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Bob Dylan left 149 acetate records sitting in an NYC closet for 40 years

Alternate versions of music from Bob Dylan's late '60s and early '70s work were discovered in massive find.
Alternate versions of music from Bob Dylan's late '60s and early '70s work were discovered in massive find.

For Bob Dylan rarity hunters, this could be one of the biggest scores yet.

A record dealer has just revealed details of a find at a Greenwich Village building in New York City. Inside two boxes marked "Old Records" were 149 acetates -- test pressings created using a recording lathe -- used by Dylan during the creation of Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning.

RecordMecca's Jeff Gold tells the fascinating story of how the records came into his possession.


I was put in touch with a gentleman from the Northwest. His sister had recently died and he was the executor of her estate. She owned a building at 124 W. Houston Street in Greenwich Village and while selling off her personal items so the building could be put up for sale, he discovered two boxes labeled "Old Records" in a closet. The boxes were filled with 10″ and 12″ acetates; he had never seen an acetate before and while he recognized them as some sort of records, he didn't really know what they were. Most had labels with Bob Dylan's name, the address of Columbia Records, and a song title  He knew Dylan had rented the ground floor of the building in the late 60′s and early 70′s as a studio space, and theorized Dylan had either left them when he'd moved out, or thrown them away and his sister had rescued them from the trash (at the time Dylan rented the space, he lived two blocks away at 94 McDougal St.)  In either case, they had been sitting, boxed up in the closet, for more than forty years. He took two home with him, and eventually discovered what they were, and we were put in touch.

Gold flew to New York to examine the collection, and he was blown away by what he found. All were Dylan recordings, all were in excellent condition, and many had hand-dated notes by Dylan from the late-'60s and early-'70s recording sessions. Most of the acetates were sent by Bob Johnston from Columbia Records' Nashville studios to Dylan in New York for approval.

These boxes were found in a closet at 124 W. Houston St. in New York. Dylan's studio was on the ground floor.
These boxes were found in a closet at 124 W. Houston St. in New York. Dylan's studio was on the ground floor.
Photos furnished by RecordMecca

"He told me he'd found the boxes on his fourth (and final) pass through the building, in a small closet in a loft above the bedroom, which he hadn't noticed before," Gold says of the man who contacted him. "We took a moment to contemplate what might have happened if he hadn't found them. The building would have sold, the new owners would have hired a crew to gut and renovate the place, and the boxes tossed into a dumpster from a third floor window. Phew."

 

You can see Dylan's notes on this sleeve giving an "OK" or suggestions.
You can see Dylan's notes on this sleeve giving an "OK" or suggestions.
Via RecordMecca

After Gold took them home, his friend Zach Cowie made high-quality digital transfers of the most-interesting acetates. Then, with assistance from Dylan collector Arie De Reus, they compared the music on the acetates to released versions. What emerged was unreleased versions -- different overdubs, different mixes, different edits, and unknown takes -- and electric versions of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues" from the Self Portrait sessions, and a New Morning-era gospel version of "Tomorrow is Such a Long Time."

Dylan doodled a bit on this sleeve.
Dylan doodled a bit on this sleeve.
Via RecordMecca

The acetates also include about ten different sequences of Self Portrait, and several sequences for New Morning. Gold notes that these acetates date from the same time period as last year's Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait.

After providing transfers to Columbia Records, RecordMecca has put several of these acetates up for grabs. Included in the four on sale right now is a pair of alternate Nashville Skyline acetates, priced at $7,000. Whoa. Landlords, always double-check your closets.

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