Friday, May 25, 2018

Bob Dylan – "Someday Baby" (2006)

Someday baby
You ain't gonna worry
Poor me any more

The late Steve Jobs revealed a lot to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, before he died – including the contents of his iPod.

Jobs’s musical choices were mainstream for someone of his generation.  (Jobs was born in 1955 – smack dab in the middle of the post-World War II baby boom.)  

For example, he had seven Beatles albums on his iPod.  (Oddly, those seven did not include Rubber Soul, Revolver, or the white album.)

Jobs also had selections from six Rolling Stones albums on his iPod, but only one classic Stones album – Sticky Fingers – was represented on his music player.  (Nothing from Let It Bleed or Exile on Main Street?  Wazzup with that?)

He had a fair number of classic sixties tunes (including songs by Buffalo Springfield, Donovan, the Doors, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and Simon and Garfunkel), some songs by more contemporary musicians (including Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas, Green Day, Moby, U2, and the Talking Heads), and a few classical selections (Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and three Yo-Yo Ma albums).

Jobs doesn’t seem to have been much of a Grateful Dead fan, which is surprising – after all, he was a Northern California kid who took a lot of LSD, studied Eastern religions, didn’t eat meat, and had a serious body odor problem when he was a young man.  (Jobs believed that you didn’t have to shower regularly if you ate only fruits and vegetables.)

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The recording artist whose music took up the most space on Jobs’s iPod hard drive was Bob Dylan.  Jobs owned no fewer than fifteen of Dylan’s studio albums (mostly the pre-Blood on the Tracks albums) and the first six volumes of Dylan’s Bootleg Series (which consisted of previously unreleased recordings – mostly live performances – that his record label began to release in 1991).

Steve Jobs in high school
Jobs had been a fan of Dylan’s since he was a teenager.  (At one point, he had more than a hundred hours of Dylan music on reel-to-reel tape, including bootleg recordings of dozens of Dylan concerts.)  He told Isaacson that the only time he was ever tongue-tied was when he was invited to meet Dylan at his hotel before a 2004 concert:

We sat on the patio outside his room and talked for two hours.  I was really nervous, because he was one of my heroes.  And I was also afraid that he wouldn’t be really smart anymore, that he’d be a caricature of himself, like happens to a lot of people.  But I was delighted.  He was sharp as a tack [and] he was really open and honest.

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In 2005, Jobs decided he wanted to offer the digital equivalent of a boxed set of every song Dylan ever recorded – more than 700 in all – through the iTunes Store for $199.  But Sony BMG, Dylan’s record label, wasn’t happy with the amount of money that they were getting from Apple for iTunes downloads, and also believed that $199 was too low a price for the entire Dylan oeuvre.

A Dylan album cover was the backdrop when
Jobs introduced the iTunes Store in 2003.
Sony BMG’s CEO left the company the next year, and Jobs promptly made his pitch to the new management.  He and Sony BMG agreed to a deal that allowed Apple to release a package of 773 Dylan songs for $199 and also gave Apple the exclusive right to take pre-release orders for Dylan’s new Modern Times album.

In addition, Dylan agreed to do a TV commercial for the iPod.  Apple didn’t have to pay Dylan or other recording artists who appeared in their ads because appearing in an Apple ad  helped promote an artist’s brand as much as it helped sell Apple products.

Dylan’s ad helped attract younger listeners, and his new album blew past albums by Outkast and Christina Aguilera and took over the #1 spot on the Billboard album chart the first week of its release.  (Dylan hadn’t had a #1 album in 30 years.)

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The Apple commercial wasn’t Dylan’s first.  Believe it or not, he had previously appeared in a TV ad for  . . . Victoria’s Secret?  He subsequently appeared in ads for Cadillac, Chrysler, and IBM – to the horror of some of his fans.

 “I’m going to have to go blow my brains out,” one fan told The Wall Street Journal in 2004 upon hearing of Dylan’s appearance in the Victoria’s Secret spot.  

Bob Dylan shilling for IBM
Jerald Podair, a professor of history and American studies, said the idea of Dylan’s shilling for big corporations was “almost unfathomable” back in the day.  “Somewhere, Woody Guthrie, Dylan’s inspiration and muse, is shedding bitter tears,” Podair told Variety in 2014.

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The song from the Modern Times album that Jobs decided should be in the Apple spot was “Someday Baby,” which Dylan stole from Muddy Waters.  (You can click here to listen to Muddy’s 1955 recording of “Trouble No More.”)

Of course, Waters had previously stolen it from Sleepy John Estes.  (You can click here to listen to Sleepy John’s 1935 recording of “Someday Baby Blues.”)

The Modern Times album gave credit to neither man. 

Here’s the Dylan TV spot for Apple:

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

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