Hey! Do you want to hear seven different takes of “Mixed Up Confusion” all in a row? Legally? Well, now you can!
Released at the very tale end of December 2012 (indeed, most of the coverage of the album is from January 2013), The 50th Anniversary Collection was a collection of four CD-Rs (yes!) containing all of the material that Bob Dylan recorded (either live or in studio) in 1962 but which had not previously been released. For instance, “Mixed Up Confusion” was a single, then quickly deleted, then released on Biograph. This set contains all of the unused versions. Why? Because a change in European copyright law meant that these fifty year old songs would become public domain on January 1, 2013. So, literally, hours before that would have happened, Sony released all these outtakes commercially, buying them twenty more years of copyright. Slick or evil, your choice.
Here’s the quote:
“The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. With everything before that, there’s a new ‘Use It or Lose It’ provision. It basically said, ‘If you haven’t used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.'”
“The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future,” says the source, alluding to the ongoing Bootleg Series project. “But it wasn’t the right time to do it right after he released Tempest. There are other things we want to do in 2013 though.”
Oh, it must be also noted that they released this in an edition of 100 copies, just to drive collectors into a frenzy. Even though most die-hards would have most or all of this material, the idea of actually owning the Sony version was the type of thing that drove this sky high on the collector market. On the flipside, when you google the title a link to a torrent comes up on the very first page. Sony clearly missed an opportunity to sell some copies here, but I don’t think that they care. (Basically they could probably sell the exact same number of these that they did of the full version of The Basement Tapes set – hardcores gonna be hardcore).
Basically, this is a commercial version of home tapes and Freewheelin’ outtakes with some Village performances included on it.
There’s a good piece on NPR that explains the logic behind “Cliff’s Law”, as it is known in the UK, named for Cliff Richard, who pushed for the copyright extension. Richard argued that it wasn’t fair that his “creative juices” should be taken from him before he’s even dead, but critics note that the law almost exclusively helps megastars who own the rights to their recordings fifty years later.
The set itself would be of limited general value, but it’s quite awesome. Material that I have as other bootlegs (Finjan Club show in Montreal, for example) sounds much better on this. The New York Times, in their article about the album coming out, notes that the outtakes from Freewheelin’ sound better than the actual album. So this is a blessing.
I’ve tried comparing this to the bootlegs that I already have, and it has shed some light on things. This album cites the Gaslight Tapes as October 15, 1962 while the version I have just says “October”, but my version has seventeen songs and this has seven. The Finjan Club show in Montreal is the same (better sound on this version) as is the Carnegie Hall Hootenanny. I have a good chunk of the Freewheelin’ outtakes as “Early Recordings” but not everything that is here. Dylan recorded the Witmark Demos in 1962, but those had already had a commercial release as part of the Bootleg Series, so they don’t show up here. They put six songs out from the Mackenzie Home Tapes. There is no Gooding Tape material here for whatever reason. Wikipedia has a complete rundown, of course,
For those of you who are interested, the whole thing seems to be up on Grooveshark. I’ve been listening to “Mixed Up Confusion” over and over again. It just gets better and better. By the way, now that I’m in the last week of this project I’ve come to the realization that “Mixed Up Confusion” was the most important early Dylan song, but no one realized it at the time. It’s the one song where he was seemingly expressing something true about himself both musically and lyrically.
Remember when he used to look like this?