I used to declare my hatred for The Basement Tapes loud and often, sometimes just to piss off the Aran sweater wearing pseudo-intellectuals in the Baltic Fleet where the Dylan club met. I had gone there to get a copy of Neil Young’s Tonights the Night tour bootleg from a chain smoking Dylan fan who wanted a fiver for it, I turned him down and went home having been chased out as I told the entire club how stupid the Basement Tapes were.
They were somewhat confounded and angered by the drunken long haired Doc Marten shod lout declaiming loudly that their hero was a fraud and fool and shouldn’t be allowed near a microphone especially if he was carrying a harmonica. Full of beer and righteous self indignation at the thought that a Dylan fan was trying to sell me a C-90 cassette with probably some badly distorted mumbling from Neil Young on it for a fiver.
I was never allowed unsurprisingly back to the Baltic Fleet for Dylan night. Yes in the dim and distant eighties fanatics would collect around warm beer and communicate about the object of the affection in person, nowadays we blog, join chat groups and Facebook groups, the conversation is sometimes just as reverential and I suppose I would be considered a troll for my behavior if I was ever to repeat it in the virtual world. There was however a certain honesty about facing down the screaming bespectacled young men irate at my lack of respect for Bobby, as opposed to hiding behind the anonymity of the keyboard and internet.
Now the Baltic Fleet is a beautiful pub and you should visit it if ever in Liverpool, it is probably long past it’s heyday and undoubtedly a lot cleaner than it used to be, it is however forever ingrained in my mind as the scene of my ignominious removal from before I was ever a member of the Dylan fan group.
After almost 30 years I have now become something of a fan of the Basement Tapes mainly because some of the songs have become ingrained in my mind, whether it’s Quinn The Eskimo, Tears of Rage, Million Dollar Bash, I Shall Be Released, You Ain’t Going Nowhere and This Wheels on Fire and thats just from memory, never mind the Washing Line Song and Goin’ To Acapulco. And to think none of these songs were ever initially supposed to be released. It also has markedly less harmonica than any other Dylan album I believe. I have also become a bit obsessed with the Bootleg Series so the Basement Tapes Raw arrived today and as I listened I was surprised at how fresh and immediate the recordings still sound, although I was also a bit frustrated by the compilers willingness to release partial tracks, I bet he owns an Aran Sweater and a pair of brogues. I will own them all one day, I swear.
Also here is the tractor shot for those that need it: