"Long-distance Operator" - Original Drawings and Autograph Lyrics from the recording of the Basement Tapes
Important and extremely rare early original drawings by the legendary singer-songwriter, who has penned a series of three captioned drawings on the blank side of a Columbia Records Handelok record bag during the historic "Basement Tapes" recording sessions at Big Pink, and including a variation of the opening of the song "Long Distance Operator." Obtained by Bonnie Diamond, then girlfriend of Levon Helm (drummer and vocalist of The Band), West Saugerties, NY, Summer 1967, and with her autograph shopping list to the verso of the bag. 8 x 10.5 inches. Rear Columbia logo panel with some rears, a few small stains, overall in very fine condition. We have not located any examples of original Dylan drawings having appeared on the market in over 30 years of records.
The drawings depict a waving figure with a guitar strapped across his chest, exclaiming "Long Distance Operator, This call is Not For Fun!"; a mechanical guitar-like figure with two different guitar string protrusions, various components identified with pointing arrows "swift key," "Gas Lock," "Opener" and "Tune-Up Supporter"; two figures, one looking up at the guitar player and remarking "Shut Up!," while the other is poised to bring down a large hammer or club upon his head!
The drawings are highly reminiscent of other documented Dylan drawings of the period, including the guitar figure which appears on the cover of the 1973 book "Bob Dylan. Writings and Drawings." The central figure in the present work sings a variation of the song which begins in its final version, "Long-distance operator / Place this call, it’s not for fun / Long-distance operator / Please, place this call, you know it’s not for fun / I gotta get a message to my baby / You know, she’s not just anyone." While Richard Manuel (1943-1986), one of the lead singers of The Band sings the vocals on the Basement Tapes recording of this song, to our view the present figure looks much closer to Dylan's conception of himself and is indeed reminiscent of his painted self portrait, done shortly thereafter for the cover of his 1969-recorded "Self Portrait" album.
Provenance: "My sister Bonnie was beautiful, cool and musically precocious, that is, she had great ears. I was in the end of my freshman year at UNC in 1965 when I got a postcard from her saying she had heard the best band ever. I didn’t take this assessment lightly. Bonnie had been involved in music from the age of 15 singing backup and recording with a high school band which included Jack Cassidy in DC, our home town. The “best” band ever was Levon and the Hawks and they were appearing at Tony Mart’s on Somers Point outside Atlantic City. A year later I met Levon at his and Bonnie’s apartment in LA. They were to be an item until late in 1969 and she spent a lot of time with The Band in Woodstock during those transitional years." (Monty Diamond, as quoted in the 2016 Sotheby's Catalogue in which other of Bonnie Diamond's original Dylan, Clapton and The Band lyrics manuscripts were sold)
During his 1965–1966 world tour, Dylan was backed by the Hawks, a five-member rock group who would later become famous as the Band. After Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident in July 1966, four members of the Hawks came to Dylan's home in the Woodstock area to collaborate with him on music and film projects. While Dylan was out of the public's eye during an extended period of recovery in 1967, he and the members of the Hawks recorded more than 100 tracks together, incorporating original compositions, contemporary covers, and traditional material. These were the recording sessions at Big Pink that spawned The Basement Tapes and were the height of informality and "reefer run amok." The songs that made it onto Garth Hudson's reel-to-reel recorder were most often the result of loose jams either on traditional songs and covers or around the lyrics that Dylan would bring to the Band. Dylan's new style of writing moved away from the urban sensibility and extended narratives that had characterized his most recent albums, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, toward songs that were more intimate and which drew on many styles of traditional American music. For some critics, the songs on The Basement Tapes, which circulated widely in unofficial form, mounted a major stylistic challenge to rock music in the late sixties.
Dylan's lyrics have incorporated various political, social, philosophical, and literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. Initially inspired by the performances of Little Richard, and the songwriting of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Dylan has amplified and personalized musical genres. His recording career, spanning 50 years, has explored the traditions in American song—from folk, blues, and country to gospel, rock and roll, and rockabilly to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and the Great American Songbook. Dylan performs with guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. Backed by a changing line-up of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour. His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but songwriting is considered his greatest contribution. Dylan has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He has also received numerous awards including eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 awarded him a special citation for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power." In May 2012, Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. In 2016 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.
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