Carnegie Hall, October 26

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Dylan’s last major concert of 1963 was at Carnegie Hall on October 26. It was the first time that his parents had seen him perform live since he had left Minnesota. It was a good show, but not as strong as the Town Hall show from earlier in the year. It is clear from the crowd reactions that he was now drawing a different, younger crowd to his concerts. Dylan-mania was taking off. No folk crowd “shushing” on this one.

The show came in the middle of the recording sessions for The Times They Are A-Changin’, and that is the song with which he kicked off the show. I’m quite interested in the way that Dylan incorporated new songs into his sets, often months before they were recorded and released on albums. He seems to have shed his early songs quite quickly, and was constantly moving on to the next thing whether the audience was ready for it or not. It makes this year by year approach to listening to him occasionally odd, as when an album comes along I’ve already heard about a half dozen live versions or demo versions of many (but not all) of the songs.

The Carnegie Hall show was originally intended to be released as a live album (Bob Dylan in Concert), but that never came to fruition. Columbia has done a rather confusing job of releasing this material. Two songs (“Who Killed Davey Moore” and “Talking John Birch”) were released on the first Bootleg Series. Scorsese used “Hard Rain” and “When the Ship Comes In” so they are on Bootleg Series 7. Six songs were released on the Live at Carnegie Hall EP in 2005, which means that ten of the nineteen songs are legally available in the US. The other nine were released in Europe for copyright reasons on the 50th Anniversary Collection. If you want to listen to the concert straight through you have to assemble it for yourself, and, worse, the applause is faded out so there is a sense that you’re missing something. Ideally this concert would be given a much better presentation.

Dylan would have a rupture with his family around this time because of their participation with an unflattering article on him in Newsweek in which they contradicted a lot of the self-mythology that had built up around him. In November, of course, John F. Kennedy would be assassinated, and this would have a major impact on Dylan – and the rest of the folk community – and seems to have helped push him further away from political songwriting. He would emerge in 1964 with two new studio albums rather than this as a live album, and they would mark the end of the second phase of Dylan’s career, and the beginning of the third. The mutations just came faster and faster.

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