The Genuine Basement Tapes Volumes 1 - 5

John Howells


  • Introduction
  • Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 1
  • Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 2
  • Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 3
  • Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 4
  • Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5
  • Introduction

    In 1975 Columbia released its official version of The BasementTapes, and at the time it was thought that all of the songs from that session were in circulation. However, the inclusion of Going To Acapulco, a previously unknown recording, raised the suspicion that there might have been many more songs as yet uncovered. This suspicion turned to reality about ten years later when a new batch of tapes appeared and were subsequently bootlegged as two double lp sets called Blind Boy Grunt and the Hawks I & II. These records not only presented entirely new material, they also contained a few of the standard tracks in new stereo mixes. These mixes were of a crude nature that betrayed the primitive recording equipment used and put an end to the speculation that the basement tapes were actually recorded in Columbia's studios (yes, I had actually heard this rumor!). The new tracks also showed a new side of Dylan and the Band. There is considerably more goofing off and the atmosphere is more relaxed than what was apparent on the "core" tracks that we were all familiar with (more on this later).

    Finally, within the past few years we have seen the discovery of an additional few hours of unknown basement tapes. All of this material (the Dylan portion at least) has been released on five CDs in the series called, appropriately enough, The Genuine Basement Tapes. Assuming that we now have the complete collection of basement tapes at last, and barring any further surprises, this seems like a good time to discuss this material in its entirety.

    What was the purpose of these sessions? At various times Dylan and members of the Band have claimed that they were "just for fun", and certainly it shows that they were having fun. It also seems apparent that one purpose may have been to get some new songs published. After all, fourteen songs were distributed on acetate to various artists throughout the world, and in 1967 we began to hear new Dylan songs being covered by the likes of the Byrds, Manfred Mann, and Peter, Paul and Mary. But I don't think either one of these explanations will suffice.

    First the "just for fun" theory: sure they were having fun, and anyone who has ever been in a band with almost daily rehearsals knows that there is a need to cut up and let off steam. But there are times when Dylan seems very serious about getting something down on tape and even tells Garth Hudson at one point "you don't have to record this, Garth. You're just wasting tape". So then maybe the purpose is to make some publishing demos. But then why record so many non-originals?

    One other theory is that the sessions were actually rehearsals for the Guthrie tribute at Carnegie Hall, or for an aborted concert tour. Unlikely on two counts: first, were they going to perform without a drummer? Levon Helm had not yet rejoined the Band; second, Dylan had just recently broken his neck and was in no condition to be going out on an extended concert tour of any kind.

    Well, I have my own theory. In 1967, Dylan and his manager Albert Grossman were in the midst of negotiations with MGM Records, who were very eager to sign Dylan to a long term contract, but (according to Robert Shelton's book) Dylan still owed Columbia fourteen songs. Now it could be an amazing coincidence that the original basement tapes acetate consisted of fourteen songs, but I doubt it. These fourteen songs make up the core of the basement tapes and are as follows, probably more or less in the order intended by Dylan (but who knows?):

    Million Dollar Bash
    Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread
    Please Mrs. Henry
    Down In the Flood
    Lo and Behold
    Tiny Montgomery
    This Wheel's On Fire
    You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
    I Shall Be Released
    Tears of Rage
    Too Much of Nothing
    Quinn the Eskimo
    Open the Door, Homer
    Nothing Was Delivered

    These are the most famous songs from the basement tapes, and the first to be bootlegged. All of the above appeared on one of the most famous of the early boots, Troubled Troubador. About half of these songs appeared on Great White Wonder, arguably the world's very first bootleg record album.

    I think Dylan and company were planning to release this material as Dylan's final album for Columbia before joining MGM. Partly because Dylan was still recuperating and deserved a rest, and partly because he just didn't care about delivering a professional studio quality recording, the songs were done at home in the most relaxed setting possible. As a result, Dylan recorded his greatest body of work.

    So why wasn't this material released until 1975? The deal with MGM fell through (and they collapsed a few years later anyway) and Dylan had a new contract with Columbia, and so John Wesley Harding was released instead. The basement tapes songs couldn't go to waste, so they were sent out to various artists for demo purposes. But then why didn't Dylan just re-record the basement tapes songs with the Nashville musicians for John Wesley Harding? I don't know. Maybe by that time he was bored with the whole project, or maybe he still held out hopes of releasing a definitive Basement Tapes album.

    The music is all available here on five CDs called The Genuine Basement Tapes, and genuine they are. No overdubs and no cleaning up - just the way they were recorded. Some tracks cut off just as they get going, others begin in the middle of verses, and others are merely tryouts that never got beyond the initial runthrough stage. Some of it is in very clear mono, and some is distorted and full of hiss, but mostly the sound is superb. Many people have complained about the stereo sound, with Dylan's voice on one channel and most of the instruments on the other (much like the early Parlophone Beatles albums), but I actually like this sound myself. I get to hear Dylan's voice in isolation and Garth Hudson's organ is much more prominent. Also, some of the harmonies that weren't apparent on the official album and early bootlegs can now be heard for the first time.

    The release of the basement tapes came in three stages. (I don't mean to imply that the songs were recorded in three separate stages - but that they came to the public in distinct batches). The first stage consisted of the fourteen songs forming the core plus the other songs that were in circulation at the same time, including Odds and Ends, Clothesline Saga, I'm Not There, Get Your Rocks Off, Apple Suckling Tree, and others. These songs went into circulation because they were being made available to recording artists throughout the world who might be interested in recording new Dylan songs. I'll call these the "original archives". The second stage consists of the songs discovered in the late 1980s and soon after released on the Blind Boy Grunt and the Hawks albums. Most of these songs were either traditional or cover tunes, but some are still of unknown origin. In Clinton Heylin's book Bootleg: The Secret History of Rock and Roll, he tells us how this batch of tapes was uncovered. A friend of Robbie Robertson gave or loaned the tapes to a record store owner in the Pacific Northwest and from there the tapes were bootlegged. Apparently the original owner of the tapes didn't know what a gold mine he had. I'll call these the "Robbie Robertson archives". The third stage consists of the newly discovered tracks which surfaced at the same time the Bootleg Series collection was being assembled by CBS/Sony. This collection of songs is the weirdest of the lot and features mainly covers of traditional folk and blues tunes, but there are a few alternate takes of some of the more familiar "original" songs thrown in for good measure. Since these songs are believed to come from the Garth Hudson archives, I'll call these the "Garth Hudson archives". I wonder if we can look forward to a stage four release? Maybe Rick Danko's widow is still sitting on a stash...

    Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 1


    Bob Dylan - guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals
    Robbie Robertson - guitar, drums, vocals
    Rick Danko - bass, fiddle, vocals
    Richard Manuel - piano, drums, vocals
    Garth Hudson - organ, piano
    (Levon Helm also appears on some tracks)

    Volume one consists entirely of songs (from the Robbie Robertson archives) discovered about ten years after the release of the "official" Basement Tapes album (hereafter called OA). Some of these songs feature Dylan on 12-string guitar and others feature him on piano. All are very empassioned performances.

    All You Have To Do Is Dream

    I don't know if this song is an original, but it definitely has some clever lyrics ("if the farmer has no silo, and his fuel cost is running high, well that's just how much I would love you, if you'd only let me try"), plus the arrangement appears to be more worked out than most, leading me to believe that this was possibly one of the songs intended for future release. Apparently they never finished a suitable version. Too bad. The second version also appears on this volume.

    I Can't Make It Alone

    Mostly improvised, this song is a nice minor key blues and has a lot of potential, but it's definitely not finished. Dylan on piano, I believe.

    Down On Me

    This is just a brief pass at an old gospel standard later made famous by Janis Joplin. Nice harmonies. This recording, like so many others in this collection, demonstrates that Dylan and the Band were a unit and not just a singer with his backup group helping out.

    Bonnie Ship the Diamond

    Apparently a traditional English or Scottish folk song about whaling expeditions. Dylan on 12-string guitar and very rough voice. Excellent organ from Garth Hudson.

