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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, January 16, 2011


Hi Michael

As you know I spent about as much of the 90s and early 2000s collecting, “rare Dylan CDs” as I did travelling around various countries following his shows. I had a trip down memory lane last week and thought you’d be interested in changes in the “rare records” market.

Now, this is all within the overall perspective that the CD market and the “rare” market in particular is in terminal decline anyway. (Unlike vinyl but that is another topic); replaced as we know by downloads and computer files that with a broadband connection can be easily shared in full quality rather than using files like MP3s that compress the files.

But what has changed recently is that from a commercial point of view the Dylan market is almost completely dead after decades of him being the top seller (by far). Although diminished, the likes of Neil Young and the Stones still sell and Springsteen, who was second only to Bob for many years, now sells the most.

My curiosity piqued, I asked a couple of leaders in the field and they both said the same thing: that within the last year or two the hard core Dylan buyers have stopped altogether, while some Springsteen and Young hardcore buyers still remain.

They said that some of the old guard collectors from the other artists still come to the fairs etc. but the Dylan ones – by far the most numerous – just stopped. Odd. I have to stress that this is very recent: in the middle of the last decade Dylan was still the main centre of attraction.

Three possible reasons occur to me:

An over-abundance of Dylan already out? (I once would have found that phrase unintelligible) Perhaps people have simply stopped because they bought so very much in the past... and for newcomers now there are so many official bootlegs that it’d take an age to buy all the official albums and your whole life to absorb them.

Or is it that the Dylan audience has changed in a way that others haven’t?

Or is it just lack of interest? If you were to make a list of all your long term Dylan listening friends, how many would still hold his work in high regard and/or still be collecting?

One way or another, given that younger fans will generally download, we seem to be looking at the Dylan old guard finally giving up on their man in terms of collecting. Perhaps your blog could confirm/deny whether it it the same in Europe and the States.



Anonymous Rainer said...

I am not surprised at all. Being a - minor - collector myself for the last 30 years and knowing many, many other really die-hard Bob-fans, I think I know the reasons. First it was the CD-r and now it's the possibility of downloading. Why spend money if you can copy the concert? For most fans I know it's the music they want and not the artefact. And - and this is very important - together with the CD-r there developed a kind of moral code: trade for free! Don't buy or sell! No dealer should make money out of Bob's music! Of course all this only explains the crash of the bootleg-market. Concerning other collectables, like memorabilia, 45s etc. I think it's a thing of the past. No one of the, uh, younger fans I know are only interested in the concerts.

8:17 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

I was interested in Andrew’s reflections and questions.

I don’t know how typical I am of Dylan collectors, but I have almost completely given up these days, after 40+ year of collecting. The excitement – and sense of achievement often - of finding rare, sought-after stuff remained for most of that time, but the advent of the easy download and – as Andrew suggests – an over-abundance of material in recent years has made the whole business somewhat perfunctory. Nevertheless, I have listened with interest to tens, possibly hundreds of Dylan concerts of the last fifteen years in CD or download form. I know this is not the conventional wisdom, but I think that Dylan hit top form on many occasions between 1995 and 2005. Perhaps the latter date is pushing it a bit. How good it would have been if he had retired from touring after the magnificent trio of London concerts in 2003, where (laryngitis having added to the devastation of whisky and cigarettes) he could still manage to use that wrecked voice so powerfully and expressively. I occasionally keep tabs on his current form – he seemed mildly reinvigorated when Charlie Sexton rejoined the band recently – but really he holds little interest for me these days as a performing artist.

So, “Is it just lack of interest?” Andrew asks. Well, yes and no. I still listen to Dylan as often as ever – old albums, old albums re-leased, new albums, old (scratchy) bootlegs, new ‘bootlegs’ released by the grace of Sony. My interest in Dylan remains undiminished and my admiration for him, if anything, greater than it was twenty years ago. But I have all I need of his earlier ‘unofficial’ output and am not collecting his contemporary stuff. And that is why I no longer drop into record fairs (though I do still dip into Razor’s Edge occasionally...).

8:45 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

This is all very plausible, Rainer: but it doesn't explain why Dylan bootleg sales have stopped but those of the Stones, Neil Young and especially Springsteen continue.

11:30 pm  
Anonymous Rainer said...

with Dylan you get a new concert of/on the NET/net nearly every day, so there's enough to do to stay up-to-date, as with the Stones ... (though I truly love them!). And I think - though I might be completely wrong, but that's my experience - the average Stones/Bruuuce/Neil-fan has a different approach, is much more of an old-fashioned 'fan'.

9:12 am  
Anonymous Kieran said...

I think the Bootleg series has more or less put paid to the out-takes bootlegs, and as for shows, Bruce's show is rarely less than stellar, witty, sharp, whereas with Bob, he's become a lot same-ish - virtually the same encore for 8 years running - and personally I feel uninterested in his modern show.

I have several hundred "rare" discs and some of them - such as the Rundown Rehearsals - are what got me into Dylan in the first place. His inquisitiveness, his brilliance and spontaneity, his ability to transform an old tune. I don't hear that any more, and maybe that's just me and I'm missing out, but I'll buy studio albums and worthwhile Bootleg Series, but I skip the NET boots...

3:47 pm  
Anonymous Dylanologist said...

I think another factor is that the security surrounding Dylan’s studio sessions is much tighter now and studio rehearsals, out-takes and alternative versions don’t leak out like they used to with the rundown rehearsals, Infidels outtakes, Shot of Love sessions etc. Though if they did I guess people would just download them.

5:32 pm  
Blogger psteve said...

I was never that much a collector as a collector; meaning that the bootleg artifact didn't mean that much to me. So I really welcome the rise of the downloads. I still do buy many of the books that are published.

Could it be also that there's less new old stuff coming out? The Bootleg Series makes lots of those treasures available, for sure, but how long has it been since a genuine treasure surfaced? And when it did, as in the case of the Brandeis show, it was an official release. Newer stuff like the Tell Ol' Bill sessions is great to get, but those sort of 'releases' are fewer these days.

5:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bless you for the bracketed bit at the end. Frank. Bob was right " the key is Frank ". :-)

8:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Things have changed...

Newport 2,084,078 views
Tangled 2,690,909 views
Heavens Door 1,349,555 views
Things Have Changed 1,390,656 views
etc,etc,etc,and each of these performances/songs are in hundreds of other versions.

I have always been a selective collector and completists I know have become weighed down by the sheer quantity of Dylan performances available ( unlike Springsteen, etc ).

AND SELL ( we dislike "Bootleg Sales ")....the years of some people getting things for free from JG,etc and then selling them at a profit have thankfully gone.


PS. Springsteen shows not "sameish " ,please spare me...

10:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is a combination of factors:

1) Dylan's performances, for at least the past 6 years, have been of a low quality in terms of listening experience. Fine to be there, but no reward in listening afterwards.

2) Others mentioned, Young and Springsteen in particular, have been in superb live form in the same period - they kep things fresh - different types of tour - full band, acoustic, side projects, and they play hundreds of different songs in different arranegments - not the same old same old Dylan has been flogging to death for years.

3) The different way music is consumed - downloads etc - HMV is dying for a reason.

4) The demographic - fan base aging - new fans having so much more official material and the internet available.

Really, the news should be no surprise.

9:40 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Lots of interesting feedback here, and I think the last comment is an especially accurate summing up.

And Dylan's same old same old is so unnecessary!: he has so many unvisited and underexplored songs, and on record has deployed such different sounds - so perverse that for such a long time it's all been compressed into the maw of his mono-croaky voice, his boring featureless band, and Don't Think Twice Like A Rainy Day Stone.

9:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have loved the man and his music since I heard Pawn in the Game as a 12 year old all thos eyears ago, but for the first time I will probably not attend when he tours Australia in April. And for the same reason that I don't buy boots anymore. There is nothing new.

The latest official bootleg release was corporate tosh.

I listen to a boot of Houston 81 and listen then to a concert from last year and I am smart enough to know how to spend my time.

My dream I suppose is that he sits down one more time and makes a thoughtful meanimngful album. I would trade that for 1000 NET concerts.


10:39 am  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Hi Paul,

Bruce's shows aren't "same-ish" in their effect. With Bob, he's become increasingly the same in the effect he has - on me, at least.

With Bruce, he can perform Born to Run every single night, it always sounds fresh, exciting, and he always sounds like there's nowhere he would rather be, than in front of THAT crowd, singing THAT song...

1:06 pm  
Blogger Galwin said...

Plagiarism! The only thing I expect from an artist is that they be honest in sharing their vision. For me, there has been a breach of trust and all of "the folk tradition" does not excuse him, nor remove the evidence of just how much he profited from his thievery. I still listen and aprreciate his unique genius, but the experience is forever tainted. Plus, his live shows began to lose a lot after 2003, they seemed to be missing that magic that brought me to 30 plus shows since 1975 - and an enourmous cassette collection!

2:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The few collectors who actually located informal recordings and brought them into circulation finally realized that their efforts to simply share Dylan's informal output had instead created a bootleg culture of packaging and marketing that went from being a trashy curiosity to a church with thousands praying at their feet and books written to honor them.

