Bob Dylan masters at auction – best news

  • November 17, 2023

A set of early Bob Dylan tapes will be auctioned in December. The three slipcased reels are from the collection of sculptor Steven Handschu who was given the tapes in the 1960s, and are a set of masters from Dylan’s first album, recorded at Columbia Studios in New York by John Hammond over two days in November 1961. 

The tapes, marked “Bob Dylan, Job # 64937, 11-20-61 1D/2D/3D” are interesting to Dylan scholars as they contain not only the 13 songs which make up Dylan’s debut album, but also studio conversation and – apparently – additional takes and songs. The tapes have been digitally transferred at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. Engineer Scott Steinman says: “The engineers established their recording levels during Dylan’s first run ‘You’re No Good.’ These are professionally formatted, first generation tapes; from a pure audio quality perspective, they are the best.”

The three track tapes, which feature Dylan’s voice and guitar on one, his guitar on a second, and Hammond’s talkback comments on a third require specialist equipment to play, and may not be unique. 

“It was often the practice to make valuable master tapes redundant,” Steinman notes. “If a tape was lost or damaged, a back-up existed. Studios could make multiple masters by recording simultaneously on two aligned recorders. Inasmuch as each reel number designated on these tape boxes ends with a letter “D” (i.e., 1D, 2D, 3D), these tapes could possibly be duplicates. If this is true, it would therefore be possible that another set of Dylan masters for this album exists. Research, however, into this possibility has not revealed such additional tapes.”

Mr Handschu, who is blind, was, the auction site says, given the tapes by his roommate in New York in 1966, a caretaker who was permitted to take tapes destined to be thrown away. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will benefit charities for the blind. 

The listing, with audio clips, can be viewed at www.guernseys.com

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