October 28, 2010 – 11:21 am

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Ten Of Swords [Tarantula, 10LP/7CD]

Outtakes, live and unreleased tracks. calls Ten Of Swords “the most famous Bob Dylan bootleg of all time”. This 10-LP set (134 tracks, over eight hours of music) of Dylan material from 1961 to 1966 was rushed out in the summer of 1985, shortly before the release of Biograph later that autumn.

Rolling Stone magazine (#471, April 10, 1986) reported: “Selling for as much as eighty dollars, Ten Of Swords is a fascinating - and for collectors, indispensable - companion to the seven official Dylan albums released during that same time period.”

The following excerpt is from Clinton Heylin’s Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry” (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994). “Richard” is the name of the bootlegger responsible for Ten Of Swords:

Richard’s most famous collection generated the sort of controversy that nearly put him in the clink. CBS had been planning a five-album boxed-set of Dylan’s work since 1983 but had twice shelved the project when, in the spring of 1985, Richard decided to do his own boxed-set. Richard preferred his Dylan vintage, which meant 1961-6, and he devised a ten-album set that incorporated all the circulating studio outtakes for Mr. D’s pre-accident bootleg sources - the Minneapolis Hotel tape, the second Gaslight tape and Albert Hall ‘66 - all in one lavish boxed-set.

Taking his liner notes from Paul Cable’s book on Dylan’s unreleased recordings, Richard put out the set dubbed Ten Of Swords, at the end of the summer, on Tarantula Records. The reaction to what was - save for the exemplary quality of his source tapes and the conceptual integrity of the set - really a rather humdrum release, particularly when compared with some of the Dylan releases then coming out of Europe, was nothing short of astonishing.

I never really liked Dylan bootlegs, and I hardly owned any. I always thought they were a hodgepodge, I didn’t like the way they mixed up eras… I wanted to do it chronologically. I stole that stuff from Paul Cable’s book… I re-edited his stuff. I tried to put in bits of humour here and there, ‘cos I thought that he was incredibly dry, but basically said what he said… I knew about [CBS’s] Biograph [set] and I thought it was never gonna come out. That’s what the word was. [But] there is virtually nothing on Biograph that’s on Ten Of Swords and, in the few cases where it is, Columbia edited their tapes… they edited it unnecessarily for that album, so the real company botched it up… When Ten Of Swords was done I had six done in one place and four done in another, to split the work and try to get it all done at once. Otherwise it would’ve taken longer to get made.

It was fortunate for Richard that the problems of putting together the set required the services of two plants. When Biograph was finally released in the autumn of 1985, several journalists seized upon Ten Of Swords as the more important release. When Cameron Crowe, who had actually been responsible for the booklet that accompanied the Biograph set, gave Ten Of Swords a rave write-up, along with Rolling Stone and an entire clan of ’60s-relic rock journalists, Columbia reacted with ill-considered venom.

The wikipedia picks up the story:
When Rolling Stone gave a review of the album after the release of Biograph, Columbia reacted by withdrawing almost all of their advertising from the magazine, claiming that Rolling Stone was endorsing an “illegal product”. Richard was frightened after this happened, fearing that Columbia would track him down and incarcerate him. The FBI, which was working to capture the perpetrator, did not consider that the album was pressed in two different locations, and that the lavish, professional box could be used as a lead. All of their leads turned out to be useless, and Richard was never apprehended.

One fan commented, “When I was in the USA, I think the following year, I made an attempt to find a copy but it proved elusive.” Perhaps had the best insight: “The biggest problem is that most people who would like to have a copy of it, don’t. The restrictive price of the set, and the rare occurrence of it ever being for sale, severely limits the availability.”

But copies of the set were shared as cassettes and later as CD-Rs (occupying seven CDs). And this is where has been doing fans a service. The original set was released with a 16-page booklet and the contents of the booklet are available online at

- Introduction
- The Minnesota hotel tapes [side 1, 2, and 3]
- Early studio sessions (”Bob Dylan” outtakes) [side 4]
- The Leeds music demos [side 5]
- “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” session outtakes [side 6]
- M. Witmark and Sons music publishers demos [sides 7 and 8]
- Gaslight Cafe [sides 9, 10, and 11]
- Live in concert 1963 and New York town hall and Carnegie Hall [side 12]
- Miscellaneous [side 13]
- “The Times They Are A-Changin’” sessions outtakes [side 14]
- “Another Side Of Bob Dylan” session outtakes [side 15]
- “Bringing It All Back Home” and “Highway 61 Revisited” outtakes [side 16]
- “Highway 61 Revisited” sessions outtakes [side 17]
- The Band sessions [side 18]
- Royal Albert Hall concert 1966 [sides 19 and 20]
Click here for the details.

