Talkin’ New York (Scorpio BD-08020)
Carnegie Chapter Hall, New York, NY – November 4th, 1961
(76:56) Pretty Peggy-O, In The Pines, Gospel Plow, 1913 Massacre, Backwater Blues, Young But Daily Growing, Fixin’ To Die, Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues, Man On The Street, This Land Is Your Land, Talkin’ Merchant Marine, Black Cross, Freight Train Blues, Song To Woody, Talkin’ New York
Bob Dylan’s show at the Carnegie Chapter Hall in New York circulated previously with a forty minute, seven song fragment sourced from a very good mono soundboard recording. “Pretty Peggy-O,” “In The Pines,” “Gospel Plow,” “1913 Massacre,” “Backwater Blues,” “Young But Daily Growing” (referred to on some sources as “A Long Time A-Growin'”) and “Fixin’ To Die” all come from the beginning of the show with the tape running out as Dylan is introducing “something new.”
This fragment can be found on releases such as Acoustic Troubadour (Vigotone 09), Dylan’s Roots (Skelton 1001) with the East Orange tape. Both Vigotone and Skelton were issued in 1990. Other titles include Hard Times In NYC (RZ 001) with other early material, In The Pines (Dandelion DL 063) released in 1998 with material from The Bear in Chicago and Leeds demos, and His Gotham Ingress(TMOZ-71003) released in 2002.
Scorpio have found the final eight songs totaling more than a half hour more music, said to be from Izzy Young’s radio broadcast. The sound quality of the new material is the same as the old with a cut in the tape after “Man On The Street.”
This tape is of historic interest for Dylan collectors and historians of late twentienth century western music since this is one of his earliest public appearances. Several weeks after signing to Columbia and three before recording his debut album, he was playing an extended run of shows at Gerde’s Folk City in the Village which garnered much praise and a flattering review in the September 26th, 1961 edition of the New York Times written by Robert Shelton.
The Carnegie Chapter Hall is a small, one hundred seat annex to the famous landmark theater in New York and only fifty-three people, half of whom were Dylan’s friends, were in the audience.
Dylan is very talkative and nervous, trying hard to build a rapport with the audience and come across as a serious folk musician. This tape is an excellent example of what Shelton wrote in the Times, “In his serious vein, Mr. Dylan seems to be performing in a slow-motion film. Elasticized phrases are drawn out until you think they may snap….Mr. Dylan’s highly personalized approach toward folk song is still evolving. He has been sopping up influences like a sponge. At times, the drama he aims at is off-target melodrama and his stylization threatens to topple over as a mannered excess.”
There is nothing particularly revolutionary in the performance which is basically a rehearsal for the upcoming first album sessions.
In fact the performance is very derivative and repetitive, with Dylan playing many Woody Guthrie songs and originals that sound like Woodie Guthrie songs. His original composition “Song For Woody” is a rewrite of Guthrie’s “1913 Massacre,” also in the set, and Dylan’s “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” and “Talkin’ New York” are the same as Guthrie’s “Talkin’ Merchant Marine.”
Even at one point in the show someone in the audience heckles Dylan for playing so many Guthrie songs and so little originals. The interest in the tape lies in hearing the beginnings of his career as a performer before the ignition of his creative spark.
The tape begins with Dylan walking on stage and saying, “Thank you. Kind of got lost coming up here tonight. Took a subway. Got off somewhere on 156th Street started walking back. I got hung up in a Cadillac store, So I’m not here on time. Almost run over by a bus, so I took another subway. On to 34th street an I walked up here. Come pretty prepared tonight, I got a list on my guitar. This is a new list. I used to have one on my guitar about a month ago, that was no good. Figured I’d get a good list. So I went around an put the list on first. Then I went around to other guitar players an I sort of looked at their list, copied down songs on mine. Some of these I don’t know so good. Well. Let’s see here. Here’s a … that’s fine. Here I go. This is story about a little girl running all over, finding out about life. She’s going out at night coming home keeping late hours. Finding out just what makes up life, 11 years old” before playing “Peggy-O.”
He introduces “Young But Daily Growing” by saying, “Here’s a … I must admit before I came I learned plenty folk songs in New York. I learned about … well since I been here now since February, last February. I’ve learned about oh, 4 or 5 new songs I never heard about before. An one I never heard about was this one. There’s this Irishman. Lian, … Liam Clancy. Sings this one. This is a straight copy. Straight imitation. I don’t imitate the voice much, I can’t get that accent quite good enough. This is an Irish one though. Very sad song. Maybe this the American version of the Irish version of Liam Clancy’s version. Heard Liam sing this in the Whitehorse Bar, Irish bar.”
What is extraordinary about this performance is that Dylan sings the song in his crooning, Nashville Skyline voice, dropping the slurred negro blues and Appalachian hick accent.
Before “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” he explains, “Tell you what I’ll do here. I’ll do something new. A lot of people used to play guitars with knives. Tune a guitar open. (tunes guitar) People with the other knife play with the knife, something like that. I’ve lost some audiences like that, with the knife.” He sings the song with an audible giggle in his voice.
“Man On The Street,” an original that wouldn’t be released until The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991, is introduced as a song that has no name. In speaking about “This Land Is Your Land” Dylan explains, that it is “another Woody Guthrie song. I haven’t done too many Woody Guthrie songs since a long time ago. So I’m gonna do a few of them tonight. And this is one by request.” He plays a rendition good enough to be included on 2005’s No Direction Home.
Afterwards he says, “That’s one of Woody’s.” “How about one from yourself?” someone in the audience shouts, and it seems to distract Dylan. “Well…okay…we got some seamen in the house tonight (giggles). Here’s another by Woody. I haven’t done this in a long time” and proceeds to sing “Talkin’ Merchant Marine.”
“Black Cross” was written in 1948 by Joseph S. Newman and published in a collection of poems entitled It Could Be Verse. The poem was recorded by Richard “Lord” Buckley live at the Ivar Theatre, Los Angeles, 1959 and released on Way Out Humor. Dylan goes to lengths to explain the piece by saying, “this isn’t a song, it’s just sort of a story. I first heard this from a man in Portland, Oregon. There’s a place called Le Casino. It’s sort of a jazz place. I saw a man named Lord Buckley, used to work there. His name was Richard Buckley, but everybody called him Lord Buckley. He was billed as Lord Buckley. He had a moustache and wore an African hat. And it was sort of a poet. I learned this from him. Mr. Buckley’s dead now. He died in New York.”
Other versions of Dylan reciting this are also found on the Minnesota Hotel tape of December 1961 and the second Gaslight Tape in 1962.
He gives an energetic reading of “Freight Train Blues” which, along with “Fixin’ To Die” are two stand out performances in the set. He ends the program with two more originals, “Song To Woody” and “Talkin’ New York,” both of which would be recorded soon afterwards and included on his debut album for Columbia.
This release by Scorpio, following the groundbreaking releases Stolen Moments and Unravelled Tales, continue the trend of important, sonically superior Bob Dylan releases surfacing over the past couple of months which have greatly fleshed out the early performance history of the artist. Given Dylan’s importance and influence upon music in the past forty years, the all deserve to be heard and evaluated. Scorpio package this in a single jewel case with thick glossy inserts and a preproduction of the two concert billboards on the front and back of the insert.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)