Listen back to Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead’s mammoth 74 track rehearsal session, 1987
The eighties were an odd time for Bob Dylan. As well as not being quite revered as the inspirational genius he is today, the singer had yet to really crack the charts. His career was nosediving. It was a situation that would eventually land him on a farewell tour alongside The Grateful Dead.
As you might have expected, instead of The Dead providing the perfect tie-dye coffin to put his career, the band inspired and rejuvenated Dylan. They rekindled not only his career but his love of music. And much of it can be traced back to one mammoth rehearsal session.
In Dylan’s autobiography, he recalls “Everything was smashed. My own songs had become strangers to me, I didn’t have the skill to touch the right nerves, couldn’t penetrate the surfaces. It wasn’t my moment of history anymore.” Dylan felt pushed aside and was more than hapy to take his place in the history books.
Following a tour with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers which saw Dylan realise, “Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine.” Dylan was ready to retire—but before he hung up his guitar he was scheduled to do some shows with The Grateful Dead. The group invited the mercurial songwriter out to San Rafael in California to rehearse as one. It was unlike any rehearsal Dylan had ever experienced.
InChronicles, Volume 1 he writes: “After an hour or so, it became clear to me that the band wanted to rehearse more and different songs than I had been used to doing with Petty. They wanted to run over all the songs, the ones they liked, the seldom seen ones. I found myself in a peculiar position and I could hear the brakes screech. If I had known this to begin with, I might not have taken the dates…. There were so many [songs] that I couldn’t tell which was which-I might even get the words to some mixed up with others.”
It was a daunting task for an artist who thought his time was up. He left the studio and was determined to never return until a run-in with a jazz band made him reconsider. Dylan & The Dead as the live show and subsequent album was titled, was a frightening concept for the singer but “then miraculously,” he adds, “something internal came unhinged.”
It may have been the reaction the two artists rekindled in one another or it may have been the relaxants on offer at the studio but soon enough some clicked. “I played these shows with The Dead and never had to think twice about it. Maybe they just dropped something in my drink, I can’t say, but anything they wanted to do was fine with me.”
The joining of Dylan and The Dead is noted as one of the most cohesive examples of its kind but what’s even better are the rehearsal sessions that began it all. Below you can listen to the full recording session (around 74 tracks) which features, ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’, ‘Maggie’s Farm’, ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ and so many more.
You can listen to the session below but also find individual songs and a full playlist here.