Roll 'Em Pete

I was at a screening of Don't Look Back at a local cinema in the fall of '97. I grabbed a flier that advertised "unreleased" (read: bootleg) materials. "I SHALL BE RELEASED" it proclaimed. I posted the flier on my fridge for a few months, then after reading too much Greil Marcus finally went and called the number. Some dude answered and I said I was calling about the Dylan flier and was wondering if I could get a tape of the Manchester, May 1966 show. Great choice, the dude said. And yes I could have one - all I had to do was mail him eight bucks and he'd mail the tape to me. If I preferred, I could stop by the cinema in a few nights with the cash and he'd have it for me. I told him I was cool with mailing him the cash and he could mail me the tape.

The next week he called me back to say that the tape was ready and he was working the next night at the theater. If I wanted, I could just swing by and pick up the tape. I said, that's okay just drop it in the mail. I got the tape a couple of days later and it was CD-quality. The sounds of Dylan squaring off against English folkie dorks filled my apartment for hours upon end.

It dawned on me a few weeks later that the guy had probably truly wanted me to stop by at his work so he could meet me. Maybe he was looking for a friend, maybe someone to obsessively discuss Dylan with, or maybe he just liked meeting the people who bothered with bootlegs. Meanwhile, I had viewed the whole thing as a eight-dollar cash transaction, the less personal contact the better.

Less than a year later, the Manchester concert had its official release on compact disc. I haven't bought it yet - I still treasure that tape. And I've read Invisible Republic at least twice and crave more Basement Tapes. I lost my '97 I SHALL BE RELEASED flier. Who am I gonna call?

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