You may say it all started at a hairdresser’s in Stavanger, Norway. At least, I will say that. It must have been back the late 80’s, and in those days I still had hair on my head to bring to the salon. Still, I think I fancied the Girl working there more than I actually cared about getting a haircut.
Anyway, I was in the chair listening to the scissors cut, when a song on the radio caught my attention. The singer sounded both familiar and distinct, and I knew the voice, but was not able to produce his name. It started, however, a conversation with the hairdresser. She liked the song too. Who is that man?
The singer was of course Bob Dylan and the song lighting up a gloomy Stavanger day was ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’. The ‘Oh Mercy’ album was just released, and I was to be kept busy for the years to come.
Not that Bob Dylan was in any way new to me. We’d sung ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ at school, and a friend of mine played ‘Street Legal’ repeatedly in his car, but I had no recordings in my possession. Even though my collection was getting fairly big at the time, listing Bruce Springsteen, Steve Harley, Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones among others.
That haunting voice within that exciting sound made me leave the hairdressers with one thought in my head: to get as many Dylan records as I could afford from the record store. Luckily, most of them had the ‘nice price’ label, and soon I kept an almost complete Bob Dylan collection in my belonging.
I soon picked my favorite songs and records, read a lot of books on Dylan, and thru the years travelled to see him a lot of places. And I started to collect ‘field recordings’, and this is where I found the real genius of Bob Dylan. Away from the recording studios and the brightest spotlights; that’s where the most shining treasures are kept.
So, during the year of 2015 I have been organizing the best of these treasures for an IPod playlist, and just to let you know; these are my chosen ones:
- Searching for a Soldiers Grave; Spokane, October 5, 2001
Bob’s first show after 9.11 took place in Spokane, and the first four songs are nothing but heartbreaking: ‘Wait for the light to shine’, ‘The Times They Are A ‘Changing’, ‘Desolation Row’ and in the fourth slot; ‘Searching for a Soldiers Grave:
You ask me, stranger, why I made this journey Why cross three thousand miles of rolling waves Like many others, my love was killed in action That’s why I’m here, I’m searching for his grave.
My favorite song from one of my favorite shows, and I can’t listen to it without crying for all the good people we lost.
- Highway 61 revisited; Motril, July 10, 2004
Always a live favorite. Apparently unstoppable, and this evening in Spain the band puts even more energy into it than usual. And the song is for Robert Johnson. I think everyone should know that.
- Mama You Been on My Mind; Wilkes-Barre, November 1, 1992
-Selected for exceptional performance quality, it reads on the sleeve notes ,explaining why this is in my compilation. Exceptional indeed.
- Love Minus Zero/No Limit; Toronto, December 1, 1975
Solo. A man and his guitar. Performing like this is what Bob Dylan does far better than anybody else. From the legendary ‘Rolling Thunder’ tour.
- Million Miles; New York, January 21, 1998
Bluesy, swampy, jazzy. Filled with heart and soul. This band! This groove! This wonderful year of 1998.
- Song for Woody; Berlin, July 5, 1990
Not often on the set list ,and nowadays it has disappeared altogether. Still, you will not find a sloppy version anywhere, and the very best is this from 1990.
- Forgetful Heart; Orange Beach, Alabama, July 31, 2009
From the wonderful ‘Together Through Life’ album. Suits Dylan’s voice perfectly. And it’s such a dark and lovely song.
- Shooting Star; Oslo, October 13, 2003
Bob pretending to be Tom Waits, singing with a voice more than hoarse, and a piano punk attitude. And it works brilliantly.
- Boots of Spanish Leather; Glasgow, June 21, 1998
These lovely acoustic numbers of 1998 is topped by this.
- Slow Train; Foxboro, July 4, 1987′
Bob camping with the Grateful Dead in 87 deserves much more credit than given. This short tour produced some awesome stuff, and the very best is this from independence day.
- It Takes a Lot to Laugh; Woodstock, August 14, 1994
1994 is like a brand new start. Bob has sobered up, is back on top of his songs and can again deliver coherent, solid shows. From now on he never looks back. Woodstock 94 is brilliant, and when doing ‘It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry’ the whole band is on fire. And listen to the singing. Bob Dylan is such a great blues singer.
- Visions of Johanna; Philadelphia, June 21, 1995
The most relaxed version of ‘Visions’ there is. And I can listen to it all day. I’m told to be a relaxed person. Maybe listening to this MAKES me a relaxed person.
- Just Like a Woman; London, May 27, 1966
This song is accused of being both sexist towards women in general, and a nasty put down of a former lover. Maybe it is, but from the stage in 1966 Bob lifted his words far above any such discussions. This performance is art alongside Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Miles Davis. Timeless. And done by a man in his early twenties.
- Tomorrow is a long Time; Berlin, May 23, 2000
Beautiful. Just beautiful. Listening to this brings peace to your heart and peace to the world.
- Girl from the North Country; Sydney, February 24, 1986
Bob alone on stage with his guitar and harmonica. Breathtaking to the limit of survival, and sung and played in a way that brings out all the melancholy resting in the years gone by.
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right; Oslo, April 7, 2002
Well, it is number one, so it must be the best, right? I was there in Oslo when Bob pulled this one out, and it still gives me the shivers just to think about it. It’s a break-up song, all right, but the way this great song this time is sung and spoken and whispered, I have for the first time come to realize that the man is the one being hurt. It usually is, I guess…