Self Portrait (Bob Dylan album)

Self Portrait is the title of a published in June 1970 double album by Bob Dylan. It includes cover versions of popular songs, instrumental tracks, original compositions and live recordings. It reached # 4 on the Billboard 200 and received gold status for more than 500,000 units sold. The album is one of the most controversial releases of the artist himself described it as a response to the numerous bootlegs, which were at that time of it in circulation.


Still in the week of release of the previous album Nashville Skyline beginning April 1969 Dylan went with producer Bob Johnston to Columbia Music Row studio in Nashville to record some classics of contemporary music, especially blues, folk and country. Among them were some pieces of Johnny Cash, suggesting suggesting that the recordings were made in preparation for Dylan's performances in Cash's new television show. A total of three recording sessions were held, but the material remained lying before there were further recordings in March 1970 in New York City, among whom was re-written by Dylan pieces were about a year. In April 1970 the recordings for Self Portrait in Nashville have been completed. Some of these sessions took place without Dylan, during his absence various strings and winds were at the direction of producer Johnston re-recorded and overdubt. This affected the saxophone in Boogie Woogie, the entire instrumentation of Belle Isle and Copper Cattle, violin in Blue Moon, the horns and other brass instruments in the wigwam and the arrangements of It Hurts Me Too and the two parts of Alberta. Were also reworked the live recordings from Dylan's headlining concert in August 1969 at the Isle of Wight Festival, which were taken on the album. Why Dylan recorded a version of Paul Simon's song The Boxer, is still unclear. Some critics suspect that Dylan conceived as a parody of the song, because he for a " wannabe Dylan " kept Paul Simon and wanted to taunt him.

The album was released on June 8, 1970. In total there were two of Dylan written, previously unreleased tracks, four live recordings and 16 cover versions of contemporary songs, from pop classics of the 1950s and of traditional folk and country tunes have. The cover shows a self-portrait in oil Dylan.


The album is one of the most criticized in rock history. The most common criticism about the album, written by music critic Greil Marcus and Dylan fan for the Rolling Stone, begins with the sentence " What is this shit? " (Engl.: " What is this shit? "). Varesi referred to the album as "ridiculous", the live recordings from the Isle of Wight Festival could be forgotten, only very few of the songs included on the album are worth to be heard, and Robert Christgau had aptly remarked that no man is more than one record side could listen at a time. One of the main reasons that Self Portrait was become such a bad album, Varesi sees in the work of producer Johnston. His mix is bad, and the use of strings and winds mostly out of place. He also criticized the vocal performance by Dylan as " soulless and uncommunicative " in some songs he seemed to want to parody itself. In addition, Dylan does not reveal any system in the selection of cover versions, it appears arbitrary. Harsh criticism brought Dylan a the fact that he spent the new arrangements of traditional songs such as Alberta, It Hurts Me Too or Belle Isle as his own songs. Varesi says that the album had nothing to do with a self-portrait of the artist. Unlike Varesi sees Seth Rogovoy Self Portrait as a mixture of all styles and songs that have been influenced Dylan's music. Lee Marshall commented that the album was not coherent in itself, the live recordings were scattered without any apparent system throughout the album. Dylan himself stated that he had released the album for reasons of deterrence, because he was of the opinion that he was entitled an attention that he did not want that. In an interview for the magazine biographer Dylan also wrote that the countless bootlegs of his recordings would have disturbed him and that he had therefore brought out Self Portrait with his own bootleg. In his autobiography, Chronicles, he described the process of creating the album with the words "I put together a double album, as I threw everything I could think of at the wall, and published what glue remained. Then I scraped together everything had fallen down, and shoved it behind. " Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic writes that there never was an album that was so clearly designed to push the audience 's head. While it has become easier over the years to listen to the album, but it was still unfathomable to open up and heavy.

Commercial success

Despite the bad reviews, the album was able to place in the charts. In the U.S., it reached # 4 on the Billboard 200 and received gold status for more than 500,000 units sold. In the UK, Self Portrait went straight to No. 1 on the album charts in Germany recorded the album at number 29 of the Media Control Charts.