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Listen to Bob Dylan’s first audio interview in 10 years

on November 29, 2014, 1:30pm

This month saw a pair of archival releases centered around Bob Dylan’s infamous Basement Tapes sessions in Woodstock, New York in 1966-1967. The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 compiled 138 recordings from Dylan and The Band, 30 of which had never before been released, while Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes saw a folk supergroup comprised of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Mumford and Sons’ Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, and others turned unreleased Dylan lyrics into full-fledged songs. The latter was accompanied by a Showtime documentary on the album’s creation, which included the first audio interview from Dylan in over 10 years.

“How did the songs on the Basement Tapes come about?” Dylan recounts, “Oh … y’know, beside this, kind of was gonna stay up in Woodstock for a while, so… my band from the touring we had done together, those guys just came on up there, they liked it too. And Robbie [Roberston] called me up one day and said, ‘What’s happenin’?’ you know, ‘What’s happenin’?’ and I said, ‘Nuthin’.’ He said, well he was in the mood for some nuthin’ too.

“And it had a basement, typical basement full of pipes and a concrete floor, washer, dryer … We’d just kind of sit around and call out the songs and before we went down into the basement to put it on tape. Woodstock was a place were you could kinda go and get your thoughts together … It was an artist colony. There were plenty of painters who lived in that area, but very few musicians, who we certainly knew of nobody up there playing any music. Later there were, but when we were up there, middle of the ’60s, we were pretty much by ourselves.”

In regards the lyrics used for Lost on the River, Dylan comments, “I’d never seen these lyrics since the day they were [written]. Never seen ’em.”

Listen to audio of the interview and read a transcript below (via Expecting Rain).

We had a place pretty much on our own. Whatever was on top the pile, somebody grabbed it and said, this, let’s do that for a while….

It was a kind of music that made you feel that you were a part of something very, very special and nobody else was a part of it, and back then it was hard to get to…

You can’t record everything you wrote, so it’s understandable that a lot of this stuff just, hmm, fall by the wayside or… I don’t even know how or where it was kept all these years, umm … I’d never seen these lyrics since the day they were [written]. Never seen ’em.

How did I wind up in Woodstock? Uhh … I don’t know!

How did the songs on the Basement Tapes come about? Oh … y’know, beside this, kind of was gonna stay up in Woodstock for a while, so… my band from the touring we had done together, those guys just came on up there, they liked it too. And Robbie called me up one day and said, “What’s happenin’?” you know, “What’s happenin’?” and I said, “Nuthin’.” He said, well he was in the mood for some nuthin’ too.

And it had a basement, typical basement full of pipes and a concrete floor, washer, dryer … We’d just kind of sit around and call out the songs and before we went down into the basement to put it on tape … Woodstock was a place were you could kinda go and get your thoughts together. It was an artist colony. There were plenty of painters who lived in that area, but very few musicians, who we certainly knew of nobody up there playing any music. Later there were, but when we were up there, middle of the ’60s, we were pretty much by ourselves.

The events of the day, they were just happening, they seemed to be a million miles away. We weren’t really participating in any of that stuff, well it was the Summer of Love, but … we weren’t there, so we did our thing where we wrote ‘Million Dollar Bash’, you know, go along with the Summer of Love. We had nothing else to do, so I started writing a bunch of songs.

I’d write them in longhand and I’d write ’em on the typewriter and whatever was handy. Pencil, pen, typewriter…

How do we go about writing our songs? I’d know I wasn’t gonna write anything about myself, I didn’t have nothin’ to say about myself that I’d figure anybody else would be interested in anyway. You kind of look for ideas on TV [??] or somethin’ and just any ol’ thing would create the beginning to a song: names out of phone books and things. When China first exploded that hydrogen bomb, it just flashed across the headlines in newspapers, so, you know, we just go in and write ‘Tears Of Rage’. Things were just happening, there was riots in the street, they were rioting in Rochester in New York , it wasn’t that far away, so we write ‘Too Much Of Nuthin’. And just one thing lead to another, you know. The human heart, the first time that anybody every heard of a human heart being transplanted, that was incredible. That was a real breakthrough, so we came up with a song, and then when we got the lyrics down, we took the song to the basement. I don’t when I became aware of these songs being bootlegged. I had no attention [?] about, I don’t even … I won’t know how to get that record, I guess they were selling them in record stores.

It’s always interesting when someone takes a song of yours and re-records it. But these songs weren’t tailor-made for anybody. I just wrote what I felt like writing.”

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