Bob Dylan’s oeuvre can give a newbie Dylan fan hours of listening enjoyment and all-around, a rockin’ good time. Over the last several years, the never-ending touring troubadour has been releasing previously unreleased recordings.
Some songs are demo recordings with bad audio and are just downright mediocre and sound unfinished—like they are the scraps of other more polished songs. While the average songwriter will painstakingly struggle to create an album’s worth of songs, in his prime, Dylan was writing at a feverish pace, with his inspiration and lyrics coming from a multitude of sources. Here are a few obscure Dylan songs that were released several years after their initial recording, and are admired by some of his fans that have delved deep into his song catalogue.
Abandoned Love—This song was a throwaway from the Desire album and released on the compilation Biograph ten years after it was recorded. Supposedly, Dylan felt that the song didn’t fit into the narrative of the album. Its catchy melody about his breakup with his first wife Sara Lownds is just as strong and emotionally moving as his other breakup songs.
Blind Wille McTell—— This song has garnered cult status among Dylan fanatics and has been covered by many artists. Officially left off the Infidels album but released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. One of Dylan’s many influences and a blues musician in his own right, this song has powerful, poetic lyrics like any other great Dylan song. Dylan also plays piano on this tune. “But power and greed and corruptible seed seem to be all that there is……” Aaah, need he say any more. He’s so in tune with the zeitgeist.
I’m Not There—-This song gained more notoriety after Todd Haynes released his weird and wonderful Dylan biopic of the same name. The song is covered by Sonic Youth in the movie. An emotional song which seems to be about Dylan’s breakup with a girlfriend after his relentless touring took a toll on the relationship. There’s also some uneven love. Dylan mysteriously makes you believe that he’s the one that isn’t into the girl–“she don’t haunt me/ I’m not there/I’m gone” but the next lyric he will “cry tonight, like he cried the night before…”
John Brown — I heard Dylan play this song live when he played at Madison Square Garden in NY, way back in November 2001. He rarely puts this song on the set list, so it was a real treat to hear it. Originally performed on Live at the Gaslight 1962, an anti-war anthem about a soldier going off to war whose mother is proud that he’s serving his country. He returns home to her severely disabled.
Dreamin’ of You — This song was released on TellTale Signs, another volume in the Bootleg series. A music video of the song was released about a year ago, with legendary character actor Harry Dean Stanton playing an aging drifter who seems to be an obsessed Dylan fan collecting his concert memorabilia and following him on tour.
When the late Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes interviewed Dylan a few years ago, he said he made terrible albums on purpose to shed the “prophet” label that many of his fans bestowed upon him. Its part of the reason why Dylan remains such a fascinating, elusive artist and an influence on so many creative people. Whenever the public or media tried to box him in, he’d slip into another persona, leaving the last Bob Dylan behind him.
Bob Dylan 60 Minutes Interview
Bob Dylan Official Site