As we were finishing our newly released CD, we were casting around for a title. I happened to put Bob Dylan and the Band’s “The Basement Tapes” into the car CD player. I hadn’t listened to it for a few years, but over the next few days, I listened again and again.
Everything about it, from the live recording (as opposed to polished studio tracking) to the sheer joy that these guys took in the music was appealing. I thought about the fact that we did the first recordings for our CD a couple of years ago and those tapes had sat our in the barn for a couple of years. I thought about the fact that we were working to play the songs as live as possible, only creating tracks when one of us played more than one instrument on a song. That requires a different studio set-up – lots of mics and lots of potential for background noise that you can’t get out of the mix – in other words, it might not end up as the type of clean (and sterile) recording that we’re so used to hearing, but it’s exactly what Bob did. I thought about songs that appear on our CD, “Cluck Old Hen,” “Liza Jane” and others that feature barnyard animals. Finally, I thought about the fact that, like Bob and the Band, we love hanging out and recording – and our title was obvious. The Barnyard Tapes was born.
Now, about the Mandolin…I bought the mandolin on our back cover at a pawn shop in Virginia, Minnesota, a town about 10 miles from Bob’s home town, Hibbing, Minnesota. (And no, the house where Bob grew up is not on the National Registry of Historic Places – it’s just a house where people live.)
Anyway, the mandolin is a cheap, homemade, heavily lacquered mandolin that just so happens to look an awfully lot like the one that Bob is holding on the Basement Tapes cover. Look closely – it does! So, the possibilities:
- It’s the same mandolin. Bob pawned it on a trip home and it sat in that shop for 20 something years until I came along and bought it.
- It’s a mandolin made by the same person who made Bob’s.
- I just randomly found a mandolin that has nothing to do with Bob Dylan in the pawn shop close to where he grew up that looks exactly like one he is holding in a cover photo from early in his career.
Which sounds most likely? I’ll tell you my vote, I have the mandolin stored in a secure, moisture and temperature monitored storage facility…Smithsonian, if you’re out there, drop me a line.