Bob in the '80s: Diehard Fans Reclaim Dylan's Lost Decade

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Photos Caitlin White
John McCauley and Ian O'Neil of Deer Tick
"Is anyone out there wearing shoulder pads?" asked Dawn Landes as she took the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg Monday night to perform her take on Bob Dylan's "Dark Eyes." The audience cooed in response, happy to humor her '80s reference and more than willing to listen to the Kentucky singer-songwriter offer her take on an obscure Dylan track from his 1985 record Empire Burleseque.

Brooklyn's ample Dylan-loving audience had been drawn to celebrate the release of an ATO Records compilation titled Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume 1 (out 3/25), a project that was spearheaded by producers Jesse Lauter and Sean O'Brien. Entering the venue Monday felt like entering a coven--that many Bob-obsessed fans in one place without his presence was odd, and a little enticing. The show flyer boasted special guests.

Dare we hope for Bob himself?

See also: Bob Dylan's Star-Studded "Halftime Show" Gets Deluxe Treatment

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New "Bootleg Series" Edition Revisits Reviled Period for Bob Dylan

Categories: Bob Dylan

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John Cohen
Dylan during the Self Portrait/New Morning era
By Bob Ruggiero

Bob Dylan
Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10
Columbia/Legacy

"What is this shit?"

It is the most famous review opening line in all of rock journalism. And it was penned by Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus in 1970 in an attempt to explain the unexplainable Bob Dylan Self Portrait double album to an audience still desperate for the Bard of Hibbing to claim his "spokesman for a generation" title.

But Dylan himself was just as uninterested in that moniker--or any other--in '70 as he was in '62. And Self Portrait's oddball, hodgepodge collection of folk and pop covers, instrumentals, live cuts, and weak originals (jacketed with a hideous painting by Dylan) remains the most reviled release in his catalogue.

See also: Five Great Albums That Got Scrapped


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Bob Dylan's "Early Roman Kings" Debuts In Trailer For Cinemax Action (No, Not That Type Of Action) Show

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Bob Dylan's Tempest comes out Sept. 11, and the first public airing of one of its tracks isn't on NPR or a similarly demographic-appropriate outlet—instead, the stompy bit of blooze "Early Roman Kings" got its debut in a commercial for the Cinemax original series Strike Back, which according to the party line is "a high-octane, globe-spanning thriller with storylines ripped from today's headlines." Hey, any port in a marketing storm! The trailer is below.

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Bob Dylan (1) Gets In The Pit With Sick Of It All (16) In SOTC's March Madness

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​The Round of 64 for Sound of the City's own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—continues, and you get to vote on who makes it to Round Two. We'll have some first-round results later today, but right now we kick-start the Downtown division with a matchup between its top seed, Bob Dylan, and the hard-driving hardcore act Sick Of It All. Will Bob take this in a walk, or will we see a shocking upset? You can help determine the outcome by casting a vote at Facebook.

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Running The Numbers: The Four-Disc, 73-Track Bob Dylan Covers Comp With Miley, Ke$ha, Lenny, And Many Others

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Today Amnesty International releases Chimes Of Freedom, a really, really huge compilation of bob Dylan covers by artists both canonized and obscure. Trying to analyze such a huge undertaking can only be done in one way: Mathematically.

Amount of music in this collection: 73 songs on four CDs, totaling 313 minutes and 24 seconds. (You get three additional songs if you buy it digitally, for an additional eight minutes' worth of music.)

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100 & Single: Considering The Album-Chart Class Of 9/11, 10 Years Later

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A king of hip-hop, retaking the penthouse of the album chart with his latest blockbuster.

A middle-of-the-road rock band, reviving a turn-of-the-'90s "alternative" sound that's now squarely mainstream.

A sexagenarian legend who debuted in the '60s and who still captures Boomers' hearts and CD-buying dollars.

And a younger, big-lunged diva, looking to continue her pop dominance after a notable MTV appearance and a blitz of multimedia omnipresence.

I could be describing some of the current inhabitants of the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart. If I were, they would be, respectively: rap king Lil Wayne, who debuted at No. 1 this week with nearly a million in sales; aging alt-funksters the Red Hot Chili Peppers, debuting right behind Wayne at No. 2; '60s ingénue turned veteran diva Barbra Streisand, at No. 9 in her third week in the winners' circle; and vocal powerhouse Adele, hanging in at No. 3 after a commanding MTV Video Music Awards performance that, just this week, sends her ballad "Someone Like You" to No. 1 on the Hot 100.

But I could also be describing four acts who, on this day a decade ago, dropped new, Top 10-destined albums: hip-hop king Jay-Z; lite-grunge revivalists Nickelback; reluctant '60s-generation spokesman Bob Dylan; and pop/MTV queen turned ill-fated actress Mariah Carey.

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Which Musical Genre Was South Park Spoofing With "Tween Wave"?

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Last night's South Park was in large part about the fad/scourge of Tween Wave, a new genre that horrified parents and mobilized kids all across the country. Dubbed as such because it would be the Next Big Thing from 2009 through 2012, it made the phrase "this sounds like shit" quite literal; it basically sounded like someone (or, shudder, multiple people) with really bad indigestion letting the world know about their digestive tract's problems over sorta-dubsteppish beats. But what musical subculture was the episode really making fun of? A clip, and some theories, below.

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Seventy On Seventy: The 70 Best Bob Dylan Songs, A To Z (Part Two Of Two)

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(Part One is here.)

So here we are on the once-unthinkable occasion of Dylan turning 70.

When Dylan was starting out, old white men--I mean older than Pete and Woody--were mostly on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement. Older black men, if they were survivors like Howlin' Wolf or Son House, were people to aspire to. Dylan's version of being young--at least in the beginning--was to emulate the older guys on the folk blues records. Odetta, an older black woman, inspired him to go acoustic. But don't take it from me. Here he was in early '62: "I don't carry myself yet the way that Big Joe Williams, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Lightnin' Hopkins have carried themselves. I hope to be able to someday, but they're older people." This is Dylan at 21, talking to the great Nat Hentoff for the liner notes of his breakthrough Freewheelin' album, the one that started with "Blowin' in the Wind" and included other chestnuts he still performs: "Hard Rain"; "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"; "Girl From the North Country."

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Seventy On Seventy: The 70 Best Bob Dylan Songs, A To Z (Part One Of Two)

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About a year ago, I was putting a book about Bob Dylan to bed. Since I was looking at year's lead time, my plan was for Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown (Yale) to be released on Dylan's 70th birthday, for obvious reasons. I learned early on at my grandfather's funeral the biblical significance of threescore years and ten. Add two thousand years and the development of modern medicine, and you could say that yesterday's threescore years and ten could be today's fourscore years and ten, give or take--in other words, in twenty years, Bob Dylan might very well be Betty White. Still, 70 is a mighty powerful benchmark, and it officially puts the baby boomers, Dylan's original and most fervent demo, on notice that they are either officially old or, with the aid of the Facebook equivalent of 2031, could help snag Dylan a Saturday Night Live hosting stint.

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Interview: Famed Bob Dylan Violinist Scarlet Rivera On The Chance NYC-Street Meeting That Changed Her Life

"Fortunately, I didn't have too much time to think about it."

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Scarlet Rivera may well be the most famous post-Band musician to play behind Bob Dylan. Two reasons: a violin that stands out more than, say, even the most stylistic bass or drum set, and one hell of a story. In February 1976, People magazine previewed Dylan's latest record, Desire, with the following hyperbolic headline: "Bob Dylan Spotted Scarlet Rivera on the Street, The Rest Is Rock History." Certainly, few backing musicians have ever made so strong or immediate an impression. I talked to Rivera about her unlikely discovery, and her time with the man himself.

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