The announcement by the label, headed by David Geffen, who lured Dylan away from Columbia Records last year for what was reported to be a one-album deal on a verbal basis, (Planet Waves), laid to rest a spate of reports in the industry that there was heavy bidding for Dylan’s services and that he might take the album elsewhere. The only hangnail in the deal appeared to be a question of whether the Band, which is contracted to Capitol Records, would be allowed to perform alone on the album.
A spokesman for Dylan, who has been in New York, said that the deal was set with Asylum during the first week in May and that only “minor legal problems” remained to be resolved.
Those could involve – although not necessarily – the matter of the Band’s role in the album. The group owes Capitol three-and-a-half albums, according to a Capitol spokesman, and the contract stipulates that while the Band may record as a backup group to anyone it chooses, it may not perform alone on any label but Capitol.
Brown Meggs, executive vice president of Capitol, asked whether the company would executive its contractual rights in connection with the live album, said, “Of course.” More specifically, he was asked, would Elektra/Asylum be allowed to release tracks of the Band alone. “Only Capitol can do that,” he said. “I would presume that Asylum would negotiate with us for that.”
Have negotiations begun? “They have talked with us, but nothing has been settled yet,” Meggs said. Would Capitol bid for the album? “We would be very happy if it came out on Capitol,” Meggs said. “We have expressed strong financial interest in that proposition. But nothing has been settled.”
The Dylan spokesman, however, said of the Capitol offer: “I wouldn’t call it strong.”
Karin Berg, head of publicity for Elektra/Asylum in New York, said that should Capitol block Band tracks on the album – reportedly, seven numbers by the Band alone would be included if a deal for the rights can be worked out – “that would not stop the album. If Capitol won’t allow the Band alone, then there won’t be any Band tracks,” she said. “Then it would be just Bob Dylan, backed by the Band.”
Berg could not confirm the title of the album. Geffen, in announcing a prospective live album in April, said that it would be called Bob Dylan/The Band Live.
There had been talk, earlier, that Columbia, Warner Bros, and even ex-Columbia President Clive Davis, on an independent basis, were angling for rights to the album. Much of the speculation centered around a reported rift between Dylan and Geffen, based on what some saw as unfulfilled promises by the latter on the sales of Planet Waves.
Geffen has been quoted in The New York Times as saying that 770,000 units (records and tapes) have been shipped to distributors and that he expects a final sales total of 1,600,000 units. While the units-shipped figure is verifiable (it was 566,835 records and 178,835 tapes as of May 1st), a random survey of large distributors in New York and Los Angeles indicates that sales of Planet Waves have fallen off drastically since the tour ended February 14th.
This story is from the June 6th, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.