A large percentage of the items we see advertised as having been signed or inscribed by Bob Dylan are forgeries. We’ve seen many fake signed albums, inscribed albums, magazine pages and handwritten lyrics offered online*. Some are being offered by shady dealers, and others from reputable sellers with no idea they are selling fakes. Just this week we were sent a list from a reputable seller offering multiple forgeries. Some of these “lyrics” have even displayed in exhibitions as authentic Dylan handwritten manuscripts–but they are most certainly not.
We always advise potential buyers to insist on a written lifetime guarantee of authenticity. Any reputable seller will be happy to provide this. If a seller will not, that should be a huge, flashing day-glo fluorescent red flag.
For those who enjoy the real thing, here’s an extremely rare clipping from the UK radio and television guide Radio Times, listing the poorly documented BBC-TV play The Madhouse on Castle Street, boldly signed in 1963 by one of its stars, Bob Dylan.
Wikipedia notes The Madhouse on Castle Street was broadcast by BBC Television on the evening of 13 January 1963…The production featured the young American folk music singer Bob Dylan, who soon became a major musical star. The play was made with electronic video cameras, although recorded onto film rather than tape. The only known copy of the play was junked in 1968, as was the standard practice of the time, despite the fact that Dylan and lead actor David Warner were by then famous. Although extensive searches have been made by the BBC, only partial audio recordings of four songs sung by Dylan survive….[Director Philip] Saville had seen Bob Dylan performing in New York City in 1962, and in December that year he contracted Dylan to come to London for three weeks to star in Madhouse on Castle Street, in spite of Dylan’s complete lack of acting training or experience. This was the performer’s first trip outside of North America. Dylan was originally supposed to have played the leading role in the play, but during rehearsals it became apparent that he lacked the ability to learn lines – stating that he would rather “express himself in song” – was lax in his time keeping, and would often wander off to smoke cannabis…Dylan performed songs commenting on the action in the manner of a Greek chorus as the new character Bobby, essentially playing himself. At the conclusion of the play, Dylan performed “Blowin’ in the Wind”, one of the first major public performances of the song.
This clipping, dated January 10, 1963, is a review of the broadcast, which ends “Appearing as Bobby the hobo is Bob Dylan, brought over from America especially to play the part. Only twenty-one, he is already a major new figure in folk-music, with a reputation as one of the most compelling blues singers ever recorded. The song for which he is best known is ‘Talkin’ New York,’ about his first visit to the city in 1961. A skilled guitarist, his special kind of haunting music forms an integral part of tonight’s strange play.”
This is the only example of this article we’ve seen. At the time of his appearance, Dylan had only released his self-titled debut album and despite the hype of the article, was largely unknown. (We have sold this but wanted to post it for interested fans.)
[Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold examined over 5000 Dylan handwritten items while appraising The Bob Dylan Archive for his management. He continues to be astounded at the amount of fake Dylan material out there.]
*Happily, as far as we know, there have been no forgeries of Dylan’s signed lithographs.
For those interested, some older posts here: