Jesse Jarnow

“silvio” & “tangled up in blue” (6/30/88 & 5/19/98) – bob dylan

“Tangled Up In Blue” – Bob Dylan (download)
“Silvio” – Bob Dylan (download)
recorded 30 June 1988, Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY

“Tangled Up In Blue” – Bob Dylan (download)
“Silvio” – Bob Dylan (download)
recorded 19 May 1998, San Jose Arena, San Jose, CA

(files expire June 12th)

Bob Dylan’s so-called Never-Ending Tour launched 20 years ago this week, on June 7th, in Concord, California. Though Dylan claims in Chronicles that he’d been inspired to hit the road by figuring out a new way of singing, the tapes don’t bear this out entirely. For the most part, Dylan’s singing was still the insanely caricatured tweeting that made Real Live and Dylan and the Dead such bummers. It would take a few years for him to relax into the new mode of phrasing. Compare the above versions of “Tangled Up In Blue,” recorded in June 1988 and May 1998, respectively. The older version is just bloody awful, all kinds of rubbery, nasal melodrama. The ’98 rendition is typical of the period, totally confident.

All of which is to explain why “Silvio” — a fairly minor Dylan tune, lyrics by the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter, from 1988’s Down in the Groove — was such a Never-Ending staple. On the ’88 version, the grating upper register yawls that mar the rest of the show are entirely absent. The take from a decade later is slower and clearly improved, but the difference in strategies is almost negligible. Minor as it was, “Silvio” was maybe the template for the gentleman-on-the-skids persona Dylan developed during the Never Ending Tour, and picked up officially on 1997’s Time Out of Mind — all of which informs the excitement bubbling beneath Dylan’s voice as he stops rushing the phrases in the second verse, a new pleasure for him in a decade of dead ends.


  1. Randy Ray says: - reply

    Thank you for the music, and nice lit angle on diverse Bob maskery.

  2. Tom Grasty says: - reply

    Happy to have stumbled across your blog. Insightful indeed.
    Since you are a fan, I thought I’d introduce you to my new novel, BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, which I think you’d enjoy.
    It’s a murder-mystery. But not just any rock superstar is knocking on heaven’s door. The murdered rock legend is none other than Bob Dorian, an enigmatic, obtuse, inscrutable, well, you get the picture…
    Suspects? Tons of them. The only problem is they’re all characters in Bob’s songs.
    You can get a copy on or go “behind the tracks” at to learn more about the book.

  3. Markus says: - reply

    I just found out about this site after stumbling upon your 2006 piece on connecting with Garcia ten years after he dropped his body. An amazing piece — you really nailed the guy’s mannerisms and thinking. The line about Ray Charles was priceless! Anyway, yes, 20 friggin’ years ago the Neverending Tour started. It was very strange, because my prior experience of seeing Dylan live was with the Dead the summer before, and I really thought then that Dylan was on his last legs with his wasted demeanor and completely out of control singing and playing. Then came a long delay for the “down in the groove” album, and finally it came out, and it was weird and unsatisfying. And then he starts touring in the summer of ’88, looking all professional and shit. Too me, he kind of lost his magic at that point, and became just another rocker, down in the groove.
    I can’t believe this was twenty years ago. Scary as hell.
    Anyway, I look forward to checking out your past and future posts here.

  4. Russ says: - reply

    Jarnow is the king of Dylan.
    Thanks for ‘dis!

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