"Archeology" continues, but the giveaway has largely ended. Simple sharing is impossible.

3:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kieran

Sorry, Springsteen has the same effect on me that Dylan has on you.

The worst aspects in relation to a Springsteen performance are communal singing which I detest, jumping in the crowd ( "look I am your working class hero !"....I prefer not to add further comment), the awful so called bonding between the band, the wife on stage ...would she get a gig in any other leading performers band ?, the overblown arrangements and trite songs, a poor back catalogue of songs ( 18 Tracks is an embarrassment ). I could be more negative but I won't.

Anonymous ...."Springsteen plays hundreds of different songs in different arrangements ".

A few FACTS may be helpful. In 2010alone Dylan performed SEVENTY EIGHT songs from TWENTY TWO DIFFERENT ALBUMS plus single, soundtrack, non album songs. The performances generally favoured post 1997 songs -as they have for years now- because these songs reflect the older Dylan ( the fact that these albums have been major worldwide hits does not make much difference....he did not play ANY songs from Together Through Life when it was number one in USA,UK and around the world! Of course, if you don't like the new songs then you are unlikely to enjoy the live shows.Dylan knows he has developed a new audience ( Modern Times sold 4 million in the first year,did'nt it? )

In 2010 he played two shows in one day ( memories of 1974 ), unlike 1974 or 1978, he CHANGED most of the songs from one performance to the next.

Again, Dylan has produced more great albums than Springsteen has produced albums.

I wonder what Springsteen will be like when he is 70 ? He may need to change his act ....

Neil Young is brilliant. He is arguably Dylan's biggest current fan. Remember a few months ago when McCartney called Dylan THE TRUE GENIUS and said how he would love to work with Dylan now, ravaged voice and all ?

I also love the fact that Dylan's influence continues to grow in new and unexpected ways.


4:39 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Hiya Paul,

I'd never argue Bruce as a songwriter, compared to Bob. They're not even close, and though Bruce has written many great songs, he hasn't written any so great or flexible or deep as Bob's best songs, and even Bruce's greatest songs suffer incomparson to stuff Bob leaves OFF his albums.

No argument there. Bob is subtle, learned, capable of mixing metaphors and allegory and Bible and poetry and giving us something wholly Bob Dylan, whereas Bruce is mired more in James Dean imagery and 50's r&r idealism.

But, you know, if you accuse (rightly, as it happens) Bruce of hamming up his blue collar credentials, the same accusation of pretentiousness could be levelled at Bob, who isn't black, never had the "workingman blues" in his life, and who dumbs down his very erudite thoughts to sound like an ordinary field hand who got sumpin' to bewail.

Maybe he did once, when his yacht sank in the Carribean, but we shouldn't confuse Bob for anything other than a rich dude who just happens to be a great actor, too.

But live? Bob has a one-size-fits-all slide guitar arrangement which he wraps around a gruff vocal riff, and this he attaches to sets of lyrics which vaguely resemble his written words. They're really interchangeable. I heard Maggies Farm performed to the same backing as other speeded up toons. I think this style is played out. Now and again, of course, the muse lights up the place, and this is what we're waiting for. I'm waiting for that muse to strike again since 2003, though the last time I saw him, he wasn't so bad.

Bruce is Barnum & Bailey. He mugs and acts the fool. He's entertainment. He's much more a "song & dance man" than Bob. And when he wants to get serious, he can belt out songs just like he did over 30 years ago. His physical energy is phenomenal, and the band is always well-drilled, stopping on a dime, full of surprises, and raising the roof wherever they go.

I never seen Bruce disrespect the audience, whereas with Bob I've seen a few shows where the money seemed to be his only reason to be there.

I never seen a bad a Bruce show. Sure, it gets silly, they even do requests, but it's so generous, so good-humoured, so passionate (albeit a well-rehearsed passion), that's it's impossible for me not to enjoy it and find it engaging.

In other words....Broooooooooce!!!!

6:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brooce isn't fit to tie Dylan's shoes. Springsteen performs athletics on stage, Dylan plays music for the soul. There is a difference!!

8:23 pm  
Anonymous dufferdog said...

I agree that Bob's singing peaked from 95-2003, with occasional brilliance thereafter (Desolation Row from Toronto in 2004 is thrilling). During that vocal renaissance not only was he the best pound-for-pound blues singer on the planet but the dynamics of his vocal range clearly inspired his changing bands. Sadly, he over-cooked it and it's now painful to listen to him and must be for his band as well.

