Bob Dylan - The Australian Connection
Part 1 - The EPs
by Stuart Penney
This is a heavily revised and expanded version of a feature which first appeared in “It - The Australian Record Collectors Magazine” issue #28, dated October 1998. At that point Bob Dylan’s current album was Time Out Of Mind.
Due to its geographical isolation Australia was for the second half of the last century a law unto itself regarding matters of a cultural nature. This was especially true in the world of popular music where thanks to the tyranny of distance combined with a healthy dose of cultural cringe record releases were routinely delayed, sometimes edited (ie censored), and generally chopped and changed about to suit the mores of the local market.
That’s not the case so much today, of course. The advent of the internet has made the world a much smaller place, enabling instant communication between individuals and companies at opposite ends of the planet. But, back in the 50s, 60s and 70s when it regularly took days or weeks for a directive to arrive from head office in London or New York, the record company outposts in far-flung Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington pretty much had free rein over the product they issued. This independence produced some truly weird and wonderful releases, many of which are unique to Australia and New Zealand.
CBS Australia’s Dylan catalogue got off to a shaky start. Following a lengthy delay, the first four or five albums were eventually released during 1964/65, seemingly in random order. If the catalogue numbers are any guide, the first Aussie LP to appear was Bob’s third LP The Times They Are A-Changin’, closely followed by Freewheelin’. His self-titled debut LP seems to have been slotted in between Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Meanwhile, the early singles were seemingly overlooked altogether, and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” became the debut 7” down under. The situation improved greatly in 1966 as the catalogue finally began to match the US and UK releases.
Since the early 1970s Dylan’s Australian records have, for the most part, mirrored their US counterparts, with the odd European or British-sourced release thrown in to keep things interesting. The 1978 triple LP set Masterpieces (arguably the world's finest Dylan compilation album, released only in Australasia and Japan) and a string of nine unique and highly desirable 7" EPs more than made up for the early chaos and confusion.
Picture sleeve singles, while somewhat thin on the ground, have also appeared from time to time, with local pressings of “Hurricane,” “Heart Of Mine” and the Australian-only 1986 tour release “Emotionally Yours” attracting interest from collectors around the world. Mono copies of the LPs from 1966-68 are now highly prized and 70s / 80s promo items are fast becoming hard to find. But we begin by looking at those legendary EPs. These are the jewels in Dylan’s Aussie discography and represent some of the rarest and most desirable Australian releases of all - by any artist.
ALL-STAR HOOTENANNY (CBS BG 225035) 1965
Where Have All The Flowers Gone (Pete Seeger) / This Land Is Your Land (The New Christy Minstrels / Blowin' In The Wind (Bob Dylan) / This Train (The Brothers Four)
With only one Dylan track, this is not especially sought-after compared to the other nine EPs, but this release is significant in that it marked Bob's first appearance on a 7" record in Australia. Released in 1965, it features four tracks from the CBS LP of the same name.
US Columbia issued several of these Hootenanny compilation albums during the mid-60s (Hootenanny '64, Folk Jamboree etc) each containing a solitary Dylan track. All-Star Hootenanny, however, appears to be the only one to gain an Australian release.
On the full 1964 All-Star Hootenanny LP, as released in Australia, UK and the US, Dylan also appears on the Carolyn Hester track “Swing and Turn Jubilee” where he plays harmonica.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN' (CBS BG 225062) 1965
The Times They Are A-Changin' / When the Ship Comes In / Only A Pawn In Their Game / One Too Many Mornings
Released in early 1965, this EP began a run of nine unique Australia / New Zealand releases, all with attractive picture covers and each featuring one or more tracks seldom seen on a 7" release (in this case “When The Ship Comes In” and “Only A Pawn In Their Game”).
The sleeve essay, with its cliche-ridden references to Charlie Chaplin, Woody Guthrie, beatniks and hobos, is lifted directly from Robert Shelton's (writing as Stacey Williams) liner notes for the 1962 Bob Dylan album.
This was also issued in New Zealand (CBS BG 465005) with a subtly different cover design (ie all of Dylan's left ear is visible on the Kiwi sleeve!)
THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN (CBS BG 225068) 1965
Blowin' In The Wind / Don't Think Twice, It's Alright / Corrina, Corrina / Down The Highway
Two years after the release of the (US) Freewheelin' LP, came this attractively packaged EP. Bob and his then girlfriend Suze Rotolo are seen walking arm-in-arm, as per the album sleeve, except the snowy New York street scene and parked cars have now vanished, leaving the pair looking curiously detached.
