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Ten classic Bob Dylan performances you’ve probably never heard, but should

Bob Dylan, pictured performing in Denmark in 2001.Niels Meilvang/EPA/file

Dylan zealots have had plenty to rejoice over lately. The iconic singer hit 75 on May 24, and he’s still going strong; starting with a Tanglewood performance this Saturday, Dylan will be performing at Foxwoods on Sunday, soon to be followed with shows in Boston (Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, July 14), Portland, Maine (Thompson’s Point, July 16), and Gilford, N.H. (Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, July 17).

In anticipation, no doubt there will be much demand for the regularly lionized works: songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin in the Wind,” and albums including “Blonde on Blonde,” “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” and “The Basement Tapes.” But what about those discographical back-corridor nuggets that haven’t garnered as much attention? With someone like Dylan, the stuff that isn’t played often, but should be, can tell a tale to match or even surpass the official canon. In that spirit, here are 10 wonders you might not know, but should.


“Mixed-Up Confusion” (1961)

Dylan’s first single was — dig this — an electric affair: a kind of proto-“Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Even proto-rap, if you really want to tweak musical historians. It’s a reminder of how long Dylan has been at it, since this came out the year Roger Maris blasted 61 home runs. For everyone who thinks Dylan set out to be a folkie, know that he was way more Buddy Holly than Woody Guthrie at the start.

“Love Songs for America” (1974)

If all you know of Dylan’s second tour with the Band is the double live album “Before the Flood,” you’re going to want to find this bootleg of their January 14 Boston Garden gig. The official product had the keyboards way too high in the mix, canceling out some of the R&B propulsion that’s fully in evidence here. The old barn on Causeway Street was among the most intimate of basketball gyms, and what a manner of sock hop this proves.


“Tomorrow Is a Long Time” (1963)

Elvis Presley recorded a stunning cover of this ace Dylan composition, which manages to at once look forward and back — a thing of his. Dylan initially tucked away a 1963 live version on his second greatest hits album — never mind it wasn’t a hit, Dylan was redefining the notion of that term.

“It’s All Over Now” (from “Don’t Look Back,” 1967)

D.A. Pennebaker’s released Dylan film (his follow-up, “Eat the Document,” still sits in the vaults) documents the singer on tour in England in spring ’65, utilizing the same low angles of Richard Lester’s Beatles romp, “A Hard Day’s Night.” A sequence in which Dylan hangs with Donovan, congratulating the latter on the song he just played, is both touching and heartbreaking. Dylan is coaxed into playing one of his own, which happened to be this new one. If ever a man looks like he knew he couldn’t compete, it was the future singer of “Mellow Yellow.”

“World Gone Wrong” (1993)

Having temporarily mislaid his songwriting mojo, Dylan recorded two albums of covers: 1992’s “Good As I Been to You” and this set of bluesier material. If Dylan had been a Delta man, this is how he would have sounded out in the sticks with the likes of Charlie Patton and Son House. On parts of Blind Willie McTell’s “Broke Down Engine” he uses his acoustic guitar as a drum, an effect that comes off like it’s restarting a heart.


“Blood on the Tapes” (1974)

Before there was “Blood on the Tracks” — a record so encased in the pain of broken love that Dylan professed horror anyone might like it — there were the NYC sessions for it that Dylan scrapped. If anything, the pain cuts deeper. He’s not thinking about tunes; he’s wondering how to carry on. Dylan isn’t concerned with niceties, and on this unauthorized release you can hear his jacket buttons scrape against his guitar. Formalities count little to the bereft.

“Genuine Supper Club Soundboards” (1993)

The idea of Dylan singing for his supper is a pleasing one, wandering minstrel that he is in many ways. The excellent NYC shows documented on this bootleg number among the best he ever gave. . . which is to say among the best shows of the last half century. An official release is inevitable.

“A Nightly Ritual — Genuine Live 1966”

Dylan’s ’66 world tour might be the finest anyone’s done, and you likely know the famed Manchester Free Trade Hall show in which a heckler calls the singer a Judas, causing Dylan to, well, let’s say go off. It’s rock theater with the intensity of a hockey game. The best concert of the decade? Maybe — and the lesser-known Liverpool performance on this bootleg is a fit rival.


“In Concert — Brandeis University 1963”

Official product, and what product it is: perfect fidelity, and a reminder, if you need one, that Dylan was often hilarious when he was younger. Enough so that he couldn’t help but crack himself up. He hasn’t figured everything out yet — at times he sounds like he wants to be Jimmie Rodgers — but “it’s getting there,” as he would later sing.

“She’s Your Lover Now” (takes 1-15) (1966)

You need the big, pricey 18-disc expanded version of “The Cutting Edge” to hear all of this. Dylan was at his absolute apogee on these sessions, and this cut was to him as “Strawberry Fields Forever” was to John Lennon. You can’t get more Dylan-y, and you also can’t find studio material that sounds more like rock ’n’ roll chamber music. There’s no harpsichord, but throughout the music can be stunningly Bachian.


At Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood, Lenox, July 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $37.50-$149.50. 888-266-1200, At Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39.50-$129.50. Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. 800-745-3000,

Colin Fleming can be reached at