Bob Dylan's 'Live 1962-1966' Offers Landmark Moments and Sharp Performances

Given the overflow of archival Bob Dylan material available, there's value in curating key recordings into a coherent two-disc set.

Live 1962-1966: Rare Performances from the Copyright Collections
Bob Dylan


27 July 2018

The story behind Live 1962-1966: Rare Performances from the Copyright Collections wouldn't offer much optimism. Starting in 2012, Sony began releasing extremely limited collections of Bob Dylan recordings, primarily to prevent the material from entering public domain under now-changed European copyright law. The sets were not only rare but nearly impossible to obtain in the US. While that might sound like hidden treasure chests, the material wasn't extensively curated, offering multiple takes of songs, various scattered live versions, and collections that would be of more value to Dylan scholars than to Dylan fans (such as there's a difference between the two at this point).

Fortunately, Live 1962-1966 boils it down to two solid discs, picking highlights that both represent the multiple eras here and are, even out of context, high points. And, yes, there are at least two clear eras present in the four years covered here. The curating puts the tracks in nearly chronological order, and while the discs don't explicitly create a narrative, they do reveal a progression in their grouping of Dylan's songwriting and performing. We can listen as he moves from folk singer to rock 'n' roller, electric backing band and all.

The set makes a point capture noteworthy moments. It opens with the debut performance of "Blowin' in the Wind", from Gerdes Folk City in 1962. Dylan hasn't fully developed the song yet. This two-verse version works like a test flight. The second track brings "Corrina, Corrina" from the same night (though from earlier in the set – "Blowin' in the Wind" makes a better album opener). Dylan sounds young but semi-professional at worst at this point.

Just a year later, he's moved to Town Hall. He's now playing major solo shows. "Seven Curses" shows him reworking folk tradition, and "Boots of Spanish Leather" captures a wonderful rendition of a vulnerable song that can, at times, take on more of a sneer. From there we jump to Carnegie Hall for a couple of protest songs before we hit another landmark, his performance of "When the Ship Comes In" with Joan Baez from the March on Washington in August 1963. Baez's backing vocals add musicality and a bit of gravitas; looking back, it adds to the historical significance.

Other than the Baez vocal, the first disc focuses on solo Dylan with just his guitar and harmonica. The second disc picks up with the same sound, but by 1965 Dylan sounds less like a coffeehouse singer, with hints of the transition exemplified by Bringing It All Back Home. Interestingly, we get a wonderful solo acoustic version of "She Belongs to Me" from the Royal Albert Hall. That track moves right into the first appearance on this set of a full band, appropriately enough on "Maggie's Farm". The set only contains five group rockers, with various configurations of Hawks/Band members, Michael Bloomfield, and Al Kooper, but it does include a cut from the infamous 1965 Newport Folk Festival, "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry".

Three tracks come from the well-documented 1966 world tour, with Dylan essentially backed by the Hawks (with Mickey Jones replacing Levon Helm on drums). The tour has become one of rock's most famous; the tracks here are representative, with "Ballad of a Thin Man" the standout among the group. The disc closes with a solo rendition of "Visions of Johanna", a reminder that Dylan's progression over this stretch wasn't simply from acoustic folkie to electric rocker, but one of expanding vision.

It's a little hard to understand why a set like this would have been developed just a tiny bit to be included in the Bootleg Series. Recent releases in the series and some of the best throughout have been more narrowly focused, covering either a short period or a given performance. The series compilers haven't been beholden to that approach, though. The first three volumes (released together) cover almost 30 years; the eighth volume picks up from there, running from 1989-2006. It would seem more sensible and even attention-worthy to make a release like this one part of that set. Instead, it exists as an odd compilation of compilation cuts.

That's a quibble for collectors and, probably, marketers, though. The availability of Dylan demos, concerts, and other oddities has become a sub-specialty over the years. These two discs don't offer stunning new insights or much in the way of surprise. For Dylan fans, and for those not up for the challenge or expense of tracking down and sorting through the vast expanse of material, Live 1962-1966 offers a cogent and sensible sequence of live recordings from his initial stages, capturing both important moments and strong performances.







Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.