“Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued”: The Bob Dylan Revival

Madeline Happold

The ‘60s are back, and the iconic music of the decade is still making waves in the entertainment industry. 

The Showtime documentary “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued” premiered on Nov. 21, 2014. The show is based on ‘60s music legend Bob Dylan and his Basement Tapes sessions during the summer of 1967.

In the early 60s, Dylan and his folk-inspired music became a worldwide phenomenon, influencing not only the music industry but also the culture of a decade. Dylan had released three albums and toured in both the United States and Europe until July 1966 when he was critically hurt in a motorcycle accident. In an effort to recuperate and escape the public eye, Dylan and his band mates secluded themselves in a small house in West Saugerties, N.Y. There the musicians wrote and recorded over a hundred songs, ranging from “The Mighty Quinn” to “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” 

Outside of the small shack in New York, though, Dylan fever was still rampant as music lovers searched for more of Dylan’s iconic music. Rumors of these private recordings from the summer of ‘67 began to spread, creating a new enterprise of the music business– the Bootleg Records. In 1969 the album “Great White Wonder” began mysteriously surfacing in record stores across the nation and the contraband music heightened Dylan’s fame. While hundreds of songs were released illegally through the bootleg record only sixteen were officially commercially released on “The Basement Tapes” album in 1975. 

Yet, not all of the songs written during these sessions were recorded or produced on the album. Some song ideas never even made it off the page and into reality. “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued” takes the best folk-rock artists of the time and produces Dylan’s lost music. These musicians include Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith and Jim James. Actor Johnny Depp even makes an appearance on guitar.

The show gives a behind the scenes look at a two-week studio session where the artists write, compose, and produce dozens of these forgotten Dylan songs. Some pieces are arranged smoothly, while others need countless hours and revisions to get the songs just right. Blending the opinions and ideas of these famous musicians proves to be both creatively stimulating yet challenging for the group. 

This documentary is perfect for not only Bob Dylan lovers but any music lover. Offering an inside look into the art of song making, each artist brings his or her unique approach and style to the program, creating a beautiful blend and range of sounds. Each artist tries to make his or her own mark on the song, taking something legendary and making it new. Watching the documentary, viewers feel like they too are sitting in the studio, collaborating with the artists. 

Not only is it entertaining to watch the creative process between these musicians, but the documentary also gives looks into exclusive songs written by Dylan, never before released. This acts as almost bait on a hook, pulling in viewers to watch the program, then selling the new record on air before its viewers by offering them snippets of the songs on the album. It aims to promote, and does so fascinatingly.