Mar 01: Bob Dylan recorded Live at Budokan in 1978


March 1: Bob Dylan recorded Live at Budokan in 1978

This is where it started for me.

I am pretty drunk now, but maybe that makes me more honest and more direct about my thoughts about Bob Dylan’s slated live album, At Budokan. I think it has been undeservedly put down by critics and the public in general. It is a good live album!

It was my first real meet with Dylan, my friend Ståle had borrowed it from one of his brothers, he left it at our house and it stayed there for several years! I loved it from the start, I didn’t know what Bob Dylan was all about, I just knew that I liked the album, all of it!

“A lot of the older songs sound changed just for the sake of tinkering. Many of the more recent ones, like “Oh, Sister” and “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” and “Shelter from the Storm,” are vastly improved, as if, when they were first recorded, they hadn’t been fully thought through. “Is Your Love in Vain?”, by no means the prettiest song on Dylan’s much-underrated Street-Legal, is prettier still.”
– Rolling Stone Magazine

I have read about it since, in several books and many web-sites, I understand that I’m not supposed to like this album, and still I love it.

I love every take, I know all the songs and I cannot understand how Dylan could better these incredible performances? It is a laid-back masterpiece.

Bob Dylan at Budokan is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 23, 1979 by Columbia Records. It was recorded during his 1978 world tour and is composed mostly of the artist’s “greatest hits”. The performances in the album are radically altered from the originals, using the same musicians that backed Street-Legal, but relying on a much larger band and stronger use of brass and backup singers. In some respects the arrangements are more conventional than the original arrangements and the album was criticized for being so. At the same time that it was criticized for being too polished, it was criticized for being too sloppy. For a few critics, such as Janet Maslin of Rolling Stone, the differences between the older and newer arrangements had become less important.
– Wikipedia

Live at Budokan on Spotify:

“On his third live album in a mere five years, Bob Dylan brings the big, professional showmanship of Street Legal to the stage, recasting recent and classic favorites into that album’s image — and, he does that over the course of two albums, no less. It’s a bit much, even for the diehards, even if moments work pretty well. Nevertheless, those moments work because of pizzazz, although those are the very moments that will make most long-term Dylan fans bristle. Which, of course, raises the question — who is this for? The dedicated aren’t going to be dazzled by the slickness and the casual fans certainly aren’t going to pay much attention to a live album from 1978. “
– Thomas Erlewine (Allmusic)

The audio recording is from two different shows on February 28 and March 1, 1978. Columbia Records released this double LP on August 21, 1978; the original issue was limited to the Japanese market. Later that year, it was released in Australia. On April 23, 1979, spurred by extensive importing and at least one counterfeit European edition, Columbia released the album to worldwide markets. The shows were the fourth and fifth in an eight-show appearance at Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

– Hallgeir

21 thoughts on “Mar 01: Bob Dylan recorded Live at Budokan in 1978”

  1. My first Dylan album, purchased after listening to it incessantly in Newquay (Wales) youth hostel one night – eternally grateful to the youth hostel warden for introducing me to Dylan 38 years ago, and a piece of vinyl that I continue to treasure – the importance of the release to me as much about the moment and the memories of being 15 and cycling around Wales for my summer holiday, no Mum and Dad and getting served in the pub every night.

    ‘Here’s an unrecorded song, see if you can guess which one it is” still makes me laugh every time I hear an audience clap as a song begins.

    The beginning of this blog conveys my excitement at getting the record as much as it coneys the author’s:

    Finally – your site is fabulous Hallgeir – many many thanks.

  2. That whole era of Street Legal and its subsequent tour was always my favorite Dylan time – it’s when I became a true fan. I’ve always known the critics were wrong about both the tour and the live album. Most of the bootlegs that I have heard only serve to justify my opinion! 1978 alone would make a beautiful 2 or 3 disc Bootleg Series. I can’t wait.

  3. In my opinion, if this were the only album that Dylan had ever released, it would be hailed as a masterpiece. But because the original versions of many of his greatest songs are so much better than the versions on Budokan, the album does not get the respect that it might otherwise deserve.

  4. It is an excellent album, showing yet another facet of his Bobness’ talent and versatility. Versions of some older songs like “All I really wanna do” are refreshing, some are the best ever (Watchtower) and others have that “experimental” vibe that shows He is always looking to improve. I just love it.

  5. Ive loved this album since the day it was released, I think it is magnificent to say the least. The new arrangements of the old and newer classics were brilliant for the young band he had at the time. Anyone with negative criticism of this album just doesn’t understand. The songs lost nothing with the new interpretations. Thanks Bob just another memory of his apparent musical genius.

  6. I’ve never understood why critics detested this live album; indeed most of the so-called “experts” wrote the entire tour off for reasons I can’t fathom. The arrangements are excellent – the instrumentation very evocative and completely different from what Dylan used on other tours – and Dylan’s voice clear. I do agree with what some other people commenting on this post say: with Dylan’s performances there are so many wonderful versions of his songs that it is difficult to accept any particular rendition as the best, or even to assign the word “excellent” to it, despite its being excellent in point of fact. I’m listening to the album at the moment, enjoying every minute.

    1. A Dylan song is a dynamic piece of work, and we should expect it to change over time.

      Thanks for your comment, I completely agree.

      – Hallgeir

  7. Hi Hallgeir,
    my favourite of your all your posts!! before the budokan album my bob collection consisted of the greatest hits vol 1&2 albums,Blood on the tracks and his debut album,one night back in 84,i went to friends house,he did not know that i was a fan of bob,we were talking about music,he asked had i heard budokan?i’d never even heard of it,he then put the LP on!!!nothing would ever be the same for me!!!i knew from that moment on that this was the only artist i’d ever need!!i was blown away by how different he’d made the songs!! it was incredible!!i’d gone past the point of no return☺☺it was the beginning of an amazing journey!!!30 years on and my love has only grown for him!!! i could not believe people did not like this album!! 30 years on and a huge number of bootlegs later and i still love it!! it contains my all time favourite simple twist of fate!!(maybe)i love his spoken intro to it☺☺”this is a simple love story,that happened to me”!! awesome!!
    ps. hope you’re feeling better☺

  8. hi Trevor

    you can t compare the 1980-81 shows to Budokan

    To me both are magnificent in their way ( and of course I love every bit 1980-81. Have been two times in Bad Segeberg summer 81)

  9. yes i agree its unfairly slated though i think some of the arrangements work better than others (not a big fan of maggies farm or ballad of a thin man for example) but overall its an interesting listen and far superior compared to other live offerings like REAL LIVE or DYLAN AND THE DEAD shame the bootleg series has not touched on the live shows from 1980/81 period

    1. There are so much we want on the Bootleg series, and the live shows from that period are high on the list.

      I went a bit overboard last night with my praise of the album, too much wine I guess, and I completely agree with you, not all songs are equally strong.

      But I stand by my statement, It is much better than many critics says.

      Thanks for your comment!

      – Hallgeir (with a bit of a hangover today…)

  10. I still like this album for the most positive BobTalk I’ve ever heard: “We have for four more nights….”

  11. I love the sound of Dylan in Budokan for decades and listen to it from time to time. A great album.

    “I’ ll be here for four more nights. Hope to see you all again.”

    In june 1978 I traveled to the dylan show in Dortmund (Budokan style). One of the highlights of nearly hundred live shows I have attended

  12. I used to “love” this album, until I discovered the 78 bootlegs from later in the tour. Now, I just “like” it. It suffers from the same disease that much of Dylan’s output suffers from: it is great until you compare it to his best work, and then it just looks OK. Planet Waves and Street Legal (maybe even Desire) have suffered a similar fate ….

    1. I am experiencing the same as you, the live tapings are incredible and they often surpass the official releases.

      Thanks for your comment!

      – Hallgeir

    2. To me Planet Waves and Desire and Street Legal have that special feel of albums that are not masterpieces but go right to the heart of the listeners and to the core of what the artist and his world might mean to us in that period of time. They are personal and well done, intimate and strange at the same time, without becoming art only, but still in that realm. Spontaneous, yes even Street Legal, that aspires more to be art, whereas Desire in its wildness achieves more to be so. Yet I see them in one row, almost a trilogie, if Blood on the Tracks, a completely other record, had not intruded. Budokan is the start of the eighties sound and a good introduction at that, its desire to change arrangements and get a more soulful, so to say black sound, and getting a hit and miss result that’s quite charming, and essential as a development.

      1. I agree with you that it can be seen as a development, but we also know from other live recordings from that time that it is a snapshot that isn’t necessarily the only truth of where Dylan was at the time, musically. And maybe that’s the same thing as development, when I think about it.

        Thanks for an interesting comment.

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