And Yet More...

Now with all this stuff, there's likely to be at least three versions of events, so if what I'm writing here doesn't coincide with something you've read elsewhere, don't dismiss it out of hand because what you've read elsewhere probably doesn't coincide with other, supposedly authoritative, stuff.

Anything to do with The Band comes in at least two versions - the conventional wisdom Robbie Robertson-sourced version, and the that's bullshit Levon Helm take on events - for starters, and Dylan's not what you might call the most reliable of raconteurs when his own past is concerned. Then there's the stuff like Greil Marcus' Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes which I'm going to manage to read all the way through sometime but haven't managed to do so on three or four previous attempts.

What's not in question is the diversity of stuff that turned up on what later became known as The Basement Tapes. I'm not talking about the highly edited commercial release of the same name, but the various permutations and combinations of recordings that have surfaced on the bootleg side of things and may or may not be complete.

Now it may seem like I'm attributing a little too much significance to what amounts to a bloke with a guitar rocking over to where a few of his mates live and saying Hey fellas, how about we have a bash at these? That's all these sessions seem to have been, but the bloke with the guitar was Dylan, and the mates happened to be a group of road-hardened musos who'd been playing together long enough to operate on the edge of instinct.

And what was recorded at the sessions didn't come out all at once. The earliest bootlegs, Great White Wonder and its assorted siblings, were bits and pieces affairs cobbled together from whatever the bootlegger could beg, borrow or steal from the material in circulation. That means for a start, that very few people actually heard the whole recorded body of songs. 

So when you're talking about the influence the sessions had on the rest of the musical world it would be easy to get carried away. Most of the earliest material to emerge came from the Publishers' Demo, anyway, and you can't be really sure about sequencing and what was played when. Even if you could gain access to a complete and unabridged set of tapes (assuming such an animal exists) even putting them into a sequence would involve a fair amount of guess work, and there's no guarantee that all the contents of a particular tape represent a complete uninterrupted sequence of what went down in the Basement.


B© Ian Hughes 2012