No surprise then that he's signed a 6 book deal as he will now hopefully switch from black keys to 'querty' and riff some more..

10:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many more factors, starting with the radio shows. Theme Time Radio opened for music, explored the boundaries of what is there to be heard, and any listener, with the capability of the net, can go out and listen to a century of music.
When you have a century of music to listen to, when each new ( to your ears) artist opens for another area to explore, then you have to measure the time you have against what you want to explore.
This is then assessed against your changing ideas about what is quality.
Dylan has twice revolutionised how we listen to music - 1966 & Theme Time Radio. Springsteen & Young are pretty straightforward producers of artefacts that can fit easily into well-defined market stalls. Neither have ever changed the ground supporting their work.

2:47 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brought back great memories for me of visiting record fairs in the big city searching for Dylan boots. It's no fun anymore because it's all so freely available. Speaking for myself, I no longer bother even downloading Dylan because he has ceased to surprise me live. It's reached saturation point. He used to reinvent himself but now we've been getting more or less the same thing, coupled with a decline in his voice, for a decade or more. With Springsteen or the Stones you get a level of professionalism that can make a boot easy on the ears. Perhaps the long years of the NET are finally taking their toll on the ears of long time collectors. Of course, this does not explain why there is no interest in earlier eras from younger Dylan fans.

11:13 am  
Anonymous whalespoon said...

I agree that Bob's performances over the last several years have left something to be desired. One of the things that makes collecting old Bob concerts from past tours worthwhile has been that he played with different musicians from tour to tour. These musicians helped to change the way the songs sounded and were played, revealing yet new layers of meaning. For example, the 1974 tour with The Band was different than the Rolling Thunder Revue in '75-'76. The 1978 "Alimony Tour" was different than the Gospel Tours which were different than the '84 Eurpoean Tour w/ Mick Taylor et al. This was followed by the tours with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The Grateful Dead. Different musicians on each tour and the new interpretations of the songs could be reveletory. Since the "Never Ending Tour" began, the differences have been minimal from year to year. If I could give one piece of advice to Bob, it would be to take a sabbatical from his current band and record a new album/tour with a new set of musicians. Perhaps that would freshen things up and make his concerts events that would be really worth attending again.

2:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kieran

We will have to disagree about the respective merits of Dylan and Springsteen live performances( and authenticity ).

However,I do not accept your "one size fits all" argument. Dylan in the last decade has actually extended both his range ( think of "Love and Theft" and the different styles of music played on that album which prompted Charlie Watts to state "there are two geniuses in rock music Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.")and the instrumentation of his band which has the bass player adding cello to electric bass and stand up bass and his multi instrumentalist playing violin, viola, mandolin, banjo,pedal steel,lap steel,guitar and, more recently, trumpet. IMO the sound of the pedal steel is often used like a lead guitar sound and is used differently than expected.

I remember the reaction of one Dylan fan to "L & T " was " I love Highway 61 Revisited, how can I possibly like "L & T " ?

Again, for many years now Dylan has built his performances on the post 1997 albums and songs with the coda that the album versions are the sketches or blueprints for his live performances ...this is the Bob Dylan that ,say, Carlos Santana is referring to when he recently stated "I want to be knighted by Bob Dylan,Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis" and "it feels like John Lee Hooker has given you a kiss" ( on receiving Dylan's praise ).

For every "crowd pleasing" Maggies Farm or Rainy Day Women ( except Dylan does not allow or encourage the audience to sing along - or instead of him - and wave ) there are the delicate beauty of Forgetful Heart or Sugar Baby, the rockabilly of Summer Days,the old -timey Po' Boy,the slow burn blues Can't Wait, the no-holds-barred rocker Highwater,the military beat of Nettie Moore, "the are you sitting comfortably" aplomb of Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,etc,etc. These different musical styles and dynamics certainly have nothing at all to do " with being lost in the thunderous boogie "

Of course, his recent concerts cannot compare to ,say, 1987 when he made Tom Petty look like his junior, had the hair on the back of your neck stand up intensity and ,of course, left George Harrison standing in the wings with guitar in hand.

I trust that, again to quote Santana, he will never loose " that powerfully serious spirit " that restlessness to create music and sing songs.


3:47 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Hi Paul,

I love Dylan and Love & Theft, etc. His live show - to me - has become stale. Less so, admittedly, the last time I saw him, but I've seen him about 7 times in as many years, and the most irritatingly distinctive feature of most of those was the lazy upsinging at the end of every line.

