Saturday, March 13, 2010

Media Rare

I own a version of this album. I like this album.   I’d like this album a lot more if it were the version worth approximately $25,000 dollars.  That’s what near mint copies of the first version Dylan recorded have brought at auction.

 The first version of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan featured the songs “Talkin’ John Birch Blues,” “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand,” Rocks and Gravel, and “Let Me Die in My Footsteps.” (And for those of you who are sure you'll find this one in a box of old vinyl in your basement, the number in the trail-off vinyl ends in -1)

 The album had already been recorded when Dylan was scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.  For those of you too young to remember, Ed Sullivan was a variety show host and a stuffed shirt if ever there was one.  He’s the one who insisted that Elvis be filmed only from the waist up because he disapproved of  Elvis’ swiveling hips. 

Dylan was to sing “Talkin’ John Birch Blues,” on the show but then someone from “program practices” (read network censors) at the network got involved. Again, for those of you too young to remember, this was in pre-cable days and the content that was allowed on the public airwaves was strictly monitored.  It looks positively priggish when viewed from today’s viewpoint. In one famous example, Ricky and Lucy on the I Love Lucy show, a married couple, could not be depicted occupying the same bed, they had to be shown in a twin set with plenty of floor space in between.

 When the head honcho of PP heard "Talkin' John Birch Blues" a big brouhaha developed over the political commentary, and the possibility of the lyrics being libelous to the John Birch Society.  The song was axed. 

 Dylan walked.

 The record was recalled, whether by the record company or by Dylan himself is lost in the vagaries of time.  The four songs mentioned above were eliminated. But in any case a few of the originals were already stamped and ready for delivery, and more copies with the original song lineup had the labels from the second version attached, even though the songs were still there in the grooves.  

 A few copies of the original version have been found, one reportedly at a church-run thrift store in New York.  Even in very good condition (as opposed to near mint) it sold for $12,000.  This is the stuff of legend for vinyl hounds.

 Still, I remind myself, the value is in the music.  And “Girl From the North Country” alone makes this one priceless.

 What’s your favorite Dylan song?



  1. Wow -- really interesting background. My brother-in-law is a huge Dylan fan, so I'll send him the link to this site. Lay Lady Lay takes me back to when I was in elementary school, and it came on the radio a lot when I was going to school. I can listen to it and it takes me right back to that time. But Blowing in the Wind - however trite a choice it is -- still has to be my favorite.

  2. I've always loved "Boots of Spanish Leather", which has a guitar part and melody nearly identical to "Girl From the North Country". But, my favorite is "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)".

  3. Tough one. For album, Blood on the Tracks is the one I wouldn't want to give up.

  4. Andy. I like "Boots of Spanish Leather," too. You're right about the guitar part. I also hear a little Scarborough Faire in it as well. Wonder who borrowed from who. "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" is surely definitive Dylan. Even for those who don't appreciate his political commentary, they'd HAVE to admire that he can keep the lyrics straight and make it through that LONG song.