Basement Tapes Sessions

June-October 1967

released June 1975

A Fool Such as I
All American Boy
All You Have to Do is Dream (1)
All You Have to Do is Dream (2)
Apple Suckling Tree (1)
Apple Suckling Tree (2;released)
Baby Ain't That Fine
Be Careful of Stones That You Throw
The Bells Of Rhymney
The Big Flood
Big River
Bonnie Ship the Diamond
Bourbon Street
Bring It On Home
Clothes Line Saga (1)
Clothes Line Saga (2;released)
Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies
Coming Round The Mountain
Confidential To Me
Cool Water
Crash on the Levee (1)
Crash on the Levee (2;released)
Don't Know Why They Kick My Dog
Don't Ya Tell Henry
Don't You Try Me Now
Down on Me
The Flight Of The Bumble Bee
Folsom Prison Blues
Four Strong Winds
The French Girl
Get Your Rocks Off
Goin to Acapulco (released)
Gonna Get You Now
Guilty Of Loving You
The Hills of Mexico
I Am a Teenage Prayer
I Can't Come In with a Broken Heart
I Can't Make it Alone
I Don't Hurt Anymore
I Forgot To Remember To Forget
I Shall Be Released (released)
I'm A Fool For You
I'm Alright
I'm In The Mood
I'm Not There
Johnny Todd
Joshua Gone Barbados
King Of France
Lo and Behold (1)
Lo and Behold (2;released)
Lock Up Your Door
Long Time A-Growin'
Mighty Quinn
Mighty Quinn (Biograph)
Million Dollar Bash (1)
Million Dollar Bash (2;released)
Next Time On the Highway
Nine Hundred Miles
No Shoes On My Feet
Nothing Was Delivered (1)
Nothing Was Delivered (2;released)
Nothing Was Delivered (3)
Odds and Ends (1)
Odds and Ends (2;released)
Ol' Roison the Beau
On a Rainy Afternoon
One for the Road
One Man's Loss
Open the Door Homer (1)
Open the Door Homer (2;released)
People Get Ready
Please Mrs Henry (released)
Poor Lazarus
Rock Salt and Nails
The Royal Canal
Santa Fe (released)
See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
See You Later, Allen Ginsberg
Sign on the Cross
Silent Weekend
Song For Canada
Spanish Is The Loving Tongue
The Spanish Song (1)
The Spanish Song (2)
Still In Town
Tears of Rage (1)
Tears of Rage (2)
Tears of Rage (3;released)
This Wheel's on Fire (released)
Tiny Montgomery (released)
Too Much of Nothing (1)
Too Much of Nothing (2;released)
Try Me Little Girl
Under Control
Waltzing With Sin
Wildwood Flower
Won't You Be My Baby
Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (1)
Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (2;released)
You Ain't Goin Nowhere (1)
You Ain't Goin Nowhere (2;released)
You Win Again

(NOTE: for a song by song description, refer to my review of the Genuine Basement Tapes)

These recordings represent the finest body of work ever recorded by Dylan, although I'm sure there will be much disagreement, and could stand as the peak of Dylan's career as a singer of unusual new songs. Not only did he seemingly rattle off new and ingenious songs with incredible ease, but he also had the good fortune to do it with some of the greatest rock musicians of all time, and he was also able to benefit from their collaborative efforts with some of the richest song structures of his entire career.

Listening to these songs now it's obvious to me how this material can be seen as a bridge between the excessive surrealism of Blonde On Blonde and the quiet mysticism of John Wesley Harding. Although less focused than either of those two albums, I find all of this material much more rewarding, and I think this has to do with the way these songs were recorded: friends getting together each day to blow off a little steam and just have a good time doing what they like to do best. But I think there's a little more to it, though, because the whole project has "contractual obligation" written all over it. You see, [according to Robert Shelton's book No Direction Home] Dylan's contract with CBS was getting ready to expire and he was all set to sign with MGM, but he still owed CBS an additional 14 songs under the terms of the contract. Well, by an amazing coincidence there were exactly 14 songs on the acetate which was distributed to various artists requesting demos of the new Dylan songs. My guess as to why these 14 songs were used as publishing demos rather than as an album by CBS is due to the fact that the MGM deal fell through and Dylan signed with CBS for another term, and by the time he had done that he already had the 14 songs ready to go and CBS didn't want to use them. So, the Basement Tapes session existed as a means of getting those 14 songs out of the way and delivered to CBS, and also as a deliberate slap in the face - low-tech home recordings of mostly nonsense songs; and CBS was expected to make use of it? This whole episode could have been the inspiration for Dear Landlord.

The 14 songs on the acetate were:

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

But there are plenty more of the same or greater quality. Many of the best basement songs are actually not written by Dylan at all. These were probably done for the same reason the Self Portrait tracks were recorded: just for warmup and setting mike levels. Also, they liked playing together and these were probably some of the songs they knew best.

Everytime I listen to the Basement Tapes I always get the feeling that I'm hearing the lost and sadly neglected recordings of an unknown artist who died as an early age and is just now becoming known through a recent discovery of a cache of obscure recordings. This is similar to the feeling I get when I see a James Dean movie or hear a Buddy Holly song - "what a tragic loss". This is odd because I know that nothing of the kind happened with Dylan. Still, these recordings have a timeless quality not unlike those recorded by Robert Johnson in a makeshift hotel room recording studio or early Hank Williams demos. Some of these tracks are just heartbreaking, for reasons mentioned above, and this is the only Dylan tape that affects me in this way. I would be interested to know if others feel the same way.

My favorites of the unreleased tracks? One for the Road, Rock Salt and Nails, I'm Alright (unfortunatly incomplete), All You Have To Do Is Dream, Baby Ain't That Fine, Song For Canada, Long Time A-Growin', One Man's Loss, and Sign on the Cross. Sign on the Cross in particular has been singled out by most as possibly the best thing in this collection, and at first I wasn't all that impressed but now I'm almost inclined to agree. This recording alone demonstrates what the Basement Tapes were all about, and it has that timeless tragic quality that is evident in each and every song on this collection of tapes.



  • The Basement Tapes (official album)
  • The Great White Wonder (the first bootleg! Contains the core songs - I Shall Be Released, Tears of Rage, Wheel's On Fire, Mighty Quinn, etc.)
  • Troubled Troubador (the complete 14 song acetate - some versions of this album feature additional songs)
  • Stealin' (alternate version. Contains the rest of the acetate - Lo and Behold, Million Dollar Bash, Tiny Montgomery, etc.)
  • VD Waltz (Odds and Ends, Get Your Rocks Off, others)
  • Waters of Oblivion (the "acetate", supposedly in really good quality. I've never seen or heard it.)
  • Blind Boy Grunt and the Hawks (Two 2-record sets containing the recently discovered basement tracks. In stereo, although of a crude unmixed sort.)
  • many other duplications of the above albums no doubt exist.

Bring It All Back Home Back to Tape Index