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Dylan master tapes are a moment in history


3 reels of magnetic tape said to be lost master tapes of Bob Dylan's first record album, Bob Dylan, recorded in 1961.
Bob Dylan's first album with the tapes on which it was recorded.

You will need around $1 million to come away from tomorrow’s online auction of 3 tapes believed to be the masters of Bob Dylan’s debut album.

The tapes are being sold with an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million after coming to light in the custody of blind civil rights activist Stephen Handschu.

Accidental preservation

Handschu shared a house with a caretaker at Columbia Records’ studio in New York. He was allowed to keep tapes regarded as surplus. Most were wiped. He gifted the tapes to Handschu. He kept them, assuming them to be blank, until the 2000s, when he checked them out while working on a recording project for blind people in Chicago.

Notes from the rediscovered master tapes from Bob Dylan's firstt album.

Notes from the tapes seem to confirm their authenticity.

There is 1 unreleased Dylan recording on the tapes. It is a cover of Woody Guthrie’s Rambling Blues. 3 other songs on the tapes were not released in Dylan’s regular album series but were released as authorised “bootleg” releases.

Adjudged genuine

The tapes also contain the entirety of Dylan’s eponymous 1961 debut album, there are alternative takes of many songs, and chat between Dylan and his producer John Hammond. The tapes come with their logs and other documentation, all signed by Hammond.

They have been adjudged to be the master tapes of the album, though a letter D added to the tape numbers could indicate that they were contemporary duplicates.

The tapes have been digitally preserved and excerpts can be heard online.

Handschu, who now lives in Detroit, will donate some of the money he makes from the sale to a local non-profit organsiation that supports blind people.

The sale is live online tomorrow, December 14.

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