Album: The Bootleg Series Vol 4.
This rocked-up revision of a polite (he even gives it attribution before he sings it) pretty acoustic cover from Bob Dylan’s debut exemplifies everything great about the “Royal Albert Hall” concert. Every single song in this set is given a new lease on life.
Even discounting the music, the new lyrics in this version of “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” – and how he sings those lyrics – transform the lovelorn cast of the original into an anticipatory fucksong:
I’ll buy you rope and twine
Honey, just for you to climb
Yes, I’ll do anything in this god almighty world
If you just once drive me out of my mind!
But of course, you can’t discount the music. Not without taking your life into your hands, because with Mickey Jones crashing around his drum kit like he forgot where the brakes were and decided to speed into the spinout, “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” will run you right off the road if you’re not paying attention.
Energized by those drums, or maybe just to protect themselves, Dylan and Hawks take turns trading off solos after each verse. Here goes Robbie Robertson. Here goes Dylan. Here goes Garth Hudson. Here goes Richard Manuel. All of them are just hanging for dear life and no doubt hoping that Rick Danko’s bass will provide the stability they need to make it to the end of the song.
The “Royal Albert Hall” concert came into my life via a cassette that my brother Joe had somehow gotten ahold of in either the late 70s or early 80s, and instantly became a favorite of mine. In case you couldn’t tell.
At some point in the mid-1980s, I discovered that the Henry Madden Library – the big one, with all of the books and magazines and microfiche and shit – at Fresno State had a vinyl copy of the “Royal Albert Hall.” Why they had it, I don’t know. I do know that there were a couple of other boots there, including The Rolling Stones Live’R Than You’ll Ever Be.
In any event, I recorded it to cassette a couple of times, and spent the next few years trying to figure out how to, uh, liberate it from its involuntary servitude and give it a new home in my vinyl collection. I never did, mostly because I couldn’t figure out a way to do it without getting caught. Nevertheless I often wondered how those boots ended up in the Library. I’ve always assumed that some super-hipster hippie librarian was responsible.
One amazing minute of “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” performed live in 1966
Official video for “Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Manchester 1966)”
My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist: