How would you like to attend a Bob Dylan concert for the price of $4.40? If you had that sum in your possession, and were at Brandeis University on the night of May 10, 1963, you would have been in luck. The college sponsored a folk festival that evening and invited a very young Bob Dylan to perform.
A tape of the concert was discovered in the archives of music writer Ralph Gleason, where it had sat for nearly 40 years. The performance was recorded just prior to the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which would make the artist a star.
Until recently the music was only available as a bonus disc on the Amazon.com release of The Whitmark Demos, 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9), included exclusively in the bonus version and not the standard one.
Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 has now been issued as a stand-alone album. The sound is remarkably good for a recording of this type as it finds the 21 year old Dylan performing a seven-song set that clocks in at just under 40 minutes. The liner notes are provided by Michael Gray, author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.
Dylan’s setlist is representative of his early performing period. It includes “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance,” which is incomplete, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “Ballad Of Hollis Brown,” “Masters Of War,” “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” and “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues.”
Dylan is loose and at ease, playing songs that were probably second nature to him by this time. All the talkin’ blues tunes are at times funny and droll while, at others, critical and insightful. His musings about life as well as the society and world around him were always quite entertaining and thoughtful.
“Ballad Of Hollis Brown” would appear on his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’ in 1964; it’s nice to hear this early version of this underrated song. “Masters Of War” is the most sophisticated song in the set and shows that even at such a young age he could already create powerful lyrics. My favorite performance is “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” which used an old folk melody to create a song of love and loss. It’s interesting to reflect upon his dream nearly 40 years later.
It’s not often that a piece of music history like this surfaces. Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 is from the pre-Beatles era, when President Kennedy was still alive. Dylan would soon change along with American history. This concert catches him at the beginning of his personal and musical journey.