Stripes On Your Shoulders (Thinman-157/158)
Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA – January 14th, 1980
Disc 1 (41:47): Gotta Serve Somebody, I Believe In You, When You Gonna Wake Up, When He Returns, Man Gave Names To All The Animals, Precious Angel, Slow Train
Disc 2 (59:50): Covenant Woman, Walk Around Heaven All Day (performed by Carolyn Dennis), Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, Do Right To Me Baby, Solid Rock, Saving Grace, Saved, What Can I Do For You?, In The Garden, Blessed Is The Name, Pressing On
Bob Dylan began the new decade with the second Gospel tour. It started in the Pacific north west and, after stops in the mid-west and Memphis, ended a month later in West Virginia. The set list was virtually the same set as the 1979 shows.
The biggest change was the departure of Helena Springs, his “precious angel” who had been with Dylan since the early Street Legal tour in Japan in February 1978 but had some sort of disagreement over the Christmas break.
After starting with two shows in Portland, Oregon, they played three shows at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle before returning for another show in Portland. The first two Seattle shows were recorded, and Stripes On Your Shoulders is the first time any of these shows have been pressed onto silver disc.
The sound is distant from the stage but clear. The stage talk is a bit fuzzy, but the music is very enjoyable. There are occasional pops on the recording, as if this were sourced from vinyl. Perhaps this comes from a private acetate?
Like a majority of the gospel tapes, the opening set is omitted. The taper started taping when Dylan comes onstage for “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The taper did record Carolyn Dennis’ “Walk Around Heaven All Day,” another track many tapers omit.
“Gotta Serve Somebody” seems to rumble across the stage like an unstoppable force. Even though the live performances don’t match the eerie studio recording, they do capture the tune’s gravitas and remains one of Dylan’s most effective opening numbers The following songs “I Believe In You” and “When You Gonna Weak Up?” are extremely powerful thanks to the loud and aggressive Hammond organ.
“When He Returns” is the first contemplative moment in the set. Dylan accompanies himself on guitar as he sings the confessional tune. People in the audience shout “AMEN!” and “HALLELUIAH” after some of the verses, and gives a loud ovation when he sings “when he returns!”
After “Man Gave Names To All The Animals” he gives a long story about the next song, saying, “I was talking with someone last night who travels around and said, she was riding in a cab once and, it was in a big city. Cab driver turned around in the cab and said, ‘Did you hear Bob Dylan’s a Christian now?’ And this girl said ‘Oh, I think I have heard that. How does that relate to you? Are you a Christian?’ And the driver said. ‘No, but I been following Bob now for a long time.’ And the lady said, ‘Well, what you think of his new thing?’ And he said, ‘Well, I think they’re real good, but I tell you I think that if I could meet that person who brought Bob Dylan to the Lord I think I might become a Christian too.’ And this here song, this is all about that certain person” speaking about the freshly fired Helena Springs.
“Precious Angel” is one of the most heavenly tunes from Slow Train Coming. By quickening the tempo in live performance, it sounds even more divine and heavenly. While the audience are cheering Dylan gives a mini sermon, telling the crowd, “For those of you who have never read the book of Revelations. Every time you see that word in the newspapers or hear it, called Unilateral, watch out!” before starting Slow Train.
The only tension of the night occurs right after Carolyn Dennis finishes singing “Walk Around Heaven All Day.” Someone in the audience shouts “Bullshit!!” It’s not exactly clear exactly what he’s referring to, but Dylan responds by saying “bullshit??” And while there is more commotion he says over them, “some of those people out there don’t like the Lord? Don’t know the Lord? What is it? Don’t you like the Lord or don’t you know the Lord? Which one of those is it?”
Someone shouts, “I don’t care!” to which Dylan responds, “You don’t care? Don’t care?? I know you don’t care. I didn’t use to” and the launch right into a loud and abrasive rendition of “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking.”
After “Do Right To Me Baby,” the first gospel song to be written, they play the new song “Solid Rock.” A few days after this particular tour would end, the band would travel to Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama to record Saved, the follow up to Slow Train Coming. Dylan wanted to capture the band in the studio, recording the new songs while they were still fresh and tight.
The plan didn’t work, however, and it’s generally conceded that the album is flat compared to the live performances. Most glaring is “Solid Rock,” recorded in the second Saved session on February 12th which doesn’t come close to the energy it has on stage.
Drummer Jim Keltner singled out Seattle for its exceptional live performance of “Solid Rock,” saying in an interview “There was a show in Seattle where we got a standing ovation after ‘Solid Rock’ for almost five minutes. It was so extraordinarily powerful.”
It’s not possible to determine exactly which of the three Seattle performances Keltner has in mind (I doubt he’d even now know), but he could be referring to this performance. There isn’t a five minute ovation afterwards (the claim sounds like an exaggeration), but this is one of the best available live versions of the song.
The audience begin to cheer and clap along to the song right after Tackett’s guitar solo, while Dylan is singing “It’s the ways of the flesh to war against the spirit/Twenty four hours a day you can feel it you can hear it,” and don’t stop until he starts singing the next song “Covenant Woman.”
“Saved” is also energetic and includes a slowed down bluesy ending not present in the studio recording. With such a loud ovation Dylan jokes “the hits just keep on coming” which elicits laughter from some in the audience.
The show ends with a long, apocalyptic performance of “In The Garden.” Before the first encore “Blessed Be The Name” Dylan introduces the band while preaching the gospel of Jesus, saying, “Is Jesus Lord? Say Jesus is Lord. On the drums tonight, give him a warm hand, Jim Keltner. Well, time is short you know. When Jesus died it was not the end, it was the beginning of the end. And we’re right upon it now, you know we are. We’re living on borrowed time. One of the first people to tell you that would be our friend on bass guitar, Mr. Tim Drummond. On lead guitar, Fred Tackett. Girl in the red dress, this is Regina McCreary. This young lady sang for you before, Miss Carolyn Dennis. This is Regina Peeples. That’s Mona Lisa Young.”
“Pressing On” ends the night and another excellent gospel era show. Stripes On Your Shoulders is another very good show and recording from such a poorly documented (on silver) era in Dylan’s live history.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)