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.
That's All Right, Mama
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:
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.