Since then, tracks from Ten Of Swords have been officially released and a big word of thanks to Philip Cohen for providing the lowdown.

Note: A longtime music fan, Philip Cohen was a contributor to the now-defunct ICE Magazine and compiled the boxsets for The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, Humble Pie and Nice.

These tracks are no longer available for download.

+ + + + +

Update: June 25, 2012

DMCA Request : Please cease Infringing Activity / remove Infringed
Title(s) from Infringing File Location(s) ASAP : thank you.

Deborah Sykes
for and on behalf of
2 Queen Caroline Street
London W6 9DX
United Kingdom

Click on the link to order Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series.

  1. 16 Responses to “BOB DYLAN - TEN OF SWORDS”

  2. “Sold for as much as $80.00″?

    How about: as much as $200.00!!! I didn’t pay quite that much, but still…

    However, at the time (late 80’s) it was like discovering a trunk full of unknown, unpublished Shakespeare plays. I had a few of the boots, but this was truly a “before-the-flood” (of what would follow) embarrasment of riches.

    thanks for the posting, but only if it had been 23 or so years earlier….

    I know, i’m not alone….

    By lowendbill on Oct 28, 2010

  3. Always nice to fill in the gaps. Thanks!

    By wardo on Oct 28, 2010

  4. Hmmmmm … pity so much is omitted. Still, it’s a curiosity item.

    By Canute on Oct 29, 2010

  5. Seeing him at Monmouth University November 14, 2010

    Thanks for these BigO

    By JALTHEIMPALER on Oct 29, 2010

  6. I don’t see anything omitted here. I see these as the tracks that were omitted from the Bootleg Series. Much appreciated.

    By Mainer on Oct 30, 2010

  7. Hi,

    This is wonderful stuff.

    Thank you

    By Michael on Nov 1, 2010

  8. Why not give us the artwork and track list for CD 3? If we want to replicate this set, using the downloads here and what’s on the Official Bootleg series (all of us own those already), then we can make our own CD 3, yes?
    You are doing a wonderful service here. Thanks for all the great downloads!

    By Gil on Nov 5, 2010

  9. Hello Gil
    The tracklist is already included in the pdf artwork. Cheers.

    By bigozine2 on Nov 5, 2010

  10. I just read about this set. Nice to be able to hear it now.

    By Matt on Nov 19, 2010

  11. Thanks BigO, sorry for the late post -
    have two TOS track issues:

    211 sounds like official Bootleg Series-1 102
    212 sounds like official Bootleg Series-9 101

    By Traner on May 14, 2012

  12. Hello Traner

    Thanks for the feedback.

    By bigozine2 on May 14, 2012

  13. Hi there,

    is it possible to make these tracks and the other parts of Ten of Swords availeble for downloading. I think it are 10 parts but I am not sure. I hope you can manage that because this the best bootleg that they made of the work of Bob Dylan.

    Greetings and thank you very much,


    By Gert on Aug 26, 2013

  14. Just went through my old Dylan collection and found my copy of this. I paid $80. For it and bought it from the owner of a local record store whom I had a long standing offer to buy any Dylan Bootlegs he could find. Over years he acquired over 30 different records or sets for me. My box of ten of swords was shrink wrapped shut, I opened it and only played it once to record it onto cassette and read the book. Box hasn’t been opened since 1985, and is in perfect mint condition. My question… Any idea how many copies of this box set were originally pressed on vinyl?

    By John Emderlein on Dec 20, 2013

  15. Oops * name.

    By John Enderlein on Dec 20, 2013

  16. John- try

    By barth on Dec 20, 2013

  17. I remember when this first started making the rounds and one of the things that made it difficult to locate was that a whole slew of them ended up getting seized by the feds. There was a guy on the east coast who was a huge bootleg album distributor. I knew people who bought from him for resale. Long story short, some time in 1987 the distributor got nailed and his inventory seized and part of that inventory were lots of copies of Ten Of Swords and the ten record “Mystery Box” Frank Zappa bootleg set. Ten Of Swords and the Mystery Box were changing hands for $100 new in 1987 when they suddenly vanished and everyone who had a copy put it away. That’s why so few of them seem to be in circulation.

    By Kipco on Feb 5, 2017

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