What's it like to dig through the archives of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed?

'The more information we have, the more yellow crumpled pieces of paper, the more we can learn about them'
Bob Dylan and Lou Reed
Bob Dylan and Lou Reed Photo credit Bettmann / Hulton Archive - Getty Images
By , Audacy

In the latest episode of Popcast, author and New York Times music business reporter Ben Sisario joins host Jon Caramanica in an attempt to uncover a few unknown things about some very well-known people -- specifically, iconic classic songwriters Bob Dylan and Lou Reed.

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Following the opening of the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, OK just last month, a museum built to display Dylan’s vast archive and give visitors an up-close look at the songwriter's many notebooks and copious fan mail, this week's Popcast dives deep into his archives as well as his contemporary, Lou Reed, whose Caught Between the Twisted Stars exhibition opened this month at the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Bouncing off the idea that complete archives do not necessarily tell the complete story of an artist, especially Dylan and Reed coming out of the sixties, Sisario contends that "the more information we have, the more yellow crumpled pieces of paper, the more we can learn about them, but it can never be the full story... in fact the Lou Reed archives are basically the stuff that he had in storage, the contents of his office. Like a lot of people, Dylan kind of included, they empty their pockets, they empty their files, they put them in storage, they move on. I don't get the sense that Lou spent a lot of his time looking through his back pages." But he says, "there's really eye opening stuff in the Lou Reed Archive; there's new information. There's this tape from 1965 where there are incredible, acoustic folk music versions, Bob Dylan versions really, of what would become Velvet Underground songs."

At the Dylan museum, Sisario says the venue is state of the art and found himself pleasantly surprised at the design and interactivity seen and experienced throughout. "I thought that some of the stuff they did in illuminating lyric books was amazing," he says. "There's this big touch screen," that highlights certain versions of drafts of his songs, "and shows you how they changed from one to the next... I thought that was very instructive and to me, it's also just amazing to see the work that went into it. That is just the most basic takeaway, is that Bob Dylan did not just sit down at a typewriter, band out lyrics in one piece of paper, and sing it, and that's the song. Most of the time that was not what he did, and in some of these songs there's 30, 40 drafts. That is pretty cool to see!"

Listen above as Sisario and Caramanica get into the weeds about the vast differences between each artists' public and private archives -- both well known as careful custodians of their own personal folklore -- and how the beloved songwriters found ways to distance themselves from their respective storied pasts.

Follow along with Popcast -- now streaming on Audacy -- hosted by New York Times Pop music critic Jon Caramanica, as he and guests cover the latest in popular music criticism, trends, and news.

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While you're in the mood, check out some of Audacy's all-new Rock stations like Bob Dylan Radio, The 60s, The 70s, 80s Guitar, Rock N’ Road, Freedom Rock, The Canyon, Arena RockWake Up and Rock, and The Roots of Rock for those who crave the early days.

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