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Don’t Look Back

After exiting the 60s with one of his finest albums, Bob Dylan entered the 70s with one of his worst. Yet over the next 10 years, Dylan embarked on a reinvigorating journey through some troubled times, wearing many masks. Here, some of the key musicians who helped him make eight very different albums, talk Daniel Dylan Wray through a remarkable decade

Dylan 1970-79

A Decade Of Reinvention

In 1969, the closing words of Rolling Stone’s review of Bob Dylan’s final album of the decade read: “In many ways, Nashville Skyline achieves the artistically impossible: a deep, humane, and interesting statement about being happy. It could well be what Dylan thinks it is: his best album.” The opening words of the magazine’s review of Self Portrait, his first album of the next decade, began with the words: “What is this shit?”.

It marked the kind of artistic decline most artists may experience over decades, but in actuality it represented just a 12-month period in his career. However, like many things in the world of Bob Dylan, perceptions change greatly over time.

Throughout the 1960s, Dylan knocked out seminal album after seminal album, with each reaffirming his status as an icon of the era and the voice of a generation. It was a label that grated on him hugely. So much so that when he kicked off the next decade with Self Portrait, an album featuring a bunch of covers and a handful of originals that many deemed sub-standard, it was debated for years whether the album was a joke or an intentional misstep to shake off the shackles of pressure.

Later on, Dylan himself referred to it as more of a bootleg record – an odds and sods leftovers affair. In 2013, it got expanded and became part of Dylan’s long-standing Bootleg Series, by which point the response had warmed somewhat, with it taking on a new degree of affection for some fans. It also benefited from one of its tracks, Wigwam, being in one of the most beloved and hip films of the 2000s: Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums.

“People were not as critical and demanding when the recent Bootleg Series stuff came out,” says David Bromberg, who was a key player on the album – and many of those bootleg sessions feature just him and Dylan. “The first time around, people lambasted Self Portrait. They were very critical because of the lack of original songs, and that’s what they wanted.

David Bromberg was a key player on the maligned Self Portrait

Album #1

SELF PORTRAIT

8 JUNE 1970

CBS 66250

After the brilliance of Nashville Skyline ended the 60s… this. A sprawling double album that’s essentially an official bootleg, it left Dylan watchers either confused or entirely nonplussed. Some suggest it’s a typically contrary act of selfparody, in reality it’s a collection of studio leftovers, messy cover versions and sub-par revisits of Dylan’s own songs with a handful of originals thrown in. His version of Blue Moon is not a highlight, but the take on Alfred Frank Beddoe’s Copper Kettle most certainly is.

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About Long Live Vinyl

ISSUE 35 of Long Live Vinyl is now on sale! In our first issue of 2020 we bring you the inside story of Bob Dylan's most diverse, divisive and fascinating decade – the 1970s. Dylan made eight hugely different studio albums in those 10 years, and we've rounded up some of his closest confidants and bandmates to tell the tale. It's a must-read for any fan of Mr Zimmerman. Elsewhere in issue 35, our packed interviews section features Angel Olsen, Seth Lakeman, The Go-Betweens, Field Music, DJ Shadow and Courteeners, plus we take an in-depth look at The Doors' Morrison Hotel and meet the music fanatics behind America's coolest label group – Secretly Canadian. If that's not enough, we bring you 40 essential folk-rock classics, a guide to building your perfect hi-fi setup in 2020 and the usual eclectic mix of vinyl columnists, news and reviews. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers.