What is this? Why Bob Dylan? Who cares?
When I was in high school, I obsessively collected Bob Dylan bootlegs.
The internet was just beginning to change bootleg collecting. The era of downloading these things was still a few years away - unless you wanted to waste twenty minutes per song on Napster and maybe end up with white noise - but I connected with other fans on message boards and arranged trades, one fan passing the CD-Rs along like a game of telephone (and like a game of telephone, if one person messed up by converting the audio to a low-quality MP3, it affected everyone down the line).
It was a lot of goddam work. As a result, when I finally got a couple burned CD-Rs from some guy in Finland or wherever, I listened to them endlessly. To this day I've probably listened to few studio albums as often as I listened to a sketchy recording of an unremarkable 1981 show in New Jersey. It was the first bootleg I ever traded for, and I couldn't believe I was hearing it. I still have those hundreds of burned CD-Rs sitting in my parents' attic, all organized chronologically in their sleeves with I printed out. God knows if any of those discs play anymore, but it feels wrong to throw them out.
I still listen to Dylan boots, though less obsessively than I once did. With access to music so easy these days, it seems to lose value. I'll download a show every now and again; it only takes a couple minutes, rather than a couple weeks of waiting for the mail. After one listen, maybe two, I've moved on to something else.
So I conceived of this newsletter as a way to refocus my attention, and maybe other people's as well. I will write short essays about shows that happened on a given date in history. I'll jump around years and eras at whim. Some shows will be magical. Others will not. I'll alight on a show randomly, picked only by a date on a calendar, and seeing what we get. Of course, I'll include a link to MP3s so people can listen along.
Three other writers inspired this project. They all do somewhat similar things, for different bands. First, Jesse Jarnow tweet-reviews Grateful Dead shows that occurred on a given date 40 or 50 years back. They're brief and pithy glimpses at sprawling jams, packed with a lifetime of knowledge about the band and scene. Second, Rob Mitchum has a great email newsletter following Phish's tour in 1994, with an installment on the date of every show. I don't even like Phish, but I love reading his witty recaps. Finally, Tyler Wilcox's Doom & Gloom from the Tomb, a blog likely known to some Dylan fans for his fantastic compilations, has also done two retrospective series on Dylan and Neil Young concerts. I'm borrowing bits from each of the three (are there others like this? I'd love to hear about them!).
So thanks for reading, and click here for entry #1: 1974-01-03, Chicago Stadium, Chicago IL.