Sunday, March 23, 2014

Living By The Golden Rule: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2011

Living By The Golden Rule: Spring Tour of Asia, 2011

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - April 13, 2011
My Wife's Home Town - April 10, 2011
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - April 8, 2011
Tangled Up In Blue - April 8, 2011
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum - April 8, 2011
Sugar Baby - April 3, 2011
Gotta Serve Somebody - April 3, 2011
Blind Willie McTell - April 12, 2011
Honest With Me - April 8, 2011
Simple Twist Of Fate - April 13, 2011
High Water - April 13, 2011
Desolation Row - April 8, 2011
Forever Young - April 6, 2011

Thanks to tapers Hide, Bach, Ghodlin, and Soomlos for gathering these rare and precious songs.

2011 was a good showing for Dylan's "Never-Ending Tour," and the Spring of that year was notable for representing his first concerts in China. This caused a bit of a media stir, including a direct response from the man himself; more on this later.

The shows, of course, were great. They favored newer material, and new arrangements of old songs. "Tangled Up In Blue," "Simple Twist Of Fate," "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," and "Honest With Me" were all given updated, marvelous treatments. All remained consistently in the set for the rest of the year, delighting fans around the world.

Of the songs here, "My Wife's Hometown" and "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking" are probably the rarest, though both had been being played since 2009. "Gotta Serve Somebody," while not revelatory, is interesting primarily for the organ and band interaction. "Blind Willie McTell" is excellent, though it had not yet hit the peak it would from 2012 to 2013. "Desolation Row" is a fascinating exploration, in which several vocal techniques are used to great effect on various verses. It's an essential time capsule of Dylan's singing styles around this time.

Finally, "Forever Young" is just incredible. The last verse, in particular, is so moving you may just have to wipe a tear from your eye. This is not a song that I tend to seek out, but this version is truly significant.

As noted above, the media furor prompted a response from Bob Dylan. On his website, he published the following defense of the tour:

To my fans and followers

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn't happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn't have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.

-Bob Dylan

It made for excellent reading, especially for his fans who knew what the critics did not: Bob Dylan is no nostalgia act, playing for an imagined 1960s folk audience. And that, I suppose, says it all.

If you enjoy these songs, you will undoubtedly enjoy the original studio recordings, available for purchase on the following albums:

Highway 61 Revisited
Planet Waves
Blood On The Tracks
Slow Train Coming
"Love & Theft"
Together Through Life
The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3

Next week, we will jump ahead to 2013 for Bob Dylan's spring tour with Duke Robillard on lead guitar. If you were at one of those shows, you know how special they were; if not, get ready to find out. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.



  1. Thank you from Japan. Great cover!

  2. Wonderful! It's just amazing how Bob Dylan live has so many facets. Intriguing stuff, and always hugely enjoyable.
    Many Thanks,