Dylan released and unreleased: the filmed rehearsals.

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

An index to the previous episodes in this series is given at the end of the article.

Aaron: Here’s a couple of filmed rehearsals from Bob over the years.

First up , from the Concert for Bangladesh, it’s “If Not For You” with George Harrison.

Tony: I’d love to know what George Harrison said to Bob just as they were going to start.  And judging by the way Bob is looking at George at the beginning I’d guess they had only had one previous run through before this rehearsal.   I’d say this clearly isn’t the first run-through, because the sudden stop and the harmonies work, but the way George doesn’t come in immediately after the harmonica break suggests they were not quite there yet.   That also suggests why the arrangement is so simple – it’s a rule of live performances.  If you’ve not had time to rehearse fully, keep it simple.

And the simplicity certainly works for me.  It is a song that stands up on its own merits and doesn’t need a huge production to make it come alive.

Aaron: Next from Unplugged it’s I Want You and With God On Our Side

Tony: I love the way Bob is as nonchalant in rehearsal as he is on stage in performance.

It’s a totally different arrangement from any I have heard before; I’m not too sure about the effectiveness of the long pauses within the verse, although I must admit by the second verse it grows on me, despite the sudden change in approach with the band dropping out.

If that is a planned part of the arrangement then it most certainly is one of Bob’s most curious re-arranging of a song; if it wasn’t for the lyrics I’d take another moment to recognise what the song is.

But even if it is curious, I must say it certainly grows on me; who else could have thought of turning this song around in such a way.  By the four-minute mark, I’m thinking this is how it ought to be.  Extraordinary.

Tony:  After “I want you” I am ready for anything in terms of “With God on Our Side”, but this is a much more recognisable version of the song compared with the original.  And yet, once again, immediately I am drawn to this.  There is an extra variation or two but mostly it is the power and certainty in Bob’s voice against the stability of the instrumental accompaniment that makes this a truly remarkable performance.

There is so much written about Dylan that I have not had time to read, so I don’t know if anyone has done a study of how Dylan’s re-arrangements come about.  I mean, does Bob turn up and say, “ok this is how I’m going to sing it, what can you do?” and then make suggestions?   Or does he come in with an understanding of how he wants it to sound and gradually moves the band to that type of performance?

I rather think the latter, and the rehearsal tapes and videos seem to suggest this is what happens, and most certainly I get the feeling of that here.  I’d rank this as one of the best if not the best version of the song I’ve ever heard.

(Incidentally, after the performance stops the video continues for several minutes but not too much happens, so don’t feel obliged to keep watching!)

Aaron: Last one this time is a bit of fun from Bob’s surprise guest appearance on the US comedy show Dharma & Greg. The episode was called Play Lady Play.

Tony:  I don’t know anything about the show, and it looks to me as if Bob isn’t too sure about it all, although it does look as if this was the first rehearsal; it could even be ad-libbed all the way through.   Certainly reminds me of the chaos within many of the rehearsals that I was in (but sadly no one famous ever turned up to help us).

The lady really isn’t that much of a drummer in my view, but maybe that’s the point.  (Or maybe she is a famous drummer, pretending to be not very accomplished; sorry I don’t know).

But how nice to see Bob smiling!    Aaron, can you get a copy of the actual programme that was put out?  That would be fun to compare with the rehearsal.  Or was this the actual programme, pretending to be a rehearsal?  (Life gets so complex sometimes).

Dylan released and unreleased: the series

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4 Responses to Dylan released and unreleased: the filmed rehearsals.

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    The sitcom featuring a hippe/lawyer couple was very popular this side of the pond – Bob fits right in with Daharma and it’s very funny when she asks Bob and his accompanying musicians to help move her equipment.

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    *Dharma

  3. Andrew Davies says:

    That delightful Dharma & Greg footage is what went to air in the show. It seems like Bob at least was reacting to things in real time rather than scripted. Funny stuff – thanks for putting it up.

  4. Bill G says:

    I Want You sounds like the same arrangement as the Sophie B. Hawkins version.

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