an utterly pointless excavation, as many other august institutions (or Insts as they are known in the trade) have copied our lead and have likewise been analysing the early scribbles of those who were to go on to become great artists, poets, and (for reasons which will not become clear in this article) bricklayers.  The patchwork quilt of random words spoken by our soon-to-be poets of a generation is indeed a rich minefield, they tell me, explosive in its hidden treasures.  I take them at their word.

This work is of course of utterly vital importance, for as we often are reminded during coffee breaks and the like, what more we could have known of the writings of Shakespeare, to name but a few, if only his mother had had the foresight to jot down his early speeches as a child.  I mean, we know from the diaries of his schoolteacher Arbuthnot Merryweather that Master Shakespeare opened an essay on the work of Plato, “Foresooth herewith, this question I am not fit to answer…” although it seems his teacher agreed, giving him a delta minus for the effort.

And so my colleagues have for years been turning over the desks in the classrooms of Hibbing High School (or Hibbing High as it is known to us academic investigators) looking for any scratch or mark made by Robert Zimmerman while he was interred therein which might give us further insights in the people trapped in the room perceived through Johanna’s Visions.

But my personal speciality, and the issue to which I wish to draw your attention today, and indeed tomorrow when you come to read my little note again, thinking perchance that what you remember from yesterday cannot be real, is with the younger Bob.  The Bob aged one or two as he learned our native tongue and explored the sounds his throat could make.  Was he quiet and complacent, or did he shout and scream?  When faced by a loving parent making gurgling sounds did he laugh and giggle, or did he cry out “Help me in my weakness”?  This we need to know.

And this indeed sums up the academic work of my department.  To find the primitive sounds of Dylan the Youngster and explore within early signs of Desolation Row, Dirge and of course (following a most generous request by Tony Attwood, the publisher of this august site) “Tell Ol Bill”.

Indeed the search for early signs of Ol Bill in the gurglings of the younger Bob is a major part of our work, and in this regard we have been much aided by a generous bequest from the Institute of Useless and Pointless Knowledge in Rome.

Thus our work progresses and we have found much.  A dog whistle believed to have once been blown by Bob but then jettisoned, on the ground it was in the wrong key, is one of the Institute’s prize possessions as indeed is a box that is said once to have housed a cup that one day he picked up by mistake.

But of course this work is expensive, and you, naturally, as a devotee of Bob can make a difference.  A donation, no matter how large or small, can help the continuance of the exploration of our Dylanesque heritage.   Which, unless I am very much mistaken, brings me to my point.

You will have heard (or you would have heard if you had been paying attention) of the Bar Mitzvah Tapes and the Childhood Tapes.  Well, my department is now leading the search for the cello tapes.  It is time consuming and expensive work and your donation could make all the difference.  Please send cash to The Cello Tapes Fund, Institute of Unrealistic Hope, University of Certain Things, North Circular Road, London N1.



  1. The so-called “cello tapes” are actually out-takes from the Highway 61 album, songs in which Dylan is accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra….but the cellos were out of tune, and the tapes destroyed according to a spokesman for Columbia Records.

    Sir Hardy’s ardent searches, and thus is plea for donations, are in vain.

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