Rear sleeve notes continue the "Chaplinesque" theme and directly quote Dylan confidante and biographer Robert Shelton. “Down The Highway” is the unusual track here.
BOB DYLAN (CBS BG 225083) 1965
Pretty Peggy-O / Song To Woody / Freight Train Blues / Talkin' New York
All of Dylan's Australian albums up to Highway 61 Revisited were released either out of order or delayed, so by the time his self-titled debut album appeared down under in mid-1965 (compared to March 1962 in the US and June 1962 UK), Bob's music had changed out of all recognition.
In the face of his new, electric direction, the acoustic blues and hillbilly music on his first LP (from where the tracks on this EP are taken) seemed primitive and outdated. As a result, both sold poorly, but while the album was, by necessity, kept on catalogue, the EP was quickly deleted.
Long rumoured not to exist by Dylan historians and discographers alike this is, without doubt, one of the rarest and most desirable Australian EPs of all - by any artist. A clean copy is now next to impossible to find. Along with the identical - and possibly even scarcer - New Zealand version released in 1966 (CBS BG 465017) this is thought to be the only EP in the world to feature “Pretty Peggy-O.”
Featuring a cropped version of the 1962 LP cover photo, it appears as if Bob is holding a guitar strung for a left-handed player. In fact, the original LP sleeve designer had simply flipped the image in the interests of symmetry and to align the track titles to the right. Sleeve notes are, once again, lifted from the debut Bob Dylan album.
BOB DYLAN’S MR. TAMBOURINE MAN (CBS BG 225099) 1966
Mr. Tambourine Man / Subterranean Homesick Blues / On The Road Again
Titled Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man (presumably to make clear who wrote the Byrds’ hit single) and utilising a trimmed, black and white adaptation of the Bringing It All Back Home album sleeve photo, this EP looks almost as good as it sounds. In an ornate drawing room, we see the affluent-looking Dylan sitting on a couch beside an elegant woman (played by Sally Grossman, wife of Bob's then-manager Albert). The the pair are surrounded by an array of books, records and magazines which, we assume, were meant to reflect Bob's influences and reading / listening habits in 1965. As well as a copy of Dylan's own Another Side LP, records by Lord Buckley, the Impressions, Lotte Lenya, Robert Johnson, Ravi Shankar and Eric Von Schmidt are also clearly visible (on the LP sleeve, if not the EP).
The liner notes (borrowed from the Bob Dylan LP, yet again) incorrectly speak of "the four tracks from this EP", but with the length title track occupying the whole of side one, there is definitely only room for three. “On The Road Again” is the surprise track here. Also issued in New Zealand (CBS BG 465021).
Variations of this EP exist with at least three different spellings of “Subterannean” on the labels.
|Six LPs seen on the Bringing It All Back Home sleeve|
LIKE A ROLLING STONE (CBS BG 225111) 1966
Like A Rolling Stone / Highway 61 Revisited / From A Buick 6
The scholarly sleeve notes quote from Robert Shelton's 1962 New York Times Dylan live review. They recall the sessions for Bob's debut album and yet again name-drop Blind Lemon Jefferson and Woody Guthrie. All well and good, but in all probability none of this meant very much to the average 60s teenage record buyer picking up this EP simply to hear the big hit single “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Lest we forget, by 1965 Dylan was no longer the rustic folkie described in the liner notes. He had reinvented himself as a bona fide rock star and “Like A Rolling Stone” was already a massive hit single all around the world (reaching top 5 in Australia, US and UK).
Once again, the marathon title track occupies all of side one, with “From A Buick 6” and “Highway 61 Revisited” (coincidentally, the b-sides of the next two Dylan singles) completing the hard-rocking trio. The front cover, showing a black and white photo of Dylan in satin shirt and Triumph motorbike t-shirt against a yellow background, was lifted from the sleeve of Bob's then-current Highway 61 Revisited LP. Also issued in New Zealand (CBS BG 465023).
