Compilation Corner: Never Ending Tour & Pre-NET Covers Collections
Talking with the mad genius behind this epic 463-track set
47 years ago this week, Dylan covered “Spanish Is the Loving Tongue” in San Antonio, Texas. 43 years ago, he busted out a one-off version of the gospel tune “I Will Sing, I Will Sing.” 32 years ago, Dylan opened a Danbury, Connecticut show with an instrumental version of “Dixie” (yes, Connecticut, that famous “land of cotton”). Just six years ago, he performed the first of only five live renditions of Triplicate track “This Nearly Was Mine.”
All four songs are included on a massive new fan-generated covers compilation. So are 459 others.
Yes, you read that number right. This compilation contains a grand total of 463 tracks of Dylan covering songs in concert, from 1974 all the way up through 2022. Technically, two compilations, divided into pre- and post-Never Ending Tour chunks. It would take over 24 hours to play the entire thing straight through.
This herculean effort was undertaken by an Expecting Rain forum user who goes by Captain Arab (get the reference?). He was initially inspired to update the old Genuine NET Covers set that some of you probably had in the CD-bootleg days. Simple enough idea: Take the same songs, but update the sound quality, since better sources have surfaced in the two decades since that classic set came out.
Quick sidebar… Substack recently implemented tags, which means you can now see every entry in our periodic Compilation Corner series in one place! Click here for comps galore.
I’ve also set up tags for other occasional series One Random Song, Last Night in…, CD-Rchive, This Date in Dylan, and the newest, Stories in the Press. And for the every-Rolling-Thunder-show deep dive from a while back.
The project soon expanded though beyond the original compilation’s 1988-2000 time frame. He added a bunch of new covers on either end of the chronology — bringing us close to the present and also roping in pre-Never Ending Tours covers all the way back to the 1974 comeback tour.
His framework was: One version of every song Dylan covered in concert, every year he covered it. That means just one version of one-off covers, of course, as well as of covers he played a bunch but only within a single calendar year. But for covers that he played multiple years, you get one version from each. “Pretty Peggy-O,” for instance, a song he’s returned to often, gets ten different versions, from 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1996, 1997 – plus two versions from 1992, since he played it both a slow and a fast arrangement that year. (That framework only goes through 2000; for the 21st century, it’s just one version of every song period, though he may expand that set down the line).
Like I said, a herculean effort. To help wrap my head around this behemoth, I asked Captain Arab to break down what he did, and maybe suggest some highlights among the 463 covers. Our chat and the download links for paid subscribers below the break.