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.