    One Man's Loss

    This is one of my favorites, even though it's one of the poorer sounding recordings in the bunch, because for much of the beginning of the song you can't hear Dylan's voice, but once it gets going and you can hear him better, the song can be appreciated as a nicely improvised blues. Nice lyrics: "one man's loss always been another man's gain, one man's joy always been another man's pain". Dylan on piano. As usual, Robbie's guitar adds so much without really making you aware of it.

    Baby Ain't That Fine

    Nice ensemble country singing at its twangiest. Another example of how Dylan and the Band collaborated vocally. This song reminds me of Dylan's later Wallflower.

    Rock Salt and Nails

    Nice slow country tune written by Bruce Phillips with great lyrics and wonderful vocal. "If the ladies were squirrels, with their high bushy tails, I'd fill up my shotgun with rock salt and nails". This is the type of song that the boys were singing at these sessions!

    A Fool Such As I

    Made famous by Elvis Presley, Dylan later redid this song at the Self Portrait sessions and Columbia subsequently released it on the notorious Dylan album. This version is different, though, and is much slower and more relaxed.

    Stones That You Throw

    An old Hank Williams song from his Luke the Drifter days, this morality fable is a sort of "drawling blues" obviously done on the spur of the moment. No one for sure really knows how the song goes, but Bob gets the lyrics right, apparently, and the singalong chorus is fabulous: "A tongue can accuse or carry bad news, the seeds of distrust it will sow. So unless you have made no mistakes in your life, be careful of stones that you throw". Performed very tongue-in-cheek.

    Hills of Mexico

    This is actually none other than On the Trail of the Buffalo and goes under many different titles. Unfortunately this version stops just as it gets started, with Bob saying "you don't have to record this one, Garth, you're just wasting tape". Well, I would have liked to have heard the rest! As with many of the songs on these tapes, the original key is abandoned and it starts over in a new key. It could have been great, but maybe the mood just wasn't right.

    I'm Alright

    It's really a shame that this is only a fragment because it sounds like it must have been one of the best songs recorded at these sessions! One verse and chorus is all we get before the tape chokes. A lot of other really outstanding songs are aborted in the same way. "I'm a three time loser but I'm alright". Who wrote this?

    One Single River

    The actual title is Song for Canada. One of my favorite songs on volume one. One of several songs written by Ian and Sylvia. Dylan must have been listening to their records quite a lot at the time, and they're some of the best songs on these sessions! Not having been familiar with them before hearing them here, I had assumed them to be Dylan originals. Now I'm going to have to seek out some of their recordings because I'm very impressed by the quality of the writing.

    Try Me

    "Try me little girl, we can raise a family". Dylan on piano. Excellent melody and chord progression. Dylan almost goes into falsetto during the "try me"'s. The song is essentially complete. Garth shines on organ.

    One For the Road

    No, not the one made famous by Frank Sinatra, but apparently a totally improvised song which will break your heart. The lyrics seem to be nonsense and exist only to fill in for what would be the real words, if they ever existed. Slow country blues with more excellent Richard Manuel harmonies. The chord changes alter slightly toward the end - to great effect. One of the best tracks on volume one. Very dynamic.

    I Don't Hurt Anymore

    Another country standard, originally recorded by Hank Snow 1951. More ensemble singing from the band. Really nothing more than an initial run through and not as good as some others on the same disc.

    People Get Ready

    Curtis Mayfield's classic gospel song, sung entirely in harmony by Bob and the boys. Dylan returned to this song at least twice more in his career (Renaldo & Clara, and Flashback film soundtrack). Musically beautiful. Dylan on 12-string guitar.

    Won't You Be My Baby

    A fragment, unfortunately. This cuts off just as it starts to get cooking with a Garth Hudson solo. Very tough, brittle guitar and bluesy organ, combined with Dylan's piano and vocal. Richard Manuel on drums. Excellent!

    Don't You Try Me Now

    Another great blues. Great vocal by Bob. I believe he plays piano on this one too. Sample lyrics: "You might think you're having a good time, but wait 'til later on when your troubles start".

    All You Have To Do Is Dream

    Version two of the same song that opened this disc. This time out it's more refined and polished, but I prefer version one myself. When Robbie begins his solo, it's so loud that it literally sounds like a completely different instrument. It's very startling. This could have been a single.

    You Say You Love Me

    Not listed on the cover, this song features the Band without Bob Dylan. Richard Manuel sings lead during the chorus and you can barely make out Robbie Robertson during the verses. There is a better take of this on the vinyl collection Blind Boy Grunt and the Hawks volume one, but it's not available on the CD.

    Long Time A-Growin'

    This disc closes with one of the very best vocal performances ever given by Dylan, or by anybody for that matter. This is the Irish folk song that he sang back in 1961, slightly updated with guitar and organ, and with fragmented altered lyrics. Slow and relaxed with Bob gliding effortlessly through the melody, you've never heard anything like it before. He also plays 12-string guitar. This one is worth the price of the disc alone.

    Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 2


    Bob Dylan - guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals
    Robbie Robertson - guitar, drums, vocals
    Rick Danko - bass, fiddle, vocals
    Richard Manuel - piano, drums, vocals
    Garth Hudson - organ, piano
    (Levon Helm also appears on some tracks)

    Volume two consists mostly of those songs available in 1967 and subsequently released on the official Basement Tapes album (hereafter called OA), but many of these versions have never been heard before by the general public, even though they have been known of for years. This is the core of the Basement Tapes. The nice thing about this disc is that is tends to present the multiple takes more or less in order, so that for the first time we actually have both versions of Quinn the Eskimo and all three takes of Open the Door Homer on one disc. Also, the multiple versions present further evidence that these songs were probably intended to be released as part of an album at one time or another.

    Odds and Ends #1

    A different take than the one on the OA, but not much different except that the ending is more ragged.

    Nothing Was Delivered #1

    Much different than the OA version. This one is more uptempo with a drum track. Just a fragment, though. There's a more complete one later on.

    Odds and Ends #2

    The OA version, minus the piano which was actually overdubbed in 1975 (prove me wrong!). Otherwise, identical to the album track.

    Get Your Rocks Off

    One of the legends of the original Basement Tapes. Long available on various vinyl bootlegs, most notably VD Waltz, this one is a pretty funny blues number with everyone having a real good time. Covered by Manfred Mann, of all people. The lyrics are hilarious.

    Clothesline Saga

    Same as on the OA, except that the flub at the beginning was cleaned up for the album. It's intact here. One of the highlights from the session.

    Apple Suckling Tree #1
    Apple Suckling Tree #2

    Version 1 appeared on the OA and version 2 is only slightly different, being just a little bit more sloppy than the first one. Both are very good and Garth really shines. Has anyone noticed that the tune is almost identical to Froggie Went A-Courtin'?

    Going To Acapulco

    Before the release of the OA, this song was completely unknown. Here it is again, this time in a slightly different mix which emphasizes Richard's backup vocal and Garth's organ.

    Gonna Get You Now

    It's funny that this would appear here, because it really belongs on volume one, seeing as it was one of the songs discovered only recently. One of the minor songs from the sessions, still very enjoyable.

    Tears of Rage #1
    Tears of Rage #2
    Tears of Rage #3

    All three versions of Tears of Rage, including one (version 1) in waltz time. One of these versions appeared on the album, but the most famous of them (version 2) did not. Compare for yourself and see which one you like best. Version 3 is the one that appeared on the OA.

    Quinn the Eskimo #1
    Quinn the Eskimo #2

    Version 2 appears on Biograph, but it was really version 1 that was the more famous of the two. "Waitin' on you", Bob says at the beginning, apparently waiting for Garth to begin his famous flute-like organ riff before beginning the first verse. I suppose they thought the second run through was more polished. Until version 2 appeared on Biograph, the only official version of this song was the live one from the Isle of Wight concert that appeared on Self Portrait! In fact, that was the only live rendition of the song that Dylan has ever done. A huge hit for Manfred Mann in 1967.

    Open the Door Homer #1
    Open the Door Homer #2
    Open the Door Homer #3

    Three versions of this song, all pretty similar. The most famous one (version 1) appeared on the OA. It was also the best. The others show obvious signs of the song still being worked out and there are some pretty rough edges. It's strange that the song started to collapse after take 1, unless the order here is confused.

    Nothing Was Delivered #2
    Nothing Was Delivered #3

    Version 2 is the famous official version and version 3 is the full rock version complete with drums. The OA version is the best one, and it appears here in a slightly different mix.

    I'm Not There (1956)

    One of the true wonders of the Basement Tapes sessions, and the very best song on this CD. After years of hearing this song only in low quality sound, we finally have a brilliantly clear version to listen to. The lyrics are still mostly indecipherable, but at least we can clearly hear the mumbles for a change! Although it's available in stereo on other bootlegs, it's in mono here. There's also a slight glitch at the beginning which sounds almost like a skip, but I suppose it could have been deliberate on the bootlegger's part. Truly one of the best unreleased Dylan songs ever recorded. I'd still like to know where the "1956" in the title comes from.

    Don'tcha Tell Henry

    At one time very rare because it had never before appeared on a bootleg, this drunken romp is a lot of fun. Don't expect it to sound like the OA version as sung by Levon Helm, though. This one is so loose that you wonder how they can keep from falling down the whole time the song is going! Somebody plays trombone. Garth plays bass on the organ.

    Too Much of Nothing #2

    This is the most famous version of the song, but it wasn't the one released on the OA. There was much complaining when the album came out because this version was replaced by a lesser known take (more on that later). I can't get too upset about it, though, because with the GBT series we have it all!

    Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 3


    Bob Dylan - guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals
    Robbie Robertson - guitar, drums, vocals
    Rick Danko - bass, fiddle, vocals
    Richard Manuel - piano, drums, vocals
    Garth Hudson - organ, piano
    (Levon Helm also appears on some tracks)

    Volume three features more of the "original" songs, but with a few extra newly discovered songs thrown in for good measure. Despite the wealth of wonderful material, this disc is the one I like the least, primarily because of the poor sound. Whether by design or accident, the entire disc is in mono and features a lot of hiss at times. I know that there are stereo versions of some of these songs available, and so the decision to master them in mono makes for some pretty poor mixing results. Garth Hudson can't be heard as he should and some of the harmonies are buried. Still this disc is essential because of the material presented.

    OA refers to the "Official Album" released by Columbia in 1975.

    Million Dollar Bash #1

    An alternate version which is unusual for the presence of harmonica. Otherwise not much different from the OA version.

    Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread #1

    A more relaxed alternate take. Also not much different from the final version.

    Million Dollar Bash #2
    Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread #2
    Please Mrs. Henry

    These are the OA versions. Different mixes, and unfortunately in mono.

    Crash on the Levee #1

    Version 1 of this song, more popularly known as Down In the Flood. Different tempo than the OA one.

    Crash on the Levee #2

    The familiar OA version. Different mix.

    Lo and Behold #1

    The first version of Lo and Behold sounds very similar to the OA version, but it's only slightly less together and there's a point where Dylan stumbles over the lyrics and cracks up. Lots of fun, nevertheless.

    Lo and Behold #2

    The OA version. Different mix.

    Ferdinand the Imposter

    Rick Danko sings this song and Dylan takes no part. Too bad it's just a fragment, because it sounds like it would have been a great song. Fades out slightly before the abrupt end which was clearly evident on the vinyl boot.

    Tiny Montgomery
    This Wheel's On Fire
    You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
    I Shall Be Released

    All the same versions as on the OA. Lots of hiss during I Shall Be Released, making it one of the poorest in fidelity since the original Great White Wonder. Fortunately we have it on Bootleg Series 2. Both You Ain't Goin' Nowhere and This Wheel's On Fire sound dramatically different than their OA counterparts. Wheel was vastly improved for the OA and Nowhere has, I believe, a guitar overdub that isn't evident on this mix.

    Too Much of Nothing #2

    Supposedly a stereo mix of the most famous of the two takes, but not the one on the OA. Still, it's NOT in stereo on this disc and has a fair amount of hiss.

