Dylan wrote because he was bored

Bob Dylan says he started writing songs in the 60s as he had nothing else to do.

The music icon was interviewed on US series Showtime to mark the launch of Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes. The album features a host of stars including Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Marcus Mumford, who recorded tracks based around Dylan’s ‘lost’ lyrics penned during his Basement Tapes sessions in Woodstock, New York in 1967.

And Dylan reveals that while the US was enjoying the Summer Of Love that year, he and guitarist Robbie Robertson found musical inspiration from more conventional sources.

He says: “The events of the day seemed to be a million miles away. We weren’t really participating in any of that stuff, well it was the Summer of Love, but we weren’t there. So we did our thing where we wrote Million Dollar Bash. We had nothing else to do, so I started writing a bunch of songs.

“I wasn’t going to write anything about myself – I didn’t have nothing to say about myself that I’d figure anybody else would be interested in. You look for ideas on TV and just any old thing would create the beginning to a song: names out of phone books and things.”

He continues: “When China first exploded the hydrogen bomb, it just flashed across the headlines in newspapers so we wrote Tears Of Rage. There was rioting in Rochester, New York. It wasn’t that far away, so we wrote Too Much Of Nothing.”

His original draft of Like A Rolling Stone sold for over $2 million in June this year – but he says he has no idea where the lyrics for On The River: The New Basement Tapes came from, although he reveals he thought it was an “interesting” project.

He adds: “You can’t record everything you wrote, so it’s understandable that a lot of this stuff just fell by the wayside. I don’t even know how or where they were kept all these years. I’d never seen these lyrics since the day they were written.

“It’s always interesting when someone takes a song of yours and re-records it. But these songs weren’t tailor-made for anybody – I just wrote what I felt like writing.”

Last month, Dylan launched The Basement Tapes Complete – a collection of 138 tracks recorded in the summer of 1967, while he recently played a gig for a solitary fan as part of an experimental film series. The performance will be released via YouTube on December 15. He’s also selling a limited run of 250 signed prints of classic photographs. Each image costs $1800 or $1900 framed.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.