I’VE GOT A CONFESSION to make. I’ve never told anyone else about this, so I’m relying on you to keep it quiet. You see, I FIRST GOT INTO BOB DYLAN THROUGH ‘LAY, LADY, LAY’ AND ‘NASHVILLE SKYLINE’!

There, I’ve said it.

Non-Dylan people will be saying "So what?". Dylan fans on the other hand will know exactly why I haven’t shouted this from the rooftops. Even back in 1969, ‘Nashville Skyline’ was hardly regarded as Bob's most auspicious outing. Maybe I’d better explain.

YOU HAD TO COME from the Planet Zog to be unaware of Dylan throughout the 1960s. At the time, however, awareness was about as far as I went. I really did like ‘Rolling Stone’ and ‘Gates Of Eden’ when they first came out, but I was one of that merry band who said "Yeah, he’s a good writer. But his songs… well, they’re better done by other people".

Let’s put it this way; I loved ‘Tambourine Man’ and ‘All I Really Want To Do’ by the Byrds, and thought Peter, Paul and Mary’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ was THE definitive version. You get the picture.

So what made me change my mind? Well, if you’ve fine-toothcombed your way through all the pages on this site, you’ll know that two big things happened to me in 1969. First, I got married ("to the most beautiful girl in the world," she says); and second, I signed a recording contract under the name of Beau with Dandelion Records.

In preparation for event number one, Sandra and I bought a house in Gildersome, just south of Leeds. Following on from event number two, ‘1917 Revolution’, taken from the ‘Beau’ album, gave me a number one hit record in the Lebanon.

Now, I reckon at this point you’re asking yourself "What the hell has this to do with Bob Dylan?". Simple. You see, all the time that San and I were painting our house, we listened continuously to Wunnerful Radio One. And what did we hear? ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’, Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, and Johnny Cash’s ‘A Boy Named Sue’, that’s what. And whilst I was sitting pretty at number one out there in the desert, I happened to know that these tracks were languishing below me, respectively at number six, number four, and number two.

So, for a period of three glorious weeks in 1969, I would shout "Got you, you buggers," whenever they came on the radio. Uncharitable, I know, but did I ever say I was a saint?

THING IS, SOMETHING about ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’ struck a chord. I didn’t run out to buy the single (or, come to that, ‘Nashville Skyline’) at the time; but I did get the notion that I should know more about Bob Dylan. It was something about the voice…

So, I went to Vallances in Leeds and bought ‘Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits’.

I’d never been so totally blown away since I first heard Elvis! What had I been missing? I needed another fix!

Vallances must have thought their ship had come in. ‘Freewheelin’’, ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, ‘Another Side Of…’ all followed in quick succession. A swift archive-dash to pick up the original ’62 ‘Bob Dylan’ LP, then on and upwards again through ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, ‘Highway 61’, etc.

It’s fair to say that I was quickly becoming a Bob Dylan junkie.

I’D CAUGHT UP BY 1974. Everything from the very earliest sideman recordings through to ‘Blood On The Tracks’ was neatly lined-up on the shelf. Then, in 1975, the day job took me to Sheffield, and we moved thirty miles or so down the M1. And within two weeks of unpacking the bags in Sheffield, I discovered hidden gold. Bootlegs!

It was only when I arrived in South Yorkshire that I found out how much of Bob’s best work never sees light of day. Brilliant live gigs, studio out-takes and alternate versions were all there for the taking, but you had to know where to go and who to see. Luckily, I found out.

It was in Sheffield that I first laid hands on ‘Stealin’’, ‘Ceremoies (sic) Of The Horsemen’, ‘Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been’, ‘John Birch Society Blues’ etc. In fact, I invested in dozens and dozens of these old vinyl sets. But two things became very plain very quickly.

The first was that bootlegs were expensive - up to four times the cost of a legit. LP. The second was that some of the albums were crap.

Warped pressings and lousy sound was only a beginning; sometimes it wasn’t even Bob on the disc. But, you paid your money…

It always seemed strange to me how no-one was prepared to commit themselves when it came to giving an opinion on a disc’s worth. Maybe the cataloguers and bootleg gurus of the time had an interest in selling the discs. I really don’t know. I would dearly have loved someone to publish something to tell me when my hard-earned cash was heading down the drain. But no-one ever did.

So, like a gold prospector, I wasted a lot of energy (and money) trying to sort out the motherlode from the dross.

OF COURSE, some people say that’s all part of the fun. Bollocks! It’s a way of ripping people off. I couldn’t afford it back then; come to that, I still can’t afford it now, and the odds are neither can you.

Thank heaven times have changed. At least if a CD works, it works - we don’t have to contend with warpage and surface crackle like we did in the ’70s (unless of course our nineties bootlegger has simply mastered from old vinyl. Oh yes, it does happen!)

In 1996, after twenty years on the receiving end, I reckoned I had the experience and knowledge to pull together an anthology of Dylan boots that could help ninety-per-cent of fans, ninety-per-cent of the time.

I called it Ø "DYLAN: CONTRABAND" Ø and the rest, as they say, is history.


CLICKING ON THE ‘Web Bonus Archive page shows you exactly the kind of detail that’s included in Ø "DYLAN: CONTRABAND" Ø (though it looks slicker and better in real life).

All I have to do now is tell you...

is now available as a fully searchable pdf file


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