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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Listen to 10 Bob Dylan songs he rejected, but don’t ask why

To commemorate the Nobel Laureate’s 82 nd birthday, a Calcutta singer-songwriter-filmmaker shares his ‘best of outtakes’

Jaimin Rajani Published 23.05.23, 04:00 PM
Do you know the songs that did not make it to these Bob Dylan albums?

Do you know the songs that did not make it to these Bob Dylan albums? TTO Graphics

There isn't much left to say about Bob Dylan that hasn't already been said.

Dylan turns 82 on Wednesday, May 24. And on June 2, he resumes his Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour in Europe. But, as with preceding tours, not many fans will be able capture these live shows. Dylan prohibits the use of smartphones and cameras inside concert halls. According to his long-time manager Jeff Rosen, Bob believes in the “ephemeral nature” of live performances.

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One hopes Dylan’s team is recording these concerts for future release as yet another “official” Bootleg series, a tradition that caters to legions of Dylan loyalists by putting out never-before-heard studio sessions, concert outtakes and other unreleased material.

Dylan’s habit of leaving out some of his best songs from his studio albums has agonised and befuddled fans for ages. The reasonsbehind these exclusions are known only to him. Not even his band members and session musicians have a clue. Hence, to commemorate this special day, here are 10 outtakes I wish he hadn’t discarded.

Abandoned Love

I wish Abandoned Love was included in place of Joey: said Dylan’s violinist Scarlet Rivera who played on his 17thstudio album Desire and the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour, during a video call with The Telegraph Online. Of course! Rivera’s violin perfectly underlining the fantastic melody of the song and Dylan’s thought-provoking lyrics will make you want to listen to this one on a loop. In 2020, when artist Ranjit Kumar Das was painting a Bob Dylan mural on Purna Das Road in Calcutta, I asked him to include this line from the song: The treasure can’t be found by men who search. This is a piece of wisdom that has been preached by many, but Dylan says it the best.

Caribbean Wind

An outtake from Dylan’s 21st studio albumShot of Love (1981), Caribbean Wind is one of his great unfinished masterpieces. London-based broadcaster Laura Tenschert, who hosts a radio show called Definitely Dylan, devoted an entire episode talking about the various versions of this song, each with a different set of lyrics. Another Dylanologist, Rob Kelly, did an episode on the song on his podcast series Pod Dylan. Here’s my favourite version which saw the light of day in 1985 as part of the box-set release, Biograph.

Up to Me

In 2018, when the Take 1 of this outtake from the 1975 album Blood on the Tracks was included in the six-disc deluxe version of the compilation More Blood, More Tracks, the 14th installment of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg series, one of the many people who were left in awe American rapper Kanye West!Hetweetedthe lyrics and extended an open invitation to Dylan for collaborating. I can see why he was amazed. Again, an excellent melody paired with brilliant lyrics. Dylan sings with absolute honesty: I was just too stubborn to ever be governed by enforced insanity.

Blind Willie McTell

There is a long list of individuals, including artists and stalwarts in other domains such as Steve Jobs, who have directly or indirectly pointed to Dylan as the inspiration behind their own creative energy. Martin Scorsese is one such. He is known to be a colossal admirer of Dylan’s work. So much so, he went on to make two documentaries on him: No Direction Home (2005) and the 2019 Netflix release, Rolling Thunder Revue. Scorsese is said to be a great admirer of this outtake of Blind Willie McTell, from Infidels(1983), Dylan’s 22nd studio album, which was produced by Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits). Dylan chose to perform this song to pay tribute to Scorsese at a 2012 event organised in honour of the filmmaker. But, Dylan being Dylan, it was a completely different version which finally made it to Scorsese’s PBS documentary series The Blues.

Tell Me

Another gorgeous outtake from the Infidels sessions with Knopfler on the guitar – great voice, lovely lyrics and a pretty melody.

Too Late

Here’s one more from the Infidels sessions with masterful storytelling, but kept under wraps for almost four decades. Wonder how incredible this already great record would have been had these songs not been dropped, right?

Angel of Rain

According to Clinton Heylin, who has written extensively on Dylan, this song is one of three new originals Dylan was threatening to play on his 1984 tour of European stadiums. The song was worked on a number of times at rehearsals, of which recordings remain, but was never performed or recorded later.

Percy’s Song

This lyrically moving song from the October 1963 sessions for his third album The Times They Are A-Changin' was made known to the general public when American folk singer Joan Baez played it in the 1967 Dylan-themed documentary Don’t Look Back. Dylan fingerpicking the guitar beautifully supports and punctuates the lyrics.

Wallflower

This wonderful catchy song written and recorded in 1971, but released 20 years later as part of The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991, would have been an anthem for all the introverted and socially awkward people (like myself), had it been popular.

To Fall in Love with You

Despite having a rough draft of the lyrics, and a fair idea of the chords and melody, looks like this amazing song never fully came to fruition. Thankfully, there’s a recording from 1986 with Eric Clapton on guitar.

Jaimin Rajani’s debut album Cutting Loose was released recently. He is the writer and co-producer of the 2019 documentary, If Not For You, featuring interviews with Indian artistes who have been inspired by Bob Dylan’s work.

Ranjit Kumar Das’s painting on a Calcutta street.

Ranjit Kumar Das’s painting on a Calcutta street.

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