“I squandered the years of my youth/It’s a scary thing, the truth…” With a new instalment of his ongoing Bootleg series celebrating BOB DYLAN’s 1997 album Time Out Of Mind, Damien Love digs deep to find these latest archival treasures cast new light on one of its creator’s most powerful, emotionally complex records…in the latest issue of Uncut magazine – in UK shops from Thursday, January 12 and available to buy from our online store.
On February 25, 1998, Bob Dylan sauntered out on stage at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan to pick up the third Grammy Award of the night for his LP Time Out Of Mind. The record had already won Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, for the clamorous track “Cold Irons Bound”. But this was the main event: crowned Album Of The Year, seeing off nominees including Radiohead’s OK Computer and Paul McCartney’s Beatles-referencing Flaming Pie.
The Grammys hat trick capped an extraordinary moment in Dylan’s career, one that started when he began work on the record in late summer 1996. It could have ended as he was finalising its mixing and sequencing early summer 1997, when newspapers around the world flashed headlines that he was seriously ill in hospital, possibly facing a fight for his life.
That health scare was one of the reasons Time Out Of Mind was characterised by sections of the media on release as that damnable thing, “a comeback”, but not the only one. It was the first album of original material Dylan had issued in seven years. Many, including Dylan himself, had wondered if he’d ever write a song again.
Now here he was, looking like a dapper ghost as he collected an award for writing the year’s finest album, a haunted tour de force wrapped in all the colours of the blues to rank alongside any record from his past. In his acceptance speech, Dylan spoke of the album in characteristically colourful style, crediting Buddy Holly’s phantom for joining them in the studio while they worked, and invoking Robert Johnson: “The stuff we got’ll blow your brains out.” In retrospect, though, the most curious thing he said about making Time Out Of Mind was perhaps the most telling: “Everybody worked really hard on this and we didn’t know what we had when we did it. But we did it anyway.”
Twenty-five years since its release, tales of the confusion and conflict that fed the creation of Time Out Of Mind almost as much as Dylan’s vision of the music he was searching for have grown legion. Many of those stories first came to light in these pages, in 2008, when
Uncut interviewed several key participants for the release of The Bootleg Series Vol 8: Tell Tale Signs (Rare And Unreleased 1989–2006), which included 10 eye-opening outtakes from the sessions and proved one of the most revelatory editions of Dylan’s ongoing archive project.
“Sometimes, when it was all going on, it would be chaotic for an hour or more,” the late Jim Dickinson, who Dylan enlisted on piano for the record, told me back then. “But then there would be this period of clarity: just five or eight minutes of absolute clarity, where everybody in the room knew we were getting it. It was unlike any session I’ve ever been on.”
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