Bob Dylan, ‘The Ginsberg Tapes 1965’ (No Label)
Disc 1 – To Ramona / Gates Of Eden / It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue / Desolation Row / Love Minus Zero – No Limit / Visions of Johanna (Freeze Out) / Mr. Tambourine Man
Disc 2 – Tombstone Blues / I Don’t Believe You / Baby Let Me Follow You Down / Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues / Long Distance Operator / It Ain’t Me Babe / Ballad of a Thin Man / Positively 4th Street / Like A Rolling Stone / Backstage Conversation Before The Show
Disc 3 – Ginsberg And Audience Chat / She Belongs To Me / To Ramona / Gates Of Eden / It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue / Desolation Row / Love Minus Zero – No Limit / Mr. Tambourine Man
Disc 4 – Tombstone Blues / I Don’t Believe You / Baby Let Me Follow You Down / Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues / Long Distance Operator / It Ain’t Me Babe / Ballad of a Thin Man / Positively 4th Street / Like A Rolling Stone / Interval Conversation
Masonic Memorial Temple, San Francisco, CA. USA 11th December 1965
Civic Auditorium, San Jose, CA. USA 12th December 1965
Of the biggest Dylan finds in 2017, ‘The Ginsberg Tapes’, was one of the best releases for a while. Two recordings of live Bob caught as he was really setting the world alight with his prowess and building bridges between the folk of old and new, captured by no less than one of his biggest influences in the field of the spoken word, ‘Howl’ poet, Allen Ginsberg. Allen, who was tailing Dylan for the best part of his career, was on hand to feed Bob’s creativity to a certain extent but also seemed to have the foresight to capture some of these recordings for prosperity all while interviewing him to capture this lithe lightening in a bottle no doubt to make use of at another opportune time.
Originally uploaded to youtube, one of these recordings was also promised on Sony’s ‘Copyright Extension’ release, or, at least the free download that went alongside, cataloging most of Dylan’s touring year, it is down to the dutiful Ginsburg however, that we find that the recording that was labeled as such was not what it were reported to be at all and in fact, Berkley (4th December, 1965) turned out to be San Jose, CA,from the 12th of December, baffling Dylan’s historians who were to have diligently catalogued these recordings for their set especially as this is the first time that the show can be heard in full. The show from the Masonic Memorial Temple has it’s premier here.
The Japanese No Label company have released these recordings on a handsome 4 CD package – the outer is simple really, produced for filing away in a fat boy clamshell box, the imagery and aesthetics are nice and tight, the text readable, it all looks very nice indeed even if, once again, there’s no booklet.
The recordings, as noted, were recorded on an old reel to reel recorder, lugged around by Ginsberg and set out close to the stage, obviously no soundboard recording, brilliant mono and better than the sludgy crackle of some of the same era’s lo-fi recordings. The first show is debatable in quality, not an horrific recording but certainly crunchy, the second show much better in quality and edging very closely to suitable for official release, certainly the grey-area producers would have no issue presenting this one for sale.
On the first show, ‘To Ramona’ begins the disk (’She Belongs To Me’ wasn’t captured by AG) with the loud clunks and bangs of the microphone being set up, the levels rest themselves after a short while but there are clips as Dylan reaches his loudest point and distorts the volume. His electric set frequently overloads but not to the point of unlistenable, though you will always find better recordings from this era, these are beautiful post cards off the past. are some fantastic asides to the audience (From the time when Dylan still spoke to them and was funny and impish rather than annoyed and sarcastic) and great renditions – ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ rocks and rocks fast.
The second show from the Civic Auditorium, San Jose, CA begins with a conversation between Ginsberg and the crowd before the acoustic set as the levels get set. This saw release on the Wanted Man CD, ‘Long Distance Operator’, titled after the premier of that same track and, at the time, one of the few recorded versions of this song that never saw light on any official album. It was also released on Great Dane’s magnificent ‘1965 Revisited’ boxed set and two releases with out a label, ‘War At The Theatre’ and ‘What’re You Trying To Say’. Safe to mention, it sound best here.
At the end of each second disk we’re also treated to a conversation between Dylan and Ginsberg, an audio diary if you will, as Allan captures Dylan’s thoughts on his recent concert experiences. From the Masonic Hall, Ginsberg catches Dylan prior to the show as the band soundcheck and they discuss the reel to reel machine and how much it cost, recording the evening’s concert, the bands new drummer (Bobby Gregg), the gift of the incense in the backstage area, Bob’s friendship with Marlon Brando, Phil Spector recording Allan’s music, an uninvited visitor called Bonnie, Allan giving his tickets away to people outside (Including 6 Hells Angels), Dylan’s unwanted inclusion at the hotel that he’s staying at and L.A., suggesting that he had to hide himself away to avoid being seen. Allan suggests that the best place to hold your concerts is where there there is most resistance, to which Dylan suggests that sometimes you have to just play the game, the tape runs out shortly after.
In San Jose, the conversation takes place in the interval between the two sets. Recorded in what seems like the corridor of the venue so much much noisier and a lot of the conversation is difficult to ascertain.Dylan begins by discussing the fit of his suit then the state of his hotel and how he’s going to be busy when he returns. He also takes umbrage against people taking photos and the presence of the police at his concerts. Bob also asks the rest of his crew what they think to the show tonight. Ginsberg jokes with Robbie about the fact that he’s tune, Dylan gets a request to be interviewed by two collage girls for their magazine. From here on in, the conversation gets a lot more difficult to pick apart – That’s five minutes of muffled chatter that I’m more than happy to let the book writers pick apart.
An astonishing set, especially as it was captured right under Dylan’s nose with his prior consent, the fact that these are the best (first) versions of these shows to be released ensure’s that these pieces are worth picking up.