Much More Than Just ‘Another’ Self Portrait


Back when Dylan could really sing.
Back when Dylan could really sing.

Bob Dylan (re)paints a masterpiece for the 10th edition of his Bootleg Series

By Michael Goldberg

I misheard Bob Dylan back in 1970 as I lay back on the single bed in my room at my folks suburban home in Marin County and listened again and again to Dylan’s then-new and controversial album, Self Portrait, as it played on my shit Zenith portable stereo. There were no lyrics included with the album; no liner notes. Just a very long list of musicians who had played on it. Dylan sure wasn’t offering any help in figuring out what he was up to, but then had he ever?

Self Portrait seemed confusing at first, a two-record set dominated by covers of other people’s songs. Other people’s songs? What the goddamn was the man who had intellectualized rock songwriting doing singing “Blue Moon” and ‘The Boxer’ for God’s sake?

It’s fitting that I start this column with the word “I,” and that I’m telling you about myexperience, the experience of one middle class 17-year-old boy who was ignorant of the history behind many of the songs Dylan covered on Self Portrait.

I didn’t know B. Bryant, the writer of “Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go),” nor F. Bryant, who along with B. Bryant wrote “Take A Message To Mary,” (both songs included on Self Portrait) were famous Nashville songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote hits for the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, George Jones and many others. Or that “Little Sadie,” which Dylan claimed to have written, had been recorded almost 40 years earlier by Clarence Ashley. Hell, I’d not yet heard of Clarence Ashley. And who were the Lomax’s, who along with F. Warner, were credited with writing the gold rush ballad “Days of 49”?

I was 17. What the bejesus did I know?

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About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael has had three novels published that comprise the "Freak Scene Dream trilogy": "True Love Scars," "The Flowers Lied" and "Untitled" which can be ordered here. His new book, "Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey," can be pre-ordered from HoZac Books. In November Backbeat Books will publish "Addicted To Noise: The Music Writings of Michael Goldberg," which can be be pre-ordered here.

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