I have been a Bob Dylan fan for almost 15 years. That is a time period that covers over half of my life. I’ve read his book, I’ve read biographies, I’ve bought almost every record on CD, and then rebought them all again on vinyl because I’m a huge fucking nerd who needs anything with Dylan’s name plastered on it. Even the shitty records that nobody has any place owning, I have those; records that even Dylan himself has dismissed as massive pieces of shit.
So, on this wonderful Friday, I descended on my local record store with intentions to buy the new Father John Misty record, Pure Comedy. I bought it, and it’s fucking glorious. However, while I was browsing among the stacks (because you never go into a record store and only buy one album) I located two Dylan records that I didn’t have: A copy of Empire Burlesque for 9 bucks, and The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Volume 12: 1965 to 1966 for 114 bucks.
Now, the Bootleg Series album is a 3 LP set that contains outtakes, alternate cuts, and rehearsals from the three best Dylan records of all time: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. Dylan recorded all of these albums in the course of one fucking year, because speed is apparently the greatest drug of all time when you’re in the midst of a creative surge. Everything on those albums is gold, and every one of these outtakes is peerless unfinished genius. One can actually see these songs form through every change of lyrics, tempo, instrumentation, and band organization. It’s fucking awesome and you’re goddamn right I bought it for an exemplary amount of money. Even the booklet that comes with it is full of cool shit. Fuck buying groceries, this box set was coming home with me. No price too much.
However, there is no justification for buying Empire Burlesque for nine bucks. Empire Burlesque came out in 1985, when Dylan was about as cool as your creepy uncle, and he assuaged this lack of cool by releasing what basically amounts to a disco album. The first five seconds of the first song makes you instantly think, “well, this was a stupid purchase, because there’s no reason there should be electronic drums on a Dylan record.”
Now, normally I’m all for artists growing and changing, and trying new things. However, this slab of horseshit reeks of Dylan recording a couple songs, and then not giving enough of a fuck about the record to just pass it off to some producers who tried in vain to make Dylan “current,” instead of actually finishing it properly.
There are only ten songs on the record, which means I paid a little less than a dollar a track, and even that is too damn much, as I still haven’t managed to make it through the fucking thing. Life is too short to listen to this shit. Yet now I own it, for some fucking reason I own it. It is unforgivable; like having a copy of Mein Kampf with dog-eared pages sitting out on your coffee table.
Since I got home, I have been trying to justify buying this fucking thing. It sits on the end of my desk, with Bob Dylan staring at me from the front cover with a look that says, “why? Why did you purchase this monstrosity? Even I had enough sense to disown this bastard child.”
Not even justifying myself by saying that a true Dylan fan owns all of the records helps this situation. I am one of the damned. Also, for a used record, it is in almost mint condition, probably because the person who bought it originally in 1985 listened to it once and then said, “no, once is enough,” and resisted every single urge they had to throw the fucking thing out into the street where it belongs.
Also, the hat he’s wearing on the back cover looks really fucking stupid.
I am a man covered in shame. Send help.