    Even a Tomato

    An instrumental from the Band. I don't know what the title refers to. Levon Helm rejoined the Band after the Dylan material was recorded, so he appears on this track.

    Santa Fe

    One of the songs only rumored before the release on Bootleg Series. Lyrics are mumbled and obviously improvised. This seems to have been an excuse for Dylan to sing the very nice melody. With a little work it could have been a good song.

    Silent Weekend

    The best thing on this disc! Another long rumored song, this one almost made it to the Bootleg Series before that set was trimmed down from four to three discs. If it isn't Levon playing drums, then it must be Richard. Doesn't really sound like his style to me, though. Excellent singing from Dylan and fine backup from Danko. Rockabilly at its finest.

    Too Much of Nothing #1

    The OA version. Many people were disappointed to hear this instead of the other one when the album came out, but I like this one just as much. I remember being very surprised when I first heard it because the melody and chords are so different from the one I was used to. This is very worked out and proves to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was more to these sessions than just having a lot of fun. This is a serious attempt to produce a polished song. Possibly another proposed single?

    Sign on the Cross

    Next to Silent Weekend, this is the real reason to own this disc. Sign on the Cross is simply one of Dylan's very best performances ever. Everything about this seven minute gem is perfect, from Garth's organ swells right down to Bob's drunken monologue. I think it's interesting to note that the basic structure and melody of this song was recycled many years later for the Dylan/U2 collaboration Love Rescue Me. Even though a stereo mix exists, this track is in mono. Still worth it, as it sounds very loud and clear.

    Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 4


    Bob Dylan - guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals
    Robbie Robertson - guitar, drums, vocals
    Rick Danko - bass, fiddle, vocals
    Richard Manuel - piano, drums, vocals
    Garth Hudson - organ, piano
    (Levon Helm also appears on some tracks)

    Starting with volume four, the rest of the unreleased basement tapes (the Garth Hudson archives) began to go public. What we have here are some of the most entertaining songs in the whole collection. They're also the poorest sounding with lots of distortion and occasional drop outs from time to time. Still, there is some very good material here. In fact, I would have to say that volumes 4 and 5 are my favorites of the series. Bob and the Band are having a lot of fun here. The fun is contagious.

    OA refers to the "Official Album" released by Columbia in 1975.

    You Ain't Going Nowhere #1

    A real surprise! The lyrics are nothing like the released version, either on the OA or on Greatest Hits 2, which was a little different in itself. The lyrics here are a crackup! Sample verse:

    just pick up that oilcloth
    cram it in the corner
    I don't care if your name is Michael you're gonna need some boards
    get your lunch, you foreign bib
    you ain't goin' nowhere

    It's sung in a talking drawl similar to Lo and Behold and Bottle of Bread. I wish this version had been released on the OA instead of the more well known one.

    Bourbon Street

    Apparently recorded at the same time as Don'tcha Tell Henry, this features the same drunken sound complete with trombone and organ bass pedals. This song is a little bit of a disappointment after having heard of it for years in lyric form only. Even though incomplete, it appears to be substantially finished all the same.

    All American Boy

    A great talking blues with Rick helping out with comic asides. Written by Bobby Bare and a hit for Bill Parson in 1959. Lots of fun.

    Wild Wood Flower

    Written by A. P. Carter. This doesn't really sound that much like one of the basement tapes at all. In fact, it sounds more like something from the Self Portrait era. Sound problems (left channel has dropouts). Floppy Nashville style drums and somebody blowing a blues harmonica in the background, doesn't really sound like the rest of the basement tapes. No keyboards.

    See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

    The Blind Lemon Jefferson song that Dylan did on his very first album. This sounds like another Self Portrait era recording. The voice sounds like the one he was using on Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait.

    Comin' Round the Mountain

    Yep, "she'll be coming round the mountain when she comes". Sure sounds like a Self Portrait outtake, but the voice does sound more in line with basement tapes plus the backup vocals could be the Band. Who knows?

    Flight of the Bumblebee

    Just some fooling around. Don't know where this song comes from, or if it even exists as a real song at all. Mostly just an uninteresting blues jam.

    Confidential To Me

    This is more like it. Definitely Garth on organ and probably Robbie on drums, although it could be Richard. The piano could be Dylan. Pretty sloppy, but the spirit is right. Written by Dolinda Morgan and recorded by Sonny Knight in 1956.

    I'm a Fool for You

    Great song with great possibilities. Falls apart at the bridge because of key change problems. Too bad. This is a real good example of how a song can get ruined by too much rehearsal and why Dylan always liked to get everything in the first take. The song starts with great feeling and the Band is completely with it up until the time it falls apart because Bob calls out the wrong chord. They try to pick it up again, but it never gels. The words don't appear to mean anything, but the feeling gets across just the same. Further proof that at this stage in his musical development, he was much more involved in melody and chord progressions than he was in lyrics.

    Next Time on the Highway

    Great rockabilly. Great singing and playing. Pure basement tapes excellence. Dylan seems to be uttering obscenities toward the end!

    The Big Flood

    Actual title is "Tupelo". Another talking blues, with a real blues feel for a change. Dylan growls low and mean. Written by John Lee Hooker.

    Don't Know Why They Kick My Dog

    Also known as Everytime I Come To Town and You Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around, this is a lot of fun. They're apparently trying to work out the arrangement, but I don't think it would have become an actual released recording at any time, but who knows? I have heard conflicting things about the origin of this song. First, I've been told that it's an old political song written by Oungst-Perkins and recorded in 1916. Then I've been told that the song originated by Gid Tanner and the Skillet Likkers as "You Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog", circa 1934. I'm not sure which is right, perhaps both are correct.

    See You Later, Allen Ginsberg

    Just fooling around with variations on See You Later, Aligator. Lots of laughing.

    The Spanish Song #1 & #2

    More fooling around. Also known as Luisa. Bob and the boys in their south of the border mode.

    I Am a Teenage Prayer

    One of my favorites. "Take a look at me baby, I'm your teenage prayer". Rick Danko (or is it Richard Manuel?) tries and succeeds in cracking Bob up with variations on "teenage prayer" (teenage hair, teenage bear). Just silly stuff, but I love it!

    I'm in the Mood

    Another John Lee Hooker song, this one from 1951. This appears to have been recorded at around the same time as the above four songs. It's amazing how much of this disc sounds like the type of thing the Beatles were doing during their Get Back sessions two years later.

    Belchezaar #1 & #2

    This one has sound problems that didn't exist on the tape. The left channel drops out for the first few 10 seconds or so, and then it comes on with very low volume. Great song and one of the best performances in the whole collection. Even though two versions are indicated, there is really only one here and the first run-through was just an abortive attempt in the wrong key. Written and recorded by Johnny Cash in 1957.

    Bring it on Home

    "Richard, take a verse", says Bob. "What's the song?", says Richard. "Any song!", says Bob. Just more fooling around. A variation of Bo Diddley's Bring It To Jerome". This is an excellent demonstration of Bob's ability to improvise-on-the-spot lyrics. Fades out.

    The King of France

    Some distortion on this on, and Bob's voice is very hard to hear. Electric piano (unusual for these sessions), drums. It fades out too soon.

    If I Lose, Let Me Lose

    Written by Ralph Stanley. This is Levon Helm singing with the rest of the Band and Bob is nowhere evident. Apparently another of the Band tunes recorded during or immediately after these sessions. Originally the signature tune of Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers.

    Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5


    Bob Dylan - guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals
    Robbie Robertson - guitar, drums, vocals
    Rick Danko - bass, fiddle, vocals
    Richard Manuel - piano, drums, vocals
    Garth Hudson - organ, piano
    (Levon Helm also appears on some tracks)

    This is my favorite of the five volumes, mainly because everyone seems to be having so much fun. Like volume 4, this one contains some of the more obscure outtakes from the basement tapes sessions and comes (possibly) from the Garth Hudson archives.

    OA refers to the "Official Album" released by Columbia in 1975.

    Four Strong Winds

    Another Ian and Sylvia song which Neil Young performs from time to time. Richard Manuel on harmony.

