Bob Dylan and the Band, “Dress It Up, Better Have It All” (2014): One Track Mind

To say this track — the latest taste of the forthcoming Bootleg Series Vol. 11: Bob Dylan and The Band, The Basement Tapes Complete — arrives as a surprise is a deep, deep understatement. “Dress It Up, Better Have It All” isn’t just a lost Dylan song. It’s a ghost.

Tim Dunn’s The Bob Dylan Copyright Files 1962-2007 noted that “Dress It Up, Better Have It All” had been registered by Big Sky Music, but couldn’t determine whether Dylan or a member of the Band composed it — and stated flatly that “no recording is known to exist.” The tune goes unmentioned in Oliver Trager’s superlative Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. The lyrics have never been published on

And yet, here it most certainly is, with Rick Danko deliriously thumping away, Robbie Robertson taking a snarky rockabilly stance and Bob Dylan simply howling like a horn-dog stray. The ragged and randy “Dress It Up, Better Have It All” continues on in this way until, as surely it must, everything collapses on itself.

Unfortunately, we don’t get close to an answer as to just what has so perplexed Dylan about this woman — or even, at times, exactly what he’s even crowing about. And yet, his fizzy sense of excitement is contagious. After all, this isn’t simply another version of something we’ve already come to know. This is something utterly new, something as yet unheard. “Aw, let’s shake it up!” Dylan cackles, as if peering into a future in which fans long inoculated to the enveloping joys of this period could find themselves agape once more.

At this late date, after countless bootlegs and a polished-up official release which shot into the Top 10 in 1975, that’s more than anyone could have reasonably asked for. “Oh,” Dylan then concludes, with an appropriate ecstasy, “sounds so sweet.” Indeed.

‘The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: Bob Dylan and The Band, The Basement Tapes Complete’ is due November 4, 2014, via Sony/Legacy.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso