The Never Ending Tour Extended: Summer Days
Comparing recordings of Dylan performing his own compositions, across the years.
In this series we look back at recordings presented by Mike Johnson in the Never Ending Tour series of articles (there is an index to that series here). Links to previous articles in this “Extended” series are given at the end.
The selections and comments are by Tony Attwood.
This Love and Theft song first appeared on the tour 5 October 2001, and made its final bow in 2018 after an astonishing 885 performances, showing us once more just how much Bob loves the old 12 bar blues. And indeed how much he can get out of it.
And here there is something very interesting that happened because Bob and the band took the song to, and perhaps beyond its absolute limits as a rocking 12 bar blues, but then when it couldn’t go any further, suddenly took back and gave it a sort of rock and country twist, as I hope to show…
Somewhere after the two minute marker he starts playing around with the song. He doesn’t mind if we can’t get all the lyrics or not, he’s just enjoying himself, verse after verse. Then from about 3 minutes 45 we get an instrumental 12 bar blues that is just pure fun. And really I can’t help thinking that the whole point of the song on tour was at this point for this improvisation. How can anyone sit still and listen to this? How can Bob remember all the lyrics? How many times did they rehearse each new version?
By the following year we get Manchester and other outstanding performances there is slightly less intensity, which allows Bob to extend through the already extended song, finding almost an extra two minutes to put into the performance. Would someone like to write down all the lyrics and point out the changes from year to year? You could probably get a PhD out of that.
The only conclusion I can reach is that each night’s performance was simply allowed to develop out of the night before – the improvisations in this performance are still improvisations I’m sure, but they could not have just come out of nowhere. Much more likely they are taking the bits the guys liked from one performance and taking them every further.
The only question left was how long would the song ultimately get? There is certainly a very strange moment at 6’34” which seems to come out of nowhere, and is maybe sorted out by the next verse. It sounds rather like a sudden idea, but who knows?
The episode this comes from is called by Mike More jazz, regulars and rarities – and the song is much the same, but with the bassist is having more fun than he can ever dreamed about.
And here the strangeness of where we have got to in this performance really strikes me. For this is a piece that those people who still know, and still can, jive, will absolutely love to dance to. But of course, it is a concert performance. Yes, people are standing and jigging around, but not doing 1950s jive which is really what this song deserves.
Bob does introduce a few changes – odd nuances here and there, but it is still a long, long jam with set lyrics. The extended improvisations are getting wilder too – just listen to what happens around the five-minute mark. I’m not sure we’ve had anything like that before in any Dylan gig. Indeed I’d say, even if you have had enough of this song by now, do listen from 4’10” onwards.
So the question arises, does it ever change? There are hints above, and I am sure some of those lyrics are now quite different. But I think if I took this through each year step by step I’d lose my entire audience, so let’s jump right forward and see where it goes.
And yes be prepared to be surprised (unless you knew where this was all leading). This comes from the article Hell bent for leather
There’s almost a country feel to the piece now, and really the relationship between this and where we were 14 years before is extraordinary. It surely is as if Bob and the band were just taking it on further and further seeing how far it could go, and then having got there, they didn’t want to abandon the piece. So it just became something else. “Hey let’s do it with a country twist,” says Bob, and everyone looks at him wondering what the hell he was talking about. And then it comes together.
The Never Ending Tour Extended series
- Absolutely Sweet Marie
- Blind Willie McTell. 1997-2006
- Blowing in the Wind. 1991-2001
- Don’t think twice it’s alright 1993-1997
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- Highway 61 1989-2003
- It Ain’t me Babe from 1994-1998.
- It’s all over now baby blue
- Like a Rolling Stone 1988 to 2002
- Love sick from the very start to 2000
- Masters of War 1978 to 2000.
- One too many mornings.
- Rainy day women, from push to stroke
- Tambourine Man 1964-1995
- Tangled up in Blue 1988 to 1993
- The Drifters’ Escape. 1996-2005.
- The Hard Rain of 1988, 2003 and 2015
- Things have changed 2000-2007
- Visions of Johanna