The mysteries of Bob: Performances and recordings since 1989 Part II

by mr tambourine

This continues from

Heading towards Bob’s next studio album, World Gone Wrong, here’s some Wikipedia info that might be useful for you:

Similar to how he had recorded his previous album, Good As I Been to You, Dylan held sessions at his Malibu home garage studio and recorded World Gone Wrong solo in a matter of days. He was assisted by sound engineer Micajah Ryan but served as his own producer. In their book Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon describe “a clear difference in the sound quality of this new record: Good As I Been to You has a ‘full’ sound, with Dylan’s guitar recorded in stereo; World Gone Wrong sounds more raw. Listeners can hear breathing and distortion”.

The balance of songs in World Gone Wrong swung more towards rural blues. Two had been recorded by the Mississippi Sheiks, two more by Blind Willie McTell, one by Willie Brown, and another by Frank Hutchison. Songs popularized by Tom Paley and Doc Watson were also recorded. In the case of “The Two Soldiers”, Dylan learned it from Jerry Garcia and had been performing it live since 1988.

Possibly influenced by the controversy surrounding the lack of credits on Good as I Been to You, Dylan wrote a complete set of liner notes to World Gone Wrong, citing all possible sources. It had been decades since Dylan had written his own liner notes, and they were always surrealistic; these notes, while still playfully written, were actually informative.

Two outtakes from these sessions, Robert Johnson’s “32-20 Blues” and the traditional “Mary and the Soldier”, were released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs in 2008. There are rumors of at least three additional outtakes that do not circulate among collectors: “Goodnight My Love”, “Twenty-One Years”, and the Carter Family’s “Hello Stranger”.

Many people know a lot about the MTV Unplugged album that Bob released in 1995, and recorded in late 1994.

The songs, probably the outtakes as well.

But what if I told you that Bob wanted to do songs from Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong?

It would’ve been an entirely different album.

That was Bob’s choice.

But somehow, the producers of the project, or whoever, convinced him to do more of a greatest hits kind of set.

And Bob did just that.

Of course, it wasn’t entirely a greatest hits set, it also had a few rarities. It wouldn’t be Dylan’s way to do the hits only.

You know about some of the outtakes like Hazel or I Want You, I’m sure. Those outtakes are circulating even though they’re not yet officially released.

But …

Bjorner says that Bob also rehearsed I Pity The Poor Immigrant during those 4 nights, 2 nights of rehearsals and 2 nights of recording and performing. That performance is not in circulation, unfortunately.

I Pity The Poor Immigrant was previously played in 1976. It was never performed yet on the Never-Ending Tour still to this day, making this a very treasured performance probably.

Did you know that back in the early days of the internet, there used to be a rumour circulating about a hoax new Dylan album coming up in 1997? No no, it’s not Time Out Of Mind.

It’s actually Stormy Season.

If we were sticking to the Searching For A Gem website, in the category Starlight In The East – Unreleased Dylan songs, you would find some info about the majority of the songs that are a part of the Stormy Season hoax. But let’s take a look at the title track of that album and the info provided below, which should be the same for all the songs the exact same way. Here it is:

Fake title tracks first circulated on the Internet in October 1996 as part of a hoax about a new album to be called “Stormy Season” – the phoney list was posted to the DylanChat section of Karl Erik Andersen’s Expecting Rain web-site by someone calling themselves “The Masked Tortilla” (this is the name of the character played by Bobby Neuwirth in the film “Renaldo and Clara”). The hoax track list given was:

  1. Butcher’s Crew
  2. The Fire Starter
  3. Apollo’s Love
  4. Police State
  5. You Belong To Me – the song included on the 1994 “Natural Born Killers” film soundtrack, see “Searching For A Gem”, 1994 (R-0231)
  6. Abraham’s Altar
  7. When You Give Me Your Love
  8. Up On The Hill
  9. Stormy Season
  10. No Compassion

I tried to find more info about this hoax on Google and I found this article that’s very entertaining and amusing in so many ways:

No other info that I could find.

The rumours though weren’t far from wrong, as Time Out Of Mind got released not long after.

A while ago, I wrote an article for Untold Dylan about the Oxnard Demos in 1996 and the full Time Out Of Mind sessions, which included the Oxnard Demos in ’96 + Miami Sessions in 1997.

Back then, I knew a little less than I know today, and I was also telling too many stories without providing the sources for readers.

I wanted to do it again this time and make up for a missed opportunity to write a more insightful and a better article overall and make it more interesting.   Here’s what Wikipedia says about Time Out Of Mind before we get to the Searching For A Gem part, which is also interesting.

