Music / Bob Dylan — Ten of Swords

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Last week­end, my friend Greg invit­ed me over to lis­ten to his copy of Ten of Swords, the clas­sic 20-side Dylan boot­leg. It con­tains a com­pre­hen­sive — no, exhaus­tive — selec­tion of live shows, alter­nate takes, and demoes from Dylan's most ground­break­ing years — 1961–1966. The high­light is the infa­mous Man­ches­ter show from 1966; it's filled with mur­mur­ing dis­ap­proval of Dylan's elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and reach­es a cli­max when an audi­ence mem­ber shouts "Judas!" right before the band kicks into "Like a Rolling Stone." (A side note: One of the most sat­is­fy­ing things about No Direc­tion Home, Mar­tin Scorsese's biopic of Dylan, is the rev­e­la­tion that Dylan, after hear­ing the taunts, shouts to his band: "Play it fxxk­ing loud!" as they launch into the song). Since the release of Ten of Swords, many, if not most, of the tracks (includ­ing the entire "Judas!" show) have been mined by Colum­bia and assem­bled into offi­cial releas­es (with bet­ter sound qual­i­ty, it should be said), but this didn't damp­en the thrill of hear­ing tracks like "I Was Young When I Left Home" on the orig­i­nal, illic­it vinyl. All I could think after­wards was: Thank good­ness there was no eBay dur­ing the height of my Bob Dylan craze. UPDATE: An infor­ma­tive Salon arti­cle about the 2004 release of the Rolling Thun­der bootleg.UPDATE: Damn you, eBay! As I was get­ting a sense of what Ten of Swords might cost nowa­days — curios­i­ty, noth­ing more, I swear — I noticed a Bea­t­les boot­leg set called The Com­plete BBC Ses­sions, a sort of Bea­t­les-ori­ent­ed Ten of Swords in response to the offi­cial ver­sion called Live at the BBC. The num­bers: 10CDs, 239 tracks and a vari­ety of chat­ter on the Com­plete Ses­sions to 2CDs, 60+ tracks, a lit­tle chat­ter on the offi­cial release. This NYT cri­tique of Live at the BBC issues some point­ed crit­i­cism at the Bea­t­les' label: "While Apple has fid­dled and lit­i­gat­ed, boot­leg­gers have catered plen­ti­ful­ly to col­lec­tors inter­est­ed in these things."