Wednesday, October 28, 2009

STEALIN': Bootlegs and My Life Part 3

By the time Stealin' was released in the fall of 1969, bootlegs had come to the suburbs. To purchase my first copy of The Great White Wonder (see post from April 23, 2009), I had to navigate the wilds of downtown Philadelphia. This time, I was able to pick up a copy of Stealin' at my local record store next to the train station in Bryn Mawr. That was very convenient.

My copy, which can be seen in the photo, is an original blue label Har-Kub copy. The funny thing is that I can remember clearly buying it 40 years ago this month. In those long ago days, a trip to the record store after school would sometimes be rewarded with the latest Dylan bootleg. It is hard to describe the excitement that came from each of these new releases. By late 1969, I had played the regular albums to death, so it was a big deal to have some new material to enjoy. In those early days of bootlegs, no one had any idea of the vast amount of Dylan's music that would surface over the next few years.

Stealin' was the next glimpse into Dylan's unreleased catalogue after The Great White Wonder. As you can see from the photo, there was not any improvement in the packaging. The difference was that the sound quality was excellent and the material was very well chosen. Most of the songs were outtakes from the albums that were recorded at the height of Dylan's early creativity. For these reasons, it is thought to be one of the very best of all Dylan bootlegs.

The album kicks off with Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window, which is one of my favorite Dylan tunes from 1965. Even though this song was released as a single, at the time it slipped through the cracks, probably because it was never on an album. This is one of the two different versions from the Highway 61 Revisited sessions. The single version was recorded later with The Band and has the distinctive cowbell percussion and Garth's swirling organ. Have a listen here to the Highway 61 outtake, which is the high spot of Stealin': Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window

Side one continues with two more cuts from the same sessions. There is an alternate version of It Takes a Lot to Laugh and a little throwaway riff, that has been widely bootlegged, called Sitting on a Barb Wire Fence. The rest of the side contains one outtake and two alternate versions from the Bringing It All Back Home sessions: If You Gotta Go, Go Now, She Belongs To Me and Love Minus Zero/No Limit.

Side two begins with another outtake from Bringing It All Back Home: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, as well as three songs from The Times They Are A-Changin' sessions: The Cough Song, New Orleans Rag and That's All Right, Mama. These are followed by four songs from the 1961 Minneapolis tape, which was featured on The Great White Wonder. They are Hard Times in New York, Stealin', Wade in the Water and Cocaine.

My second favorite cut on the record at the time was That's All Right, Mama. Bob's piano playing on the track is great and it was cool to hear him covering a song that was the first single released by Elvis Presley. In the dark days before Self Portrait, no one knew that Bob would ever record anything other than his own material. Have a listen to this:
That's All Right, Mama

Even after thousands of bootlegs have been released, Stealin' stands out as one of the best of all. If you owned it in those early days, you know why I am writing about it.


  1. Yep, I still have my copy of the blue Har-Kub "Stealin'" and "Great White Wonder" and others and it was SO exciting at the time to possess them. Nowadays I have all those bootleg tunes from long ago as mp3's on my iPod, but I still love to pull out the vinyl ones and look at them; just to bring back the magic one more time.

  2. Shoot, that brings back some memories . In the spring of 1977 I made a trip to visit colleges in the east ( Penn and Columbia). I was a juniour in highschool from the great mid west was a love of all things Dylan. Well I filled my time between visits by scouring the record stores in the Village and while in PhillyI asked around about records and found myself on a train to Bryn Marr .Just opposite the tracks I found the " Plastic Fantastic "record store where I picked up my first copy of the "original" Great White Wonder"and a few other titles. Thanks for reminding me where that record store was...

  3. Is it just me or did those scratchy old vinyl boots just sound better than the newer digitized and cleaned-up bootleg CDs? Something about that surface noise and the fact that we weren't supposed to hearing those songs that just made them seem more exciting, more immediate. STEALIN' was a classic. I bought my copy in Chicago's Old Town (there were bootlegs in every head shop) in about 1970.

  4. Thanks for the memories, Oh J. I could not remember the name of that record store. You filled in the blanks.

    Yes, I do think the vinyl boots sounded better. There was some excitement in hearing something that you were not suppose to hear. I remember it well.

  5. Yeah, living in the suburbs, I had to ride a bus into downtown Cleveland to pick up any of the Dylan bootlegs...I purchased both GWW and Stealin' at Disc Records, downtown...and this was a valid, chain store...not some indie operation...I prefer Stealin' because of some of the things already mentioned...the specific songs, sound quality, etc...Strangely enough, I purchased a cd of Stealin' a couple of years vinyl having gone by the way...It's still a great package...'nuff said!

  6. I got mine at Rather Ripped Music on the North side of Berkeley. Around that time a bootleg manuscript of Dylan's Book, TARANTULA was circulating in limited numbers. I got a copy of that and took it down to Santa Barbara/Isla Vista. I gave it to someone at Morninglory Music to make copies. It disappeared and I did some early Christmas shopping. My favorite boot at that time was TALKING BEAR CREEK MASACARE BLUES which was a vinyl record pressed in tri color red white and blue.

    WOW Since then I bought a slew of boots at Al Bum's in Worester, MA before they went under.

    Long live Bobby D. -laughingsol 50 miles N of Frisco.

  7. Now that I think about it , it was a slightly warped copy of the bootleg the "Villager" with the doo wap harmonies of Dave Van Ronk singing " You Said You'd Ask Me to the teenage prom, now I got acne, so you won't ask me to the teenage prom, " The magic of vinyl treasures I believe are by and large lost in the immediate gratification of bittorent downloads the day after the show, even snail mail disc trading and dare I mention the old cassette trades which took sometimes months to complete as trade lists were sent by mail , not internet.. " Everything passes and everything changes , just do what you think you should do" To Ramona B.Dylan

  8. I don't have Stealin' or GWW, but I treasure my Swingin' Pig WHITE VINYL copy of the 1966 'Royal Albert Hall' show (really recorded in Manchester)... there is something very special about a VINYL boot.