The Jokerman himself, Bob Dylan is up to his rascally old tricks again. The 81-year-old legend, the writer of such tracks as “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Here Comes Santa,” who recently sold his entire music catalog for $300 million, just picked up another million at auction, off-loading a one-of-a-kind new version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.”
Pitched as a “full rebellion against mass consumerism” by legendary producer T-Bone Burnett, who orchestrated the coup, the newly recorded version of Bob Dylan singing “Blowin’ In The Wind” sold at Christie’s in London today for 1.4 million pounds or $1.7 million. The winner of the auction, whose name has not been revealed (though we’ll just go ahead and assume it was Martin Shkreli), received a one-of-a-kind version of the song pressed onto a state-of-the-art acetate disc called Ionic Original.
Said to be nearly impervious to wear-and-tear, the Ionic Original also boasts “higher fidelity” than other formats, which, for nearly $2 million, it fuckin’ better. Thankfully, the winner won’t need to buy a new record player to spin it. Any old hunk of junk you pick up from Urban Outfitters will do. Might we suggest one of those turntables that also looks like an old-timey radio?
Now for the brutal part. Despite this being a new version of a classic Dylan song, which T-Bone Burnett called “the best record I’ve ever heard in my life,” us penniless peons will never get to hear it. You see, this was all in an effort to show NFTs what actual scarcity is. “An Ionic Original is not a ‘copy,’” Burnett said. “It is an original recording. We are not contriving scarcity. This is actually scarce. It is a unique, handmade, original recording.” This isn’t just downloading JPEGs of ugly monkeys and calling it art. It’s a singular work by a singular artist that we’ll never get to give a C+ to, and that really grinds our gears.
We’ll just have to take T-Bone’s word for it that “Bob sounds good. The band sounds good. The song’s great.” Unfortunately, he insists that we shouldn’t worry about hearing it “because there are thousands of Dylan recordings [we] can hear for free.” As he told Variety, “I can tell you, though, when Cézanne was in Aix-en-Provence painting a landscape, he wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, man, I hope everybody gets to see this!’ or ‘How is everybody gonna get to see this?’ He was just thinking, ‘How do I get this down? How do I get this on this thing?’” Funny.
Because we work in an age of mechanical reproduction, musicians have had to accept the definition of the value of their music from the government, from corporations, from technologists, from record companies, from streamers. Well, in this case, we have taken matters into our own hands, and we control the means of production and we control the copyright. We’ll be able to explore: What is the value of a song? What is the true value of Bob Dylan singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ 60 years after he wrote it, in this environment? And we’re gonna find out.
It’s worth $1.7 million, and we’ll never get to hear it. Enjoy your money, T-Bone!