BOB DYLANíS BASEMENT TAPES
BY GREIL MARCUS
Reviewed by bdpoe
This book is initially as hard to figure out as itís subject. It is a historical weaving of somewhat loose associations and connections that come together in Bob Dylanís influence on American culture using the bootleg collection of recordings known as The Basement Tapes as a springboard. Invisible Republic traces the influences and transitions of music and culture in the 1960ís. From the folk revival of the late 1950ís, Artists featured on the founding document of the movement Anthology of American Folk Music are explored. It was Bob Dylanís first true map of a republic that was still a hunch to him Marcus writes. Dylan is seen as the voice of a generation, a prophetic musical messiah and an alchemist whose Basement Tapes give rise to a ghostly republic of disparate personages. He is the champion of a liberal movement steeped in traditionalism who takes a dive by transforming rock and roll. This jester has the final laugh in that these recordings, laid down as a goof in his home in Woodstock are the subject of such a serious book some 33 years later. Once the darling of the folk movement, Dylan shocked audiences and fellow musicians, like Pete Seeger, by performing an electric set featuring Maggieís Farm and Like a Rolling Stone at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The shocked crowd erupted in booing and Pete Seeger was restrained from tacking an ax to Dylanís electrical cords. Through out the tours that followed, Dylan and The Band were met with discontent over the electrified sets. When Dylan and The Band played Britain their rock renditions were met with obscenity and jeers. In Wales, only those backstage got to see Dylan and Johnny Cash singing together at the piano. Cash teasingly punched Dylan in the chest who replied "You wouldnít do that to your best friend!" as they continued to find the melody to one of Cashís songs. The criticism from audiences and critics were blows Dylan took more painfully. Just as he had revolutionized American Folk music, Dylan was, despite the angry protests, redefining rock and roll - injecting it with poetry, social commentary and introspection. Although he was accused of selling out, the very catalyst for a new movement in rock, went into hiding, goofing off with The Band making music strictly for their own amusement. Comparing the recordings to the Watergate tapes years later, Robbie Robertson said that on a lot of stuff Dylan remarked We should destroy this. Though The Basement Tapes circulated as bootlegged pirated recordings Dylan did release an albums worth of selections from these sessions ten years later. From their experimentation Dylan resumed his career and the back up group became known as The Band. Dylan bounced from folk, country, bluegrass and rock having hits in every genre. Invisible Republic is essentially about American Music. It is complex yet masterfully written and a good addition to the history of American music. Greil Marcus also provides some of the liner notes on the remastered 6 CD set Anthology of American Folk Music. Bob Dylan LIVE 1966, the previously bootlegged Albert Hall concert can be sampled and ordered at http://www.bobdylan.com
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