“Series of Dreams”



Here’s one that leaves me a bit befuddled, largely because Dylan and Columbia can be so comprehensive about wiping the web of Dylan videos.

The major Dylan output of 1991 was the triple-CD, Bootleg Series 1-3: 1961-1991, a major opening of the vaults that led to a re-examination of Dylan’s legacy. I’m going to write more on that album later this week. To promote the album, a single was released: “Series of Dreams”. This was a song recorded in New Orleans for Oh Mercy, but which was left off the final album. It’s difficult to see why that was, since it was better than a lot of the material on that album. Apparently producer Daniel Lanois thought that it should be the lead track, but Dylan overruled (Lanois’s support may stem from the fact that the song has more Lanois-ish touches than most of the rest of the album). I think that this is a really strong song. It also appears on Greatest Hits v3 and Bootleg Series 8. Not too shabby for an almost unreleased song!

In support of the single and the album, a video was made. I never saw it when it came out, and now I’m not 100% certain that this link (Vimeo and WordPress don’t get along – click through) is the actual video I think it is, and I’m going to write under the presumption that it is.

Anyway, it’s the best Bob Dylan music video to date. It’s a pretty simple concept – they simply edited a whole bunch of old footage from Dont Look Back, Eat the Document, Renaldo and Clara and elsewhere and then process it with a whole bunch of effects. It sounds awful, but it’s not.

You can see the video without any effects here, so this is what they started with:

That’s all fine and well, but the effects add a great deal. The insertion of old photos makes it a lot more visually interesting and dynamic. There are nice little touches – my favourite comes at 3:43 when Dylan is in a cab and they superimpose the face of Lenny Bruce on the other passenger, a nice nod to this piece of lyrics from the song “Lenny Bruce”:

I rode with him in a taxi once

Only for a mile and a half, seemed like it took a couple of months

Anyway, this was the first Dylan video to completely capture my attention and imagination. It is both a good song and an interesting video. Recommended!

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