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 Post subject: The little red notebook
PostPosted: Sun January 21st, 2018, 05:18 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 31st, 2017, 00:56 GMT
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A day late, but for the 43rd anniversary of Blood On The Tracks, how much information about the red notebook used to form the album exists? Of course it includes original versions of the songs on the album, but do we know
A.) if there's (legible) pages that can be seen online
B.) how many unused songs exist in the notebook

I'm certainly looking forward to the next Bootleg Series, and hope they include pages or translations of Dylan's chicken scratch like they did with Caribbean Wind in the trouble no more box.


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PostPosted: Sun January 21st, 2018, 05:37 GMT 
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From Why Bob Dylan Matters by Richard F. Thomas:

"In the [Tulsa] archive there is one five-by-three-inch blue spiral notebook of forty-five pages, which once cost nineteen cents, as its cover announces. On its pages Bob Dylan worked in miniature handwriting on drafts of several of the songs of Blood on the Tracks, the classic album of 1975. None of the songs is complete, with some unrecognizably distant from their final perfection, proof that just like Virgil, “he proceeded to turn into verse one part after another, taking them up just as he fancied, in no particular order.” Indeed, there are even lines that would end up in other songs: one line in a draft of “Tangled Up in Blue,” “As I watched you disappear over that lonesome hill,” would end up in the superb outtake “Up to Me,” released on Biograph in 1985, more than ten years after it was written: “Well I watched you slowly disappear down into the officer’s club.” Traces of another draft line from “Tangled Up in Blue,” “When you needed me most I was always off by myself,” even ended up, changed, maybe less honest than the earlier one, on another album, Desire (1976), though addressed to the same woman, in the song “Sara”: “You always responded when I needed your help.”

Only some song titles are set. On one page “Idiot Wind” has the title “Selfish Child.” And the iconic song of the seventies, sole survivor of that decade in the setlist of Dylan’s 2017 tour, was once to be called “Dusty Sweatbox Blues,” one of the most striking revelations from the Tulsa archive...It took genius, imagination, and hard work to get the song to that place. On page 23 of the notebook, we see the close of the first verse from back then. Fortunately, Dylan kept working at it and we did not get to hear this version:

And I was walking by the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Headin’ out to the old east coast
Lord knows I paid some dues
Wish I could lose, these dusty sweatbox blues


The title was eventually changed, possibly “Blue Carnation,” then “Tangled Up in Blue” as revealed on page 15. At the head of the page before that there is a list of possible words for ending the second-to-last line of each verse, which all end with the song’s title, “tangled up in blue”: “Jew–who–few clue–do–flew–grew–new–rue–sue–too–you–zoo–shoe–glue–view.” Five of these turn up on the song, along with two new ones, “through” and “avenue.” The woman of “Tangled Up in Blue,” already in the singer’s past when he is “layin’ in bed / Wond’rin’ if she’d changed at all / If her hair was still red,” is naturally taken to have some basis in Dylan’s wife Sara Dylan, who had worked as a “Bunny” in the Playboy Club in New York before Dylan met her: she “was working in a topless place / when I stopped in for a beer,” as the song puts it. Across a number of pages of the notebook her role shifts and refracts as Dylan seeks to find just how he wants to describe the thinly camouflaged Sara, “so easy to look at, so hard to define,” in the song “Sara,” from Desire.

At another point the woman seems to be in a play of some sort, maybe based on Milton’s Paradise Lost—but in a secular-looking establishment, with the rhythm of the final version audible in the words of the draft:

Called for you back stage that night but it was to [sic] easy for you to leave
The 2nd act had just begun where Adam first meets Eve
I drifted into the audience of cattle dealers and pimps
Blue smoke rising from the
I tried to catch a glimpse
[illegible] (we) (you) I got too overly involved
Called for you backstage that night
I think you were in a trance
The Prince of Darkness blew his lines
So I thought I’d take a chance


The woman is also with someone else, a too-young rival nowhere visible in the song that would emerge from the notebooks:

That new boy hanging by your side, you’ll teach him what [illegible, presumably “to do”?]
He must be all of 17, hey darling, shame on you.


