Thursday, May 01, 2014

Aren't hand-written lyrics as reliable as fragments of the true cross?

Obviously Sotheby's wouldn't be lending their good name to the sale of the original hand-written lyrics for "Like A Rolling Stone" if they hadn't checked the provenance. They apparently come from somebody in California who was given them by Dylan many years ago and is now looking to cash in. The auction is on June 24th if you're interested. They expect it to fetch half a million dollars.

Just imagine for a second you're a sixties legend and somebody asks if you've got the original piece of paper where you first scribbled the words to your legendary hit. I'd be tempted to say nothing for a few months and then say "you'll never guess what fluttered out of an old book the other day - there it is on the actual hotel stationery with authentic Maxwell House coffee mug mark in the corner. What about that then? Do you think it's worth anything?"

Rock heirlooms seem to multiply according to demand. When I spent some time filming in Memphis many years ago I found that there were as many original recording consoles on which Booker T & The MGs allegedly recorded "Green Onions" as you might find fragments of the true cross in a Tuscan hill town.

Wouldn't mind betting a lot of hit songs never had the words written down properly, not in a form that you or I could read. In the days of Smash Hits you'd often negotiate a fee with the publishers to reproduce the lyrics and then find that they expected you to get the words from the record because they didn't have an official copy of them.

I was amused to see that when they asked McCartney to contribute a hand-written lyric to a charity auction in 2010 he came up with this.


  1. In the novel "& Sons", by David Gilbert, an ageing novelist based on Salinger painstakingly copies out his most famous novel, complete with "corrections", to provide a "manuscript" for a university archive.

    "It was impressive work, regardless of the dubious task, and after he finished he jumped right into the editing and took care to imbue his handwriting with as much youthful vigor as possible, striking the deliberately overblown words, refashioning the clumsy sentences, x'ing an entire wayward paragraph, and scribbling its correct version in the margin. This part was fun, almost like painting: [he] put red pencil to manuscript and gave his brushstrokes to the canvas – lines, arrows, swirls, in some cases well-practiced doodles, even a mysterious phone number for a man named Roberto Lupe, just for kicks."

    I see Bob's lyrics have some doodles, too...

  2. It looks ready to frame.