BobDylan.com

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I can’t let 1997 draw to a close without noting that it was the year that Bob Dylan (or his people, to be more precise) launched BobDylan.com. I have had that website open as one of my the tabs in my browser every single day of 2014 so far, and I can’t imagine that I will close it before this project has wrapped up – it is an indispensable, if sometimes frustrating, resource.

The 2014 version of BobDylan.com has six main parts, only a few of which are genuinely useful. The News section, for instance, currently lists absolutely no news – it’s essentially a dead link. There is plenty of Dylan news – new album coming out, new US tour – but this is not where you will find that information. The News Archive is only slightly better. Strangely, every once in a while the site will accidentally reset its news archive and roll out news that is a few years old. No idea why. Hype is an area that is barely used – only once in the entire year so far.

The second section, Music, is the one that I use on an almost daily basis. You can sort by Album and by Song, searching by lyrics and so on. Every time I cut and paste Dylan lyrics, I do so from this site – even though it is occasionally wrong (i.e. for the songs on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid). You can also click on a tab that will give you a list of every time Dylan has played any given song – that is incredibly awesome. I can imagine someday in the future where we’ll then be able to click on the performance and hear that version – they’re almost all out there digitally – but that will be long after Dylan is gone, if ever.

The Tour section is helpful – I got tickets through it for his upcoming show in Cleveland – the set lists is similarly helpful. They are updated extremely promptly. In cases of discrepancy between this and Bjorner, I usually credit Bjorner – super-fans are super-fans for a reason.

Bob Dylan 101 and Books are sort of dead ends. The Fine Art section leads to sales of his prints, which I don’t care for that much. The Shop section is remarkably bad, actually. I did buy a Rolling Thunder Revue shirt through the Shop (good quality cotton too, comfortable shirt!), but that’s about it. If people want to take up a collection and buy me the “Individually Hand Signed Harp in a Carved Ebony Box” for $5,000, I’ll take it, even if I’d prefer it in G.

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The internet wayback machine helpfully provides us with a glimpse of the way the site used to look. This is from January 1998, which is the earliest image available. Remember when the web used to look like this?

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Dylan seems to have embraced the internet earlier than a lot of other musicians, making a lot of material available from the site for a long time. In 1997 we were all still on dial-up, so downloading a whole song was a major undertaking. He was well ahead of the game at the time, but in a lot of ways the site could probably use an overhaul (certainly in the hype department).

This year I have gotten so used to the site, that I am still thrilled when it changes in a big way, as when “Full Moon and Empty Arms” debuted. One thing that I’ve noted this year, though, is that I am not the type who ever otherwise goes to the sites of musicians that I like unless someone sends me there directly. I don’t have that kind of relationship to music anymore – I guess with the exception of Dylan.

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