Episode 10. “Days of ’49.” Self Portrait. The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait. Apartment. May 3, 2017.
This episode begins with an absolute classic Sign on the Window moment, Kelly’s introduction explaining the California Gold Rush:
As this is our first Self Portrait song and it’s kind of difficult to try to explain it. Naturally, you want to start with Greil Marcus:
But I’ll let Bob take a stab:
Clinton Heylin calls it “
Before jumping into the song, Daniel lays out the historical context (11:00). The revolutions of 1848 are still going on in Germany and Hungary. Elizabeth Blackwell was award her M.D. from the Medical Institute of Geneva, in New York, becoming the first woman doctor in the US. James K. Polk became the first President to have his photo taken just as Zachary Taylor was on his way to the office. St. Louis almost burns to the ground after a steamboat catches fire. The first segment of the Pennsylvania Railroad (from Lewistown to Harrisburg) opens for service.
Most relevant for the song: Regular steamboat service from the west to east coast began with the arrival of the SS California. Minnesota became a US territory (which ties into Bob) and Congress passed the Gold Coinage Act that allowed the minting of gold coins (which ties to “Days of ’49”). In November, the Constitution of California was ratified in a general election.
Births: Crazy Horse, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Emma Lazarus; Deaths: James Polk, Dolly Madison, Edgar Allan Poe,
Let analyze the song (16:00): We are all over the place! #jollysaucycrewgoals. The origins of “bummer shore,” “gin sot,” “roving sign,” “hat full,” ragshag.” Kelly is into the chorus but Daniel reminds her that Dylan didn’t write this. We had a lot of fun with all the Bills.
But found ourselves feeling for
So if this isn’t a Dylan original, where did the song come from (30:30)?
In the liner notes for Jeff Warner & Jeff Davis, “Days of Forty-nine,”
In some ways, this relates to “Honest With Me” as a reference of American history. We talk about it as “museum piece,” but that may be unfair. This song is about people wanting to live a dignified life and going out as they lived, which we can all learn from.
After 10 episodes, we check in with Kelly’s thoughts on Bob (39:00).
Then we recommend: Kelly’s been watching Naked and Afraid XL and listening to Politically Reactive. Daniel’s been watching the final season of The Leftovers, the third season of Fargo and drinking mimosas and watching The Great British Bake Off.
And listening to Sufjan Stevens magisterial Carrie and Lowell Live. After seeing the show in Portland on June 9, 2015, Daniel wrote (and read on the episode):
Endings (41:00): 655 songs to go. Kelly guessed #67. It’s #123 – “Don’t Try Me Now.”