A song would start with mean intent, but he wouldn't sustain it. Often, he seemed bored. Occasionally, he appeared to treat the audience with disdain. Why is this? That's boring itself, a pseudo-cool pose to show how aloof he is from the procedure? Shyness ("mistaken for aloofness")? I don't know. It can grate, however, when the songs run together in an unrecogniseable soup.

Singing along with songs isn't a bad thing! It's just in rock music - where artists take themselves so seriously - it can be frowned upon. In The Magic Flute, and Handel's Messiah, the audience would sing along! They weren't written that way, but it was seen as a compliment to the composer. Dylan doesn't like it, and maybe rightly so, because a lot of live performers hide behind this, using it as a gimmick to cover up a lack of substance in their own performance.

But surely such an accusation can't be thrown at Bruce, who's notoriously generous in his shows, regularly passing the 3 hour mark and leaving it all up there on the stage. Bruce's personality is different to Bob's, it seems. Bob is famously mercurial, secretive, mysterious. Bruce is open, friendly and chatty. They have different personalities, and I think Bruce's personality lets him joke about a little, crank it up and pour it on for such long performances.

With Bob, you DO get great inventiveness, and the occasional moment, such as Dublin 2003, when he croaked out an otherworldly Man in a long Black Coat - kind of thing that's way beyond the more literal and workmanlike Bruce. Bob's a more profound artist, no question about that. he's even done things of genius, which is very rare in rock music. But as far as live shows go, I know I'll get my money's worth from Bruce. I rarely get it from Bob.

Someone else made a good suggestion: maybe Bob should ditch the current line-up and go again with a different crew. Personally, I'd love to see some brass on stage, and some bras too! Bring back the gals to wail behind him. He can give us a lot more than perfunctory shows, but who knows if he wants to?

6:58 pm  
Anonymous HANSinFRANCE said...

Very nice to read all the comments here, especially the last one suggesting Brass and Bra's, I found very funny and I totally agree. I saw him about 40 times in concert since Lorely in 1981. 7 times in 2000, 10 times from 2002-2006, 11 times in Spring 2007, 3 times in 2009 and last year only once in Nice, France and I left very disappointed, although just the performance of a surprising "What Good Am I" made it worth my while to spend 126 euros on two tickets for my French girlfriend and myself. She is very new to Dylan and loves Together Through Life, but she also left very disappointed, because she recognised only one or two songs and found things way too loud and way too rock'n'roll. I used to almost follow large European and US sections of his tours, but I'm not so sure anymore if it pays to go to Australia in a few months. Would love to see the country for the first time, but will his shows move me like my first show did in Loreley with the brass and the bra's? I'm not so sure anymore, but then again Bob never fails to surprise and hope spings eternal. Maybe it's over-saturation, maybe I need to focus on the Stones and Bruce and others for awhile and then get reinspired by the one and only again. Maybe I should refrain from concerts all-together to save what's left inside my ears from any more damage done. I don't know....time will tell... Hans in France.

3:07 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

This discussion seems to have shifted, perhaps inevitably, from why the bootleg market for Dylan (but not for others) has died, to whether Bob is any good live anymore. Hasn't this been explored sufficiently now? It's not the first time this blog has dwelt on this topic, and of course no-one is ever persuaded to change his or her mind, and it becomes entertaining only when someone you disagree with makes what strikes you as an especially wild claim.

(As for instance, for me, when it's claimed that Dylan's present band isn't boring because over the long haul two or three of them have managed to play more than one instrument each...)

(A trumpet, you say? I'm somehow reminded of Oscar Wilde's comment that "When the last trumpet blows, let us pretend we don't hear it.")

Less entertaining, surely, is the need some people seem to express to attack Springsteen in the most ferocious terms as part of their argument in Bob's favour.

I'm not asking people to stop commenting - just wishing there was a bit more of a return to the core topic Homer raised.

3:26 pm  
Anonymous whalespoon said...

I think that many of the reasons that the popularity of Bob's rare CD market has crashed have been explored here. My guess is that free downloading and the "Bootleg Series" are the prime culprits. However,for me personally, the quality of the shows over the last 20 years is also a reason. I came into the bootleg/tape community in the early 1980's and was astounded at the amount of material available and the quality of much of it. I stopped collecting the "rare vinyl/CDs" about ten years ago because I had managed to acquire a good representative collection of the most important unreleased Dylan stuff and the more current live recordings were virtually indistinguishable from each other. 20-25 years ago, I was purchasing 10-15 bootlegs a year. Now,I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought one. The homogenized performances of the last decade or so is one of the main reasons.

4:09 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

I agree with whalespoon, also, that the Bootleg series has somewhat compromised the bootleg business, as far as Dylan is concerned: it's been so good in its selections that most great unreleased songs are finally out, soundboard quality, and the great mythic live shows are released also, especially All-Hallows Eve, which is a favourite concert of mine.

They even released songs few even heard of, such as Santa Fe, and for the completists among us, who prefer new (or unreleased songs) to live shows, the outakes from Time Out Of Mind etc, were a real treat.

The bootleggers still have the quantity, but Sony have released some huge swathes of great quality...

8:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh so its okay for people to attack Dylan in Brooooooces favour but not acceptable when the tables are turned. All the times i've seen Dylan he has delivered especially in 2010. Pure blues, Rock 'n Roll, "Longer you live, better you get" vibe. Maybe the reason his shows are not so freely available is not thru lack of interest, but maybe because of certain company's interests, notice huge decrease in Dylan youtube videos. Put two and two, you get four. As far as comparing a performer like Springsteen to an artist like Dylan, its a joke, remember what he said in Australia in 1986, that he didn't care anything about those people, Brooce and all the other celebrities. Neither do i and his band are great, everybody slagged off Mick Taylor back in '84, Tom Petty and all the others, bra and brass included. So stop moaning and "Pay for your ticket and don't complain"

9:46 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

This last comment is exactly the sort of immoderate, thoughtless blustering that gives defenders of Current Bob a bad name.

1:15 am  
Anonymous whalespoon said...

One more comment--I wonder if the downturn in interest in Dylan bootlegs could also be related to the possibility that Bob is becoming overexposed. Many artists like Springsteen tour every few years with several months or years in between. Bob plays 100 or so dates a year. In the States, that means that he is also playing some fairly small markets that seldom, if ever, have a artist of Dylan's caliber play. Given a choice of purchasing a bootleg of dubious quality versus going to see The Man in person, I think that most people would opt for the latter. I know I used to be very interested in hearing shows from tours that I could not actually attend in person. With Dyaln touring so much over the last couple of decades, maybe that has affected sales.

5:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The "anonymous" comment that "it is OK to attack Dylan " in your blog is a valid comment.

I do not think that my criticism of Springsteen was "ferocious". I was merely stating the reasons why I do not enjoy Springsteen live unlike other contributors you admire who slag off Dylan without actually stating the reasons or make wild claims about Springsteen ("hundreds of songs"). I felt it was both reasonable and respectful to respond in this way to Kieran whose views are different than mine but are nonetheless intelligent,moderate and passionate ( which I admire most ).

I suppose that it is only right that you are a great admirer of the people who share views similar to your own. However,many people have commented that you shoot down people ( I think it was Andrew who used that phrase) that enjoy and defend the older Dylan and you lavish praise on those that don't.

I could say that comments such as "despite it sounding like a Ray Conniff pastiche fitfully overlaid with a Dylan WHO COULD'NT CARE LESS HOW HE SINGS",ETC (CINTH )...ooh!..or "the mono croaky voice, his boring featureless backing band and Don't Think Twice Like A Rainy Stone Day" are ferocious but I won't.

Perhaps a more important discussion than the drying up of the cd market ( which you appear to relish ) would be a discussion about the reasons Dylan has developed a new audience especially with younger people.


1:34 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Paul, I don't know why you think my own comments were just directed at you. They weren't. You weren't the only person to defend current live Bob by attacking Springsteen, or the only person to have skewed the discussion in that direction. But if you were the author of "Oh so its okay for people to attack Dylan in Brooooooces favour but not acceptable when the tables are turned" then I'm sorry: I still find that immoderate - and I think it's a question of tone. You tend to write as if you're shouting. I don't.

3:02 pm  
Anonymous Steven Hart said...

Some bootlegs are lovely art-objects on their own right. The "Genuine Live '66 is simply astonishing, and the Christiania box is an education in geography as well as music.

But otherwise I have to concur with the other commenters: the arrival of the download, and the corresponding downturn in Dylan's performances, makes bootleg purchases inessential.

I have to wonder why so much of the corporate bootleg series is so indifferent. Are they waiting for the old guy to kick off before the real jewels, such as the complete "Blood on the Tracls" and "Freewheelin" sessions and a proper Basement Tapes set, get released?

5:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It strikes me as quite strange that you would suggest that I was the anonymous contributor who said "its okay to attack Dylan " etc.

I have contributed to your blog since June 2009 and have in that time suggested things which you have pursued such as the Jerry Lee Lewis live version of Rita May and the Farm Aid backstage Dylan/B.B. King TV footage.

During this period I have always used my name which happens to be Paul. Looking back I cannot think of any comment made to the blog without my name or a comment where I would not want my name mentioned.

