The Barnyard Tapes – The Basement Tapes and Bob Dylan’s Mandolin

November 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Posted in kids music, Musings, News and other stuff... | Leave a comment

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.

Barnyard Tapes - Basement Tapes

The Barnyard Tapes – The Basement Tapes…Thanks Bob!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. It’s a mandolin made by the same person who made Bob’s.
  3. 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.


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