Bob Dylan's New Bootleg Series Will Spotlight 'Infidels' Period - Rolling Stone
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Bob Dylan’s New Bootleg Series Will Spotlight Early-1980s ‘Infidels’ Period

‘Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 (1980-1985)’ centers around songs recorded for ‘Shot of Love,’ ‘Infidels’ and ‘Empire Burlesque’

bob dylan 1980s infidels bootleg

Ken Regan*

The next chapter of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series will center around the music recorded in the aftermath of his Christian period in the early Eighties. The package includes studio outtakes from 1981’s Shot of Love, 1983’s Infidels, and 1985’s Empire Burlesque along with songs recorded during live rehearsals in 1980, his 1984 European stadium tour, and his 1984 appearance on Late Night With David Letterman.

Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 (1980-1985), set for release September 17th, will be available as a two-disc set and a deluxe package containing a five-CD box set and a book with previously unseen photos from the era and liner notes by Scottish writer Damien Love. Third Man Records is releasing its own vinyl version of the collection that will include 42 songs spread across four records.

“It’s quite often said that Bob lost his way in the Eighties,” says a source close to the Dylan camp. “But he was searching for his way in the Eighties. This set shows that search.”

It begins in September and October 1980 when Dylan and his Christian-era band were holed up at Rundown Studios in Santa Monica, California rehearsing for their upcoming Musical Retrospective Tour. The plan was to work out some of Dylan’s older songs that were being added into the set after a year of strictly playing religious tunes, but Dylan kept throwing them unexpected covers like Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” Bill LaBounty’s “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” and Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” All three of those songs appear on this set along with Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” and Dr. Hook’s “A Couple More Years.”

“Take a song like ‘This Night Won’t Last Forever,'” says the source. “That was a sappy Top 40 hit from that time. But when Bob does it, it sounds like a Dylan song. You forget how much attitude Bob can bring to a song. That’s why we wanted to include it. They also show what he was listening to back then.”

Several of the cover songs are duets with backup singer Clydie King. “When they sang together, it was really magical,” says the source. “I don’t think he had a singing partner that he did so much work with other than Joan Baez. He did a lot of things with Clydie and they’re all wonderful.”

“She was my ultimate singing partner,” Dylan told Rolling Stone when she died in 2019. “No one ever came close. We were two soulmates.”

The second disc moves to the Shot of Love sessions in May 1981 where Dylan tackles covers like the Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain” and the Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me” and original songs that didn’t make the final cut for the album, including “Yes Sir, No Sir,” “Borrowed Time,” and longtime fan favorite “Angelina.” Several of these songs have never even been heard in bootleg circles.

The heart of Springtime In New York comes from the April and May 1983 Infidels sessions at The Power Station in New York, which take up the entirety of discs three and four. The album received mostly positive reviews when it came out, but when bootlegs from the sessions leaked out just months later, many fans became convinced that several of the best songs, including “Foot of Pride,” “Someone’s Got a Hold On My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell” didn’t make the cut.

“To get good sound on an album in those days, you really only had 17 minutes a side,” says the source. “You might think that ‘Blind Willie McTell’ is a great song and belongs on Infidels. But there may not be a place for ‘Blind Willie McTell’ on Infidels. It might not go with the overall aesthetic of the album.”

Terry Gans, author of the 2020 book Surviving in a Ruthless World: Bob Dylan’s Voyage to Infidels, sees it slightly differently. “There’s always going to be debates,” he says. “And the album, as it is, has a certain unity to it. That said, I don’t think ‘Blind Willie McTell’ would have interfered with that unity, especially with the final verse of ‘power and greed and corruptible seed seem to be all that there is.’ That line sums up a lot of the songs on the album.”

The Infidels debate will only intensify once fans hear even more unreleased material from the sessions on Springtime In New York. It includes outtakes like “Tell Me” and “Julius and Ethel” along with alternate versions of album tracks like “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight” and “I and I” that differ from the released versions in fascinating ways. “He makes every take of every song sound totally different,” says Gans. “He’ll pause on a single word in one take or bring his voice up on another word on the next. It’s a unique gift.”

The set will also give fans the chance to further appreciate the singular band that Dylan formed for Infidels, which included former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler (who doubled as producer), Dire Straits keyboardist Alan Clark, and the reggae rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. “No one else but Bob would think of taking two MTV guys, Mark Knopfler and Alan Clarke, adding that old school rock and roll sound, that slide guitar, of Mick Taylor, a reggae rhythm section, and put them all together,” says the source. “This is Bob’s complete and total genius.”

“I don’t know it was a well thought out combination, but it worked even though I imagine there was some creative tension,” adds Gans. “And it was a combination that never existed before and never existed afterwards.”

Their work on Infidels doesn’t sound as dated as other albums from this period (with the exception of the gated reverb on the drums). On this new release, that has been reduced as much as possible. “That’s a really easy thing to get rid of since it’s a studio effect,” says the source. “We just went with the natural way the drums were mic’d. But Sly kept his snare drum very tight. That was a reggae thing, and that’s a sound you’re never going to get totally away from.”

Another challenge in putting this set together was extracting some of the songs from the 32-track 3M digital tapes that were used to record Infidels. The lifespan of the format was extremely brief, and not many machines even exist today that can play them. “Some of it was hard to recover,” says the source. “And there was some stuff that we just could not get off the tapes, mainly overdubs.”

There are tapes of Dylan’s 1984 summer stadium tour with Carlos Santana, but that was already chronicled on the concert album Real Live. The only song they wound up using here was the previously unreleased tune “Enough is Enough” from Ireland’s Slane Castle on July 4th, 1984. But there is a live version of “License to Kill” from Dylan’s legendary 1984 appearance on Letterman where he was backed by members of the new wave band Plugz. “We have that in our archives and Letterman has it in his archives,” says the source. “It doesn’t sound particularly better than what we have, but we used their version.”

The set ends with a disc of songs recorded for Empire Burlesque. The 1985 LP was produced by Arthur Baker, who was best known at the time for his work with New Order and Afrika Bambaataa. He gave the songs a glossy, Eighties sheen that made the album sound painfully dated just a few years after it came out.

“Arthur is a great guy,” says the source, “but he was hired to do a particular type of thing, which was apply that Eighties gloss that was so successful for Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper and other Columbia records at that time. It’s just trying to make that sound for that moment, but I don’t think it did anyone any favors.”

An irony of Empire Burlesque is that even Baker himself doesn’t love the sound of the original album. “Looking back, I cringe at some of the shit I did on that record,” he told Rolling Stone in 2017. “The record label wanted him to sound more modern. I was trying to go for the bells and the [Phil] Spector thing to make a big sound. But the bottom line is what I liked about Dylan was not production. It was just sort of him and his voice. Through the project, I’d try to sort of push that. But I had to do something to earn the money they were paying me.”

Springtime In New York takes away much of his work and presents songs like “Emotionally Yours,” “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky” and “Seeing The Real You At Last” in their raw forms.

“‘When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky’ is an unbelievable song that never got proper treatment,” says the source. “‘Emotionally Yours’ is a song that can really connect when you strip that stuff away. ‘Tight Connection To My Heart’ is a great song. It just needed to be able to breathe and take away some of the artifice to hear how great it is.”

Allowing fans to experience these songs in a different context is the broader goal of this entire Bootleg Series. “There were lots of great songs during that period that fell sway to the technology of that time,” says the source. “We knew that if we could strip away some of that artifice, we could show there were great songs there. And if something like this can bring an album like Infidels back to life, we’ve done our job.”

Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 (1980-1985) Track List

DISC 1

1. Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) – Rehearsal
2. To Ramona – Rehearsal
3. Jesus Met the Woman at the Well – Rehearsal
4. Mary of the Wild Moor – Rehearsal
5. Need a Woman – Rehearsal
6. A Couple More Years – Rehearsal
7. Mystery Train – Shot of Love outtake
8. This Night Won’t Last Forever – Rehearsal
9. We Just Disagree – Rehearsal
10. Let’s Keep It Between Us – Rehearsal
11. Sweet Caroline – Rehearsal
12. Fever – Rehearsal
13. Abraham, Martin and John – Rehearsal

DISC 2

1. Angelina – Shot of Love outtake
2. Price of Love – Shot of Love outtake
3. I Wish It Would Rain – Shot of Love outtake
4. Let It Be Me – International 7″ Single B-side*
5. Cold, Cold Heart – Shot of Love outtake
6. Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away – Shot of Love outtake*
7. Fur Slippers – Shot of Love outtake
8. Borrowed Time – Shot of Love outtake
9. Is It Worth It? – Shot of Love outtake
10. Lenny Bruce – Shot of Love alternate mix
11. Yes Sir, No Sir – Shot of Love outtake

DISC 3

1. Jokerman – Infidels alternate take
2. Blind Willie McTell – Infidels outtake
3. Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight [version 1] – Infidels alternate take
4. Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight [version 2] – Infidels alternate take
5. Neighborhood Bully – Infidels alternate take
6. Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart – Infidels outtake
7. This Was My Love – Infidels outtake
8. Too Late [acoustic version] – Infidels outtake
9.Too Late [band version] – Infidels outtake
10. Foot of Pride – Infidels outtake

DISC 4

1. Clean Cut Kid – Infidels outtake
2. Sweetheart Like You – Infidels alternate take
3. Baby What You Want Me to Do – Infidels outtake
4. Tell Me – Infidels outtake
5. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground – Infidels outtake
6. Julius and Ethel – Infidels outtake
7. Green, Green Grass of Home – Infidels outtake
8. Union Sundown – Infidels alternate take
9. Lord Protect My Child – Infidels outtake
10. I and I – Infidels alternate take
11. Death is Not the End [full version] – Infidels outtake*

DISC 5

1. Enough is Enough [live] – Slane Castle, Ireland
2. License to Kill [live] – Late Night with David Letterman, March 22, 1984
3. I’ll Remember You – Empire Burlesque alternate take
4. Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love) – Empire Burlesque alternate mix
5. Seeing the Real You at Last – Empire Burlesque alternate take
6. Emotionally Yours – Empire Burlesque alternate take
7. Clean Cut Kid – Empire Burlesque alternate take
8. Straight A’s in Love – Empire Burlesque outtake
9. When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky [slow version]– Empire Burlesque alternate take
10. When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky [fast version] – Empire Burlesque alternate take
11. New Danville Girl – Empire Burlesque outtake
12. Dark Eyes – Empire Burlesque alternate take

In This Article: Bob Dylan

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