Surely there is nothing wrong with people having strong opinions.


1:41 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Apologies. Clearly I was suffering from mixed-up confusion. You're quite right: your contributions have been varied and helpful.

I think it was these paragraphs that made me think you were turning shouty:

"I suppose that it is only right that you are a great admirer of the people who share views similar to your own. However,many people have commented that you shoot down people ( I think it was Andrew who used that phrase) that enjoy and defend the older Dylan and you lavish praise on those that don't.

I could say that comments such as "despite it sounding like a Ray Conniff pastiche fitfully overlaid with a Dylan WHO COULD'NT CARE LESS HOW HE SINGS",ETC (CINTH )...ooh!..or "the mono croaky voice, his boring featureless backing band and Don't Think Twice Like A Rainy Stone Day" are ferocious but I won't."

... and made me think the other comment might have been yours. I hope you might see why I could have been confused there - but as I say: apologies. Please don't be put off interacting with the blog.

2:03 pm  
Anonymous likeatrain said...

Homer -

I don't think it can just be attributed to the advent of free downloads - otherwise Brooce and Neil's bootleg sales would surely have shown a similar decline.

So there is something else at play here, and I'm afraid it probably has much to do with the current standard of Bob's shows. I cannot recall a period where one concert has sounded so similar to the next: you download out of hope or curiosity, only to find it all sounds pretty much the same as anything else you may have downloaded over the past 4 or 5 years.

The diversity in performance that characterised so much of Bob's performing past was surely one of the major factors behind many an obsessive bootleg-collecting habit. That plus the fact that, even in past lean times (early '91 for instance), there was still the real sense that things could change for the better - incentive enough to keep collecting. Nowadays, sadly, it seems highly unlikely (not least because of the physical condition of Bob's voice)that we will see a major upturn. Concert-goers occasionally comment on an increase in enthusiasm on Bob's part, or a better mood, but there's only so much he can accomplish with the voice he's now left with. And enthusiasm/mood, these days at least, don't always come across on 'tape.'

The thrills in 2011, such as they are, come from being at the show in person. So why collect?

On a personal note, can I just thank you for all the great work you've done for the Dylan community, from Homer, the slut to the warmline to generous tape-sharing etc etc.

I'm also curious to know when you last saw Bob and if you plan to go again...

Would love to read your work on Dylan these days, but don't know where to find it!


6:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Guy,

Yes, that is what I suspected too and although it steered Michael into an area he did not want the thread to go, it seems the most likely reason among the demographic who traditionally bought those kinds of discs. Even then though it is quite involved and I am writing on it elsewhere (see below) as I don’t want to send Michael down the same line again. (Also in agreement with what you write - my good friend David Bristow thoroughly enjoyed the shows he saw in 2010, but said it was for the visuals and would not come across on audio. John Hinchey was hugely enthusiastic about a show he saw in October but warned me that I’d not “get it” on a recording.)

Your comments are most kind. I last saw Dylan in 2009, briefly and I will next seem him, I hope, in 2011 mainly as I do not want my 2009 experience o be my last. 2010 was only the second year of the NET I missed after the first. (So, I have missed the first and the last as things stand.)

The reasons surrounding my last and next visits are quite complicated and in fact to answer your next question, that is what I am currently writing about. I have not done much writing recently, as for years I’ve been suffering from a sleeping disorder which left my waking hours short and I was too tired to do anything after work and have been continually grumpy (as Michael will confirm) Christmas In The Heart aside. I have now been diagnosed, the cause discovered and a treatment is beginning to look like the problem will be cured.

Here is the little that I have done in the Dylan sphere: I have been editing a column in ISIS which I mostly write myself now and wrote extensively on the Christmas album (and recent-ish Dylan in general) there. I also wrote on Oh Mercy for the first “Montague Street” fanzine edition as I wanted to help them start but although I was happy with most of what I said the weariness of my state soured it and I wish I could reword parts now.

I am currently updating “Razor’s Edge” and the imminent ISIS column and the aforementioned Christmas In The Heart (which I loved, unlike the shows I attended before it) hint at what is coming in that.

Thanks again for your enthusiastic comments – statements like yours, reminding me of the good old days of the "warmline", keep me going! (Sorry to go on so long, Michael.)

10:22 pm  
Anonymous likeatrain said...


I think David Bristow's point about the visuals is a valid one. I saw one show in 2010 and enjoyed it - in part because I had a vantage point very close to the stage, and Bob was good to watch - the centre-stage performances in particular. There were a couple of songs, too, where his organ playing was genuinely effective and took the songs in several directions with some nicely-judged rhythmic accents. There were also several performances, though, which - minus the visual aspect - would likely not make for too thrilling a listen. For this reason (with the exception of one song) I have neither downloaded nor sought out a bootleg of the show - which I would have done automatically in the past. There's a worry, I suppose, that the cold audio recording might taint the generally positive feeling I have about the show. I should say, though, that the one song I did download stood up quite well - though more for the instrumental passages (which were very good and, in the best sense, very 'Bob') than the vocals, which were pretty much standard recent fare.

Another thing that's probably telling is that, having seen the show, I'm seriously considering not going again - simply because I'm tempted to bow out on a show that I enjoyed (it was also a round-number show: my 30th in 20 years). Not spectacular, but good enough to exceed expectations, with a handful of fine moments and - perhaps crucially - seen from close-up with an unobstructed view. Though it may seem paradoxical to say 'I enjoyed the show, so I may well not go again,' I suspect you might know what I mean. Your comment about not wanting the 2009 experience to be your last resonates with me about an experience I had in 2008.

Sorry to hear about the sleeping disorder and glad it seems there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for the updates on your Dylan-related writing - I'll seek the Isis columns out and look forward to the updated "Razor's Edge."

All the best,


12:01 am  
Anonymous Tricia said...

Andrew, I'd just like to pass on my best wishes to you, sorry to hear about the health issues (we all seem to have them these days) and I do hope they will be resolved for you.

It's odd but I seem to agree with most of what everyone has said, even the ones who are in dispute, to some degree. I am seeing a couple of shows in April, or at least one. Will be attending very warily, I was not that keen when it came to buying tickets at prices which are quite standard these days but still outrageous to someone of my non-existent income. Just hoping there will be something positive about the experience, we shall see.

Anyway, kind regards and good memories to Homer.

8:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guy – at times your comments are so close to David’s that I feel that I am being told the same thing twice, which is good confirmation. He said very similar things re the shows and also had no intention of listening to it afterwards…..pause and loud noise of shifting gears as Homer desperately tries not to expand this into more comments on the current live shows….. I'd be interested to know, however, if and when you go back and what you think of it. I am afraid that the updated "Razor's Edge" may take some time but, hey, you could always read or re-read “Troubadour” in the interim 

Yes Michael, I know if looks like I'm taking over your blog; but I have do in crave your indulgence a little longer because I have Tricia to thank for her best wishes too. I hope you'll be posting your thoughts on those April shows, Tricia, and yes indeed for some strange reason as we all get older we all seem to have health issues; I should stress that mine amounted to more of an inconvenience than an illness, I am lucky not to be in pain or "really ill" like so many others. I only really mentioned it as a reason for low productivity and testiness.

I'm thrilled the past productivity is being so warmly remembered, it's enough to make a grown man blush.

5:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS there was meant to be a 'smiley' after "Troubadour" - hope you all guessed that,

6:40 pm  
Anonymous Harold Lepidus said...

Hi Michael - You might be interested in this . . .
Andrew's post - with the reader's comments -inspired the article . . .

6:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Glad to hear that sleep disorder msy be on the mend now that a working treatment has finally been afforded to you.

Re the bootleg market, I suspect the decline in sales could have much to do with the age of the would be purchaser. I've nothing to base this on but a hunch and I don't mean to be or sound offensive to anyone but I do have a very broad impression that modern Bob is now more appreciated by a younger generation. If my guess has anything to it, there are a number of possible explanations. Perhaps younger listeners/concert attendees cannot remember just how good he once was live. On the other hand, perhaps they are not chained to the idea that a certain period is necessarily golden and that anything new can only be an offensive and horribly distorted shadow of perfection. In short, they could range from being anything from blisfully ignorant of the golden days to simply being more open to the sound he generates today without being slavish to the sacred cows of yore.

In any event, if there is even a grain of truth in what I'm saying, I think younger generations would find it barmy to buy something from a stall when they can simply do what comes naturally to their age-download to their heart's content.

For my own view, I saw 4 concerts in 2010 and enjoyed them all.The (relative to recent years) showman approach by Bob does help visually and the reintroduction of Sexton makes the music more palatable to my ears. In terms of boots, I still download about 50 a year and usually settle on 2 or 3 that combine excellent sound with decent-very good performance to be my permanent souvenirs of the period.

All the best,

Judas Priest

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers, JudasP,

As an afterword to all this I note that "ISIS" magazine has dropped its Dylan bootleg CD column this month because there are none. They do say though that they will be looking at the seemingly burgeoning bootleg vinyl market in the future....

7:53 pm  

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