How did ‘The Basement Tapes’ influence popular music in the late 1960s?
The Basement Tapes, released as a studio album in 1975, was an album consisting of songs written and recorded by Bob Dylan and members of The Band in 1967. These intimate, ‘home-grown’ recordings, penned and taped in the “basement of a nondescript, three bedroom ranch house,” in Saugerties, NY reverberated across American and English folk, gaining popularity through interpretations by Manfred Mann, The Byrds, Peter, Paul and Mary and many others, as well as through countless unofficial bootleg copies in circulation long before the official release in 1975.
At a time when psychedelic rock was taking over the airwaves, the recording sessions in the basement of ‘Big Pink’ (so named for the colourful exterior), involved Dylan and The Band returning to the authentic feel of folk music, emphasising simplicity and honesty, stripping the music back to its roots. These recording sessions saw Dylan return to the acoustic guitar after his controversial ‘plugged-in’ performance at the Newport Folk festival two years previously. As put by Alex Abramovich, “the charm of The Basement Tapes might have less to do with the quality of the songs themselves than with the informal, experiential qualities of the recording.” It was this re-hashing of the qualities of their music which gave The Basement Tapes such influence over popular music in the late 1960s.
In the 1960s, folk rock was taking off, beginning with the release of The Byrds’ cover of Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man. The addition of electric guitars into the folk genre paved the way for other artists, including Dylan himself, to shift to a more electric rock sound. But it is the emphasis on the acoustic guitar which gives the traditional folk style of music its authentic charm. At a time when electric, psychedelic rock was taking over, Dylan and The Band took a step back towards the raw, acoustic sound of folk and roots music.
The Basement Tapes saw a...