JOHN WESLEY HARDING (CBS BG 225193) 1968
John Wesley Harding / The Wicked Messenger / I'll Be Your Baby Tonight / All Along the Watchtower
Helped no doubt by the inclusion of “All Along the Watchtower”, Bob's first EP for over two years appears to have sold in respectable numbers and while not exactly common these days, it turns up more often than might be expected. The front cover is a faithful reproduction of the LP sleeve (albeit with added lettering) and, for the first time on an Australian Dylan EP, the musicians, producer and engineer were credited on the cover.
The inevitable size reduction of the front cover photo makes it impossible to spot the Beatles' faces allegedly hidden upside down in the tree trunk - although given the poor-quality reproduction of Australian JWH LP sleeves, that was never an easy task even with the larger album artwork. An original US or UK pressing of the LP is required in order to see the Fab Four clearly (if, indeed, they really are there).
Photographer John Berg who took the Polaroid photo used on the cover of JWH said during an interview with John Baudie for the Dylan fanzine The Telegraph: "I got a call from Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco. Someone had discovered little pictures of The Beatles and the hand of Jesus in the tree trunk. Well, I had a proof of the cover on my wall, so I went and turned it upside down and sure enough. Ha ha ha! I mean, if you wanted to see it, you could see it. I was as amazed as anybody."
|Spot them if you can. Accidental Beatles’ heads appeared on the John Wesley Harding LP sleeve|
When Berg was asked if he still had the original Polaroid used for the cover photo, he replied "No. I used to have it in a frame, but I sold it at a benefit for NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). It was auctioned off. It made about 50 bucks. I should never have done it."
Under the curious heading “Hear more of the Bob Dylan greatness on these CBS albums” Blonde On Blonde, Greatest Hits Vol.1 and John Wesley Harding itself are advertised (in mono and stereo) on the back cover.
NASHVILLE SKYLINE (CBS SBG 225223) 1969
Lay Lady Lay / I Threw It All Away / Nashville Skyline Rag / Country Pie
Signalling yet another major change in musical direction, Nashville Skyline legitimised country music at a stroke for an entire generation of rock musicians who had, for the most part, previously ignored - or even reviled - it – and it probably opened the door to the country rock craze of the 70s. Such was the Dylan's influence at that time.
Set within a vivid blue border, the front sleeve features a black and white adaptation of the album cover photo showing a broadly smiling Dylan holding his Gibson J200 guitar (a gift from George Harrison) and genially doffing his hat at the camera.
While it was obviously the big hit “Lay Lady Lay” which attracted buyers to Bob's first stereo Aussie EP, the inclusion of his debut instrumental “Nashville Skyline Rag” must have surprised more than a few of his casual followers. The musicians were credited on the back cover once more, while the Blonde On Blonde, Greatest Hits Vol.1 and John Wesley Harding LPs are again advertised on the reverse, although significantly they were now offered only in stereo.
NEW MORNING (CBS SBG 225243) 1971
New Morning / Three Angels / The Man In Me / Wigwam
Although it didn't come within a sniff of the charts in the US or Britain, “Wigwam” was a surprise top ten Australian single for Dylan. So, no matter that this curious instrumental originated not from the New Morning album, but the earlier Self Portrait double set, it was tacked on here as a matter of expediency.
Despite the presence of “Wigwam” though, New Morning appears to have found few takers and is now one of the hardest Dylan Aussie EPs to find. With its sepia photo and cream border, the wordless front cover is an almost exact reproduction the LP sleeve. Nashville Skyline and Greatest Hits Vol.1 are pictured on the reverse.
A HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA FALL (CBS SBG 225258) 1972
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall / If Not For You / The Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo) / Watching The River Flow
With the exception of Bob Dylan, this is the rarest Australian Dylan EP by a country mile. Issued in late 1972 at a time when most other countries had well and truly pensioned off the 7” EP format, this ill-matched assortment of songs was drawn from the double LP Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (or More Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits as it was titled in the UK).
All three sleeve photos used on the double LP hits compilation were taken by Barry Feinstein during Bob's appearance at the Concert for Bangla Desh in August 1971. The monochrome EP sleeve, however, uses yet a different Feinstein picture from the same concert. The original can be seen in full colour on page 44 of the booklet which accompanies the Concert For Bangla Desh triple LP box set.
While “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” and “If Not For You” are the well-known album versions (lifted from Freewheelin' and New Morning, respectively), “Watching The River Flow” was, prior to its appearance on Greatest Hits Vol.2, only available as a 1971 single. “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo)” is the seldom heard 1969 live at the Isle Of Wight version from Self Portrait.