    The French Girl #1 & #2

    Yet another Ian and Sylvia song. Dylan later came back to this song during the Grateful Dead rehearsals in 1987. The version numbers refer to the fact that there is an initial run-through that peters out and then it's restarted again in a different key. Good song with a very nice melody.

    Joshua Gone Barbados

    An Eric von Schmidt song that has a calypso feel. The lyrics apparently refer to a strike among the cane field workers.

    I Forgot to Remember to Forget

    Also recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, etc. Nice slow version, but the vocal is a little hard to hear. Written by Sam Kesler and Charlie feathers.

    You Win Again

    Hank Williams tune. Probably recorded at the same time as the above.

    Still in Town

    Written by Johnny Cash and recorded for his I Walk the Line album. One of Bob's best vocals from these sessions.

    Waltzing with Sin

    Great great song. There was really an attempt to get this song right. Beautiful performance by all involved. Wonderful vocal.

    Big River

    One of my favorite Johnny Cash songs. There are actually two takes. The first is a single verse only, but then they stop and start it over in a different, much more rocking and compelling tempo. Bob really sings the hell out of this one. At the end, Bob wonders if there's any more room on the tape.

    Folsom Prison Blues

    Another Johnny Cash song. They must have been in a certain mood, I guess. He still does this one occasionally. Sound problems on this one, with the left channel completely dropping out for much of the song. This doesn't occur on the original tapes, so it must be a fault in the CD mastering.

    Bells of Rhymney

    The Pete Seeger song. One of the least successful songs on this collection, in my opinion. Sound is pretty distorted.

    Nine Hundred Miles

    Sound on this one is horrible. Lots of distortion. It's hard to imagine that this was recorded at the same time as the other tracks on this disc. Fortunately it's just a brief fragment. There is some weird screeching violin and what sounds like a double bass along with floppy drums. I wouldn't be surprised to find that this isn't the Band at all. Maybe this is the famous Einstein on electric violin we've heard so much about? (sorry Craig :-) )

    No Shoes on My Feet

    Usually referred to as Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad. Dylan on piano. A bit of distortion. Some of the lyrics are similar to "Worried Blues".

    Spanish is the Loving Tongue

    Charles Badger Clark song. This is a favorite of Dylan's, having released two official versions and also recorded it live at the Friends of Chile benefit in 1974. This one is just okay, with a weird affected vocal style.

    On a Rainy Afternoon

    Distorted. One of those long rumored songs known only by the lyrics. Has potential. The lyrics are different from the published ones, so maybe there's another take or two lying about?

    I Can't Come in with a Broken Heart

    Too bad this is so incredibly distorted, because it sounds like it was one of the more worked out songs and could have been very good if completed.

    Under Control

    This is another of my favorites. Great rockin' groove. Great vocal. Hard to make out the lyrics, but the feeling is just right.

    Ol' Roison the Beau

    Great New Orleans country twang. One of the greats. The bass is slightly distorted, as it is on many of the tracks on volume 4 and 5. This song makes me want to get drunk and sing along!

    I'm Guilty of Loving You

    Just a fragment of what sounds like might have been excellent if finished. A lot like something Van Morrison might do. Very soulful.

    Johnny Todd

    Probably a traditional English folk song. This cuts in so close on the previous song that it leads me to believe that someone screwed up during recording and accidentally erased over the rest of I'm Guilty of Loving You. Either way, this song doesn't do much for me.

    Cool Water

    Bob Nolan song. God, this is great! Bob's best vocal on this volume. The backup vocals are all great too. One of the true wonders of this collection.

    Banks of the Royal Canal

    Brendan Behan prison song also known as The Auld Triangle. Apparently a one-time-only take, because the arrangement changes slightly as the Band starts to adjust to the melody. Bob sounds very relaxed and pulls off one his best performances. Just fantastic.

    Po' Lazarus

    Just a fragment, and a fitting end to the entire series.


    Thanks to Olof Bjorner, Peter Viney, and James Marshall for corrections and additional information.

    See also Les Kokay's annotations for further detail.

    NOTE: Please do not ask me where to buy these discs. Instead, take a look at for some links that might help you in your quest.

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