By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
Aaron: Let’s take a look at some more lost Dylan performances from the 60s all the way to the 90s. First “Only A Pawn In Their Game” from Newport 1963.
Tony: I am still amazed at the confidence of Dylan in these early films. Not just a confidence of being onstage, but in the delivery of what at the time was a unique musical form. After all no one else was writing or performing music like this at the time.
It is not that he was a folk singer, but that he had invented a completely new form of folk song. I know we’ve all heard the song so many million times now it is easy to forget just how radical this musical approach was – the varied lengths of the verse, the brief punchy lines (as below from walk in a pack onward)
From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks And the hoofbeats pound in his brain And he's taught how to walk in a pack Shoot in the back With his fist in a clinch To hang and to lynch To hide 'neath the hood To kill with no pain Like a dog on a chain He ain't got no name But it ain't him to blame He's only a pawn in their game
In listening to the early recordings again, I try to think if the power of the structure and the lines as if on first hearing, and this video is such good quality that it really helps to do that. I do this sounds like a pretentious load of twaddle, but really, if you can just consider the above lines as if you have never heard them before, and never heard Dylan, they really are surely among the most extraordinary lines ever written in folk or rock music.
Aaron: With God On Our Side. This was from the BBC show Tonight in 1964.
Tony: It is helpful to remember that the evolution of broadcasting in the UK was utterly different from the Americas. Until 1955 there was only one TV channel in the UK, that of the BBC, independent but funded by the state, which had its view of being the arbiter of what the British audience should be allowed to see. (Film censorship was also very strong at the time). The first rival to the BBC was the commercial channel ITV which started in 1955 but wasn’t rolled out across the whole kingdom for about ten years.
So when this was broadcast most British viewers did have a choice of two channels, and the BBC was trying to make itself more relevant to a younger audience. But the result was horrifically patronising at times, and Cliff Michelmore who introduces Dylan here clearly has no idea of the what is going on – which just seemed to make the broadcaster’s output even more remote from day to day life.
Aaron: Gotta Serve Somebody – from the 1979 Grammys. Bob won the award for Best Rock Vocal Performance
Tony: Ah Bob all spruced up and looking smart. I wonder has anyone done a book about Bob’s dresser. If so could you post a note to tell me about it, because I’ve obviously missed it.
Musically, it’s a great arrangement, really controlled but really bouncy at the same time. One of the best I’ve heard. I particularly like the two or three times where suddenly a line is dropped – really takes one by surprise.
Aaron: Bob was back at the Grammys for his lifetime achievement award in 1991. Here is Masters Of War followed by his speech.
Tony: the re-arrangement with the monotone approach followed by the unexpected two chords at the end of the verse, and then no pause onto the next verse. The only problem is that although it makes the message very strongly it doesn’t actually make for musical entertainment. But goodness it is powerful. The little speech is certainly worth waiting for, if nothing else but to see Bob’s extreme uncomfortableness at the whole thing.
Aaron: Last up for this go round is an appearance on Letterman from 1993. Billy Connolly was on the show too, my all time favorite comedian..what a show this would have been!
Tony: Billy Connolly is great in his introductory remarks and this is a lovely delivery of Forever Young – so simple and so perfectly delivered. And it is is one of the very, very few recordings that actually has a proper Bob guitar solo in a full-band recording. What’s more it is utterly perfect, in keeping with the arrangement, and perfectly understated as the lyrics demand.
Great choice today Aaron. Really brilliant films.
Dylan released and unreleased: the series
- Part 1: Dylan Released and Unreleased
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: 2 – The usual, Pretty Boy, People get ready.
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: 3 – Hard to Handle the full one hour video
- Dylan Released and Unreleased 4: from the nursery to looking back
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: Girl From the North Country
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: Quest
- Dylan Released and Unreleased 7: Down along the cove
- Dylan Released and Unreleased 8: The Compilation Albums
- Dylan released and unreleased 9: the Galas
- Dylan released and unreleased 10: Soundstage, The World of John Hammond
- Bob Dylan Released and Unreleased 11. 1963: Westinghouse.
- Dylan Released and Unreleased part 12: the one-offs
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