Bob Dylan tends to work quickly – if an idea is right, then get it down. If it doesn’t? Well, move on.
It’s an approach that makes a lot of sense in his mid 60s output, the much-mythologised “thin wild mercury sound”. But it’s something the rock bard has maintained – his output remains prolific, and the Bootleg series shows how intense, how focussed he can be.
Take 2000 single ‘Things Have Changed’. First appearing on the soundtrack of the Wonder Boys, it followed the triumph that was 1997’s ‘Time Out Of Mind’, a stunning album that overhauled perceptions and arguably opened the gates to Dylan’s modern era.
Perfectly echoing the plot and theme of the film, its title is a stark break with the past. In contrast with ‘Time Out Of Mind’ – predominantly recorded with Daniel Lanois – ‘Things Have Changed’ was produced by Dylan himself, a hallmark of his 21st century output.
He was assisted during the process by engineer Chris Shaw, who recalled that the song emerged during the span of “one afternoon”. Working with alacrity, Dylan – and his band – pieced together a modern classic, up-ending a career’s worth of expectations in just a few hours.
“We did ‘Things Have Changed’ in one afternoon,” Shaw recalls, “And when we were done we did a very quick mix of it, and I thought it was just going to be a rough mix to give to Bob who’d maybe give it to someone else, like Daniel Lanois, who’d wind up engineering and mixing the final thing. But it turned out that that rough mix ended up being the final mix.”
Released on May 1st, 2000, ‘Things Have Changed’ stunned critics once more. An emphatic creative success, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, while also scooping the Golden Globe award in the same category.
In a speech shot on video from Sydney during an Australian tour, Bob Dylan told the assembled throng of glitzy Oscars party-goers: “I want to thank the members of the Academy who were bold enough to give me this award for this song, which obviously is a song that doesn’t pussyfoot around nor turn a blind eye to human nature”.
It’s a song that remains close to its maker’s heart – Bob Dylan has performed it live over 1000 times, while everyone from Don Henley to Bettye Lavette has sung its praises.
Re-visit ‘Things Have Changed’ below.