In April 1991, Dylan told interviewer Paul Zollo that “there was a time when the songs would come three or four at the same time, but those days are long gone…Once in a while, the odd song will come to me like a bulldog at the garden gate and demand to be written. But most of them are rejected out of my mind right away. You get caught up in wondering if anyone really needs to hear it. Maybe a person gets to the point where they have written enough songs. Let someone else write them”.[4]

Dylan’s last album of original material had been 1990’s Under the Red Sky, a critical and commercial disappointment. Since then, he had released two albums of folk covers, Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong, and MTV Unplugged, a live album of older compositions; there had been no signs of any fresh compositions until 1996.

Dylan began to write a fresh string of songs during the winter of 1996 at his farm in Minnesota, which would later make up Time Out of Mind.[5] Criteria Studio in Miami, Florida, was booked for recording. In a televised interview with Charlie Rose, Lanois recalled Dylan talking about spending a lot of late nights working on the lyrics. Once the words were completed, according to Lanois, Dylan considered the record to be finished saying, “You know, whatever we decide to do with it, that’s that.” Lanois replied: “What’s important is that it’s written”.[6]

Dylan demoed some of the songs in the studio, something he rarely did.[5] Members of Dylan’s touring band were involved in these sessions. Dylan also used these loose, informal sessions to experiment with new ideas and arrangements. Dylan continued rewriting lyrics until January 1997, when the official album sessions began. It was the second collaboration between Dylan and Lanois, who had previously produced Dylan’s 1989 release Oh Mercy and was known for his work with artists such as Emmylou Harris (on Wrecking Ball) and U2 (on The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby). Dylan wanted the sound of Time Out of Mind to be influenced by early blues musicians, such as Charley Patton, Little Walter, and Little Willie John, and he recommended that Lanois listen to their recordings to prepare for the sessions.[8]

New personnel hired for the album included slide guitarist Cindy Cashdollar and drummer Brian Blade, both hired by Lanois. Dylan brought in Jim Keltner, who was Dylan’s tour drummer from 1979 to 1981. Dylan also hired Nashville guitarist Bob Britt, Duke Robillard, Tex-Mex organist Augie Meyers, and Memphis pianist Jim Dickinson to play at the sessions.

With two different sets of players competing in performance and two producers with conflicting views on how to approach each song, the sessions were far from disciplined. Years later, when asked about Time Out of Mind, Dickinson replied, “I haven’t been able to tell what’s actually happening. I know they were listening to playbacks, I don’t know whether they were trying to mix it or not! Twelve musicians playing live—three sets of drums,… it was unbelievable—two pedal steels, I’ve never even heard two pedal steels played at the same time before! … I don’t know man, I thought that much was overdoing it, quite frankly”.[10]

Lanois admitted some difficulty in producing Dylan. “Well, you just never know what you’re going to get. He’s an eccentric man…”[6] In a later interview, Lanois said Dylan and he used to go to the parking lot to discuss the recording in absence of the band. Lanois elaborated their discussion on the song “Standing in the Doorway”. “I said ‘listen, I love “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”. Can we steal that feel for this song?’ And he’d say ‘you think that’d work?’ Then we’d sit on the fender of a truck, in this parking lot in Miami, and I’d often think, if people see this they won’t believe it!”[11] With Time Out of Mind, Lanois “produced perhaps the most artificial-sounding album in [Dylan]’s canon,” says author Clinton Heylin, who described the album as sounding “like a Lanois CV”.

Dylan talked about his difficulty at the recording sessions in an interview with Guitar World magazine. “I lose my inspiration in the studio real easy, and it’s very difficult for me to think that I’m going to eclipse anything I’ve ever done before. I get bored easily, and my mission, which starts out wide, becomes very dim after a few failed takes and this and that.” In the same interview Dylan cited Buddy Holly as an influence during the recording sessions.

In relation to past works like Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, and Infidels, Dylan said:

Those records were made a long time ago, and you know, truthfully, records that were made in that day and age all were good. They all had some magic to them because the technology didn’t go beyond what the artist was doing. It was a lot easier to get excellence back in those days on a record than it is now…..The high priority is technology now. It’s not the artist or the art. It’s the technology that is coming through. That’s what makes Time Out of Mind… it doesn’t take itself seriously, but then again, the sound is very significant to that record. If that record was made more haphazardly, it wouldn’t have sounded that way. It wouldn’t have had the impact that it did…. There wasn’t any wasted effort on Time Out of Mind and I don’t think there will be on any more of my records.

— Bob Dylan in Guitar World (1999)[13]

The album’s cover art is a blurry photo of Dylan in the recording studio, taken by Lanois.

Part III follows shortly.


Untold Dylan was created in 2008 and is published daily – currently twice a day –  sometimes more, sometimes less.  Details of some of our series are given at the top of the page and in the Recent Posts list, which appears both on the right side of the page and at the very foot of the page (helpful if you are reading on a phone).  Some of our past articles which form part of a series are also included on the home page.

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