In response to my post yesterday, “Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Manuscript Sells for $2 Million But Dylan’s Secrets Remain Secret,” Mike Jones commented:
The LARS lyrics went for more than I thought they would…how are a few pieces of paper worth more than the Newport guitar? I don’t get the whole ephemera thing. I guess people like to have historical stuff, just to look at or whatever. But I would much rather have the Newport guitar, which sold for like half as much. That seems very strange to me.
I understand why some folks, especially musicians, would want the guitar Bob Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival gig that drew the line between the old Dylan, and the new.
For me though — and I’m not saying paying $2 mil makes any kind of sense — between the guitar and the manuscript, I’d go for the manuscript.
Certainly the guitar is an iconic object, symbolic of Dylan’s rejection of so-called ‘folk music’ for rock ‘n’ roll, but he could have played any Strat that day and made the same music, made the same impact. Dylan’s art and his creativity didn’t hinge on that particular guitar. In fact, he played many guitars over the years. It’s always been Dylan, not his instruments, that makes the difference.
But that manuscript.
That’s the artist at work. That’s the artist in the throes of the creative process.
On those pages we see the song take shape. Words crossed out and other words written in. The chorus forming before our eyes from page to page.
And those cryptic notes to the side of the lyrics. “Al Capone,” “On the Road,” “Pony Blues,” “Butcher Boy.”
From these pages and the ones for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” we get the curtain pulled back a little on Dylan’s creative process.
And when one combines what’s on these pages, with what he reveals in “Chronicles: Volume One” and elsewhere, we do get a vague sense of the Dylan mind at work.
We’ll never get to the bottom of it, and it’s probably better that way, but still.
So Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ lyrics are very different from the Newport guitar. They’re a time machine that takes us back to that day (s) when Bob Dylan put the ideas that were in his head down on hotel stationary, and created a timeless song, a song that, nearly 50 years after he wrote it, stands tall.
But what do you think?
Would you opt for the Newport guitar, or the “Like A Rolling Stone” manuscript pages?
Or is there something else that you’d go for instead. If you had the money, and if you could afford to spend it in this way.
Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 singing “Like A Rolling Stone”:
Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone (Live… by toma-uno
— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blot post —
8 thoughts on “So, Would You Want the Newport Guitar or Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Lyrics?”
I’m wondering why the manuscript for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” sold for so much less than “Like A Rolling Stone.” One may have marked his entry as a rock ‘n’ roll poet, if you negate Bringing It All Back Home, but the other marked the beginning of seriously considering him as a poet, period. Would the manuscript for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” have sold for more had Dylan performed it on an electric guitar, or if it had charted as high? Or is “Like A Rolling Stone” a cultural touchstone for other reasons, marking the beginning of hippie culture, emblematic of the split between the two main factions of the SDS; the straight-laced Progressive Labor and the acid-dropping Revolutionary Youth Movement? Or mebbe people see the one song as a downer, whereas the other can easily be mistaken, especially in concert, as a party anthem?
But, yeah, there’s many replicas of the guitar model that Dylan played at Newport. There’s only one (known) manuscript for those songs.
Any old 60’s Strat will cost you at least 20 grand these days. That’s where they start – pristine all-original examples go for upwards of $80,000 to $100,000. And that’s what people pay for guitars that Bob Dylan never even touched!
Those 60’s Fender guitars are truly special, no two are completely alike – their necks were uniquely shaped by individual builders; pickups were all hand-wound back then; Nitro-lacquer finishes were thinner than on modern guitars, allowing woods to resonate more clearly; fretboards were made of slab-chunks of Brazilian rosewood, a renowned (and now scarce) tone-wood.
Even grain-orientation, of a guitar’s woods, can change ‘tone’ from one guitar to the next. You could conceivably make two guitar bodies from the same tree, and they could sound markedly different because of the way their individual grain patterns run out.
