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More Than 100 Rare Bob Dylan Acetates Discovered After 40 Years

Recordings cover singer-songwriter's working process on 'Nashville Skyline,' 'Self Portrait' and 'New Morning' albums

Bob Dylan in Nashville on May 3rd, 1969.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
July 1, 2014 3:10 PM ET

Record collector Jeff Gold recently discovered 149 acetates of in-progress versions of songs that Bob Dylan made as he was recording his 1969 LP Nashville Skyline and his two 1970 albums, Self Portrait and New Morning. The rock and folk icon used these acetate recordings, which are cut in real time and can be played on a regular turntable, to figure out what worked and what didn't work in the songs he was writing. The records previously belonged to the woman who owned the Greenwich Village building where Dylan had rented a room to use as a studio. Gold has theorized on the record collectibles website RecordMecca, where he's selling some of the acetates for thousands of dollars, that Dylan had either left them or thrown them away when he moved out of the space. The recordings document the creative period released last year on Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10.

The 10 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

Gold reported that the records, which range in size from 10-inch to 12-inch, were in excellent condition after being stored in boxes marked "Old Records" for over four decades. The man who sold the record collector the acetates had noticed the address of Columbia Records and a Dylan song title and realized they might be valuable. The sleeves contain notes written by Dylan and producer Bob Johnson, indicating which takes were good, as well as some Dylan doodles. Johnson confirmed his and Dylan's handwriting to the record collector.

When Gold, his friend Zach Cowie and Dylan collector Arie De Reus played back the records, making high-quality digital transfers of the most interesting ones, they discovered unreleased versions and different versions of songs; some had different mixes and edits and others were completely alternate takes altogether. They also found a handful of never-before-released outtakes, such as electric versions of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues" that Dylan recorded while making Self Portrait and a "gospel-tinged" take of "Tomorrow Is Such a Long Time" cut during the New Morning sessions.

The record collector notes that though Dylan once commented that he intended Self Portrait to be an album his fans "couldn't possibly like," the acetates show just how much work he put into refining the LP's songs. He also said that he had discovered 10 different sequences for that album, as well as ones for New Morning including a sequence containing only 10 songs.

Gold and his friends have provided the digital transfers they made to Dylan's office. While Columbia still owns the master tapes for the albums, he postulates that these in-progress mixes might not exist anywhere else.

So far, he has placed six of the acetates up for sale on RecordMecca. Among the recordings are a different mix of "Winterlude" and an unreleased version of "It Hurts Me, Too," which range in price between $1,750 and $2,500. The most expensive item currently up for sale is an acetate containing a different sequence of Nashville Skyline, which is going for $7,000. But, in context, those prices are low compared to the $2.045 million someone recently paid for a draft of Dylan's lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone." 

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