This is just a sampling of the different versions of the woman who is in the singer’s past and perhaps, as the last stanza of the song allows, also in his future: “So now I’m going back again / Got to get to her somehow”—“gonna find her (get to her) somehow” in the notebook.

The third verse of the song already on various albums had a number of variants of the jobs the wandering singer has held but couldn’t keep: in the great north woods working as a cook, drifting down to New Orleans, working on a fishing boat outside of Delacroix (also in Louisiana), loading cargo onto a truck, and so on. We can now add: “Used to work up in Oregon, with 20 men in a shack (helped build, logging) / Never did like the hours too much and one day I got the axe.” Another variant is hilarious but would have to go, since it crossed the line into the openly autobiographical:

So I departed down to LA
Where I (reckoned) met my cousin Chuck
Who got me a job in an airplane plant
Loading cargo onto a truck


Another of the album’s great songs, “Idiot Wind,” in draft has lines wildly different from the versions that came out in 1975 or 1991, with words that are more revealing about the identity of Bob Dylan than he has anywhere let out:

People all have a different idea
Of who I am but I’m [illegible, probably “sure”] it’s true
That none of them know what I’m really like
I don’t know, maybe it’s the same for you


“Idiot Wind,” rightly seen as among those songs that most directly confront what was going wrong with the marriage, shows Dylan struggling to catch the precise tone, which it would never finally succeed in doing—the reason for its success as art: “You’re an idiot, babe,” but also “We’re idiots, babe,” sharing the blame for what went wrong. There are four lines in the notebook of which there are no traces in the song:

I gave you [illegible] and soft summer rain
But you weren’t contented ’til you saw me in pain
You took my blood babe, hope it gave ya a thrill
Now it’s my turn, I’m gonna give up the bill


Apart from the enigmatic last line, these verses clearly go too far for the mix of anger and regret that make it onto the final versions. Whatever experience lies behind the song—and everyone knows what that is—the maturity of the songwriter jettisoned the lines along with a sentiment that no longer fits. The notebook is invaluable in showing us precisely the process Dylan the songwriter goes through as he struggles to reconcile experience and imagination in the interest of making a song.

Finally, for more than forty-two years, like countless others I have had in my head this version of the first verse on the album’s song “Meet Me in the Morning”:

Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
We could be in Kansas
By the time the snow begins to thaw


On page 1 of the blue notebook there is a different beginning to the verse, with only the ending surviving the process of rewriting:

Meet me in the morning [illegible] we could have a ball
My grandfather had a farm but all he ever raised was the dead
He had the keys to the kingdom but all he ever opened was his head
Meet me in the morning, it’s the brightest day you ever saw
We could be in Kansas by the time the snow begins to thaw
"


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PostPosted: Sun January 21st, 2018, 06:20 GMT 
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Joined: Mon May 16th, 2016, 17:00 GMT
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ShotofMercy wrote:
A day late, but for the 43rd anniversary of Blood On The Tracks, how much information about the red notebook used to form the album exists? Of course it includes original versions of the songs on the album, but do we know
A.) if there's (legible) pages that can be seen online
B.) how many unused songs exist in the notebook

I'm certainly looking forward to the next Bootleg Series, and hope they include pages or translations of Dylan's chicken scratch like they did with Caribbean Wind in the trouble no more box.


Enjoy


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Last edited by dylanswife on Sun January 21st, 2018, 06:33 GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun January 21st, 2018, 06:22 GMT 
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PostPosted: Sun January 21st, 2018, 06:24 GMT 
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PostPosted: Sun January 21st, 2018, 14:32 GMT 

Joined: Wed May 31st, 2017, 00:56 GMT
Posts: 218
Damn, so much stuff I was unaware of! Thank you both


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PostPosted: Mon January 22nd, 2018, 08:06 GMT 

Joined: Fri July 10th, 2009, 06:51 GMT
Posts: 2067
Thanks for that, Nightingale. Very illuminating.


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PostPosted: Mon January 22nd, 2018, 10:04 GMT 
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Location: Sydney, Australia
anything on if you see her say hello?


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