Plus, all those old Fenders have 7.25″ radius fretboards, which have a completely different feel and playability to the modern Fender necks. Incidentally, Fender went to 9.5″ radius fretboards in 1981, and it completely changed the sound of modern music. That’s when all the finger-tapping Metal stuff started, on 9.5″ radius fretboards, combined with thick (tone-dampening) Urethane guitar finishes.
From Buddy Holly’s Strat; to Bob Dylan’s Newport guitar; to Hendrix’s Woodstock axe; to Clapton’s “Blackie”: they’re all Fenders, with thin Nitro-lacquer finishes and 7.25″ radius fretboards, that’s the sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll on a Fender.
So anyway, in a perfect collectibles-fantasy world, I would, of course, love to own the original LARS lyrics. But what do you do with them? The sheets of paper would have to be hermetically sealed, or something, I guess. Then they could be admired, stared at, contemplated – nothing wrong with that.
But if you plugged the Newport guitar into a Vox amp, you could have an exact sound, right at your fingertips. You could have all-new sounds. You could transport yourself. You could create anew from what Bob Dylan started.
Before I run the risk of going on and on…oh, too late…thanks for the mention on your blog, Michael. 🙂
I feel like I’ve won some award, and it’s my blog for a day. 🙂
Keef’s Micawber guitar, now there’s a Fender with a 7.25″ radius fretboard; Springsteen’s iconic Tele, uh huh, it’s got a 7.25″ radius as well; Buddy Guy’s polka-dot Strat, you guessed it, another 7.25″ radius…
I wonder if Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball play Strats with the older, 7.25″ Fender radius?
Now, Gibsons, they all have 12″ radius boards. They have a different sound than the Fenders do, with a shorter scale-length than the standard Strats and Teles.
Bringing it back to Bob, I’d like to ask him what he likes for a radius these days, on his Strats. He seems to prefer the old-time stuff, so I would guess that he never switched to a 9.5″ radius.
I like those newer guitars he plays, with the carved birds on them. They’re shaped like Strats. They were made from repurposed, aged wood, from old NYC buildings and stuff (well, thinking about it, he hasn’t played one for a couple of years now).
I can’t remember the name of the guitar company that makes those, right off the top of my head; but if I were a betting man, I would wager that those guitars are made for Bob with 7.25″ radius fretboards….that would be my guess…
Don’t worry, Michael. I’m only considering this my blog for one day. 🙂
only one holy grail for me: the little red spiral notebook with the Blood On The Tracks’ writings….
Oh, hi justafan. I’m off the radius thing now. I’d like to know what’s going on with the BOOT notebook. What was the story with that again?
And about Michael’s comment, concerning the “throes” of Bob Dylan’s “creative process,” you’re right. It’s interesting to look at these lyrics, and feel like we can take part in the writing of this song. I can see what you’re saying and you make good sense.
LARS is the most important pop song of all time. Without it, we might all be stuck in the two-minute-thirty-second model, suspended in animation on 20th century radio. LARS was, and still is, a revolutionary moment. It’s a creative burst of energy that truly changed culture, and continues to do so to this day.
Bob Dylan has done so much for music that it can be overwhelming trying to define his effects on culture. It’s his freedom of expression that lives as an example for other artists to aspire to.
Bob Dylan puts the human mind out there into the spotlight. His best songs are pure energy, unfurling motion, like an immediate pulse of light-as-sound. LARS plays that way. It’s futuristic and in the moment at the same time.
This is cool, though. I wish I did have my own blog. Michael, I hope you don’t ban me from your blog for carrying on about fretboard radiuses. I’m only imagining this is my own blog (for one day). I know it really isn’t. OK, I hope somebody else says something now.
Too bad I can’t edit any of my replies… 🙂 OK, thanks again, this was fun for me….
Mike, The notebook has ended up in the Morgan Library in NYC. It was donated by Hecksher, the same man who put up the LARS draft for auction.