July 29, 1966 was a life-changing day for Bob Dylan.
That was the day Dylan crashed his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle on a road near where he was living in Woodstock.
That accident signaled the end of The Bob Dylan World Tour 1966, and Dylan wouldn’t tour again for eight years.
But after that accident, while Dylan was living in Woodstock, he started the informal sessions with the future members of The Band that became the legendary “Basement Tapes.”
The more than 100 songs that Dylan and The Band recorded in upstate New York are an invaluable boy of work.
In his memoir Chronicles Dylan wrote about the accident:
“I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race. Having children changed my life and segregated me from just about everybody and everything that was going on. Outside of my family, nothing held any real interest for me and I was seeing everything through different glasses.”
Here are some quotes from Dylan about the motorcycle accident, pulled together by Harold Lepidus for a post he did at his Bob Dylan Examiner site in 2011.
JANN WENNER (Rolling Stone magazine, 1969) : What change did the motorcycle accident make?
DYLAN: What change? Well, it… it limited me. It’s hard to speak about the change, you know? It’s not the type of change that one can put into words… besides the physical change. I had a busted vertebrae; neck vertebrae. And there’s really not much to talk about. I don’t want to talk about it. . . So eventually, I had my motorcycle accident and that just got me out of the whole thing, ‘cause I didn’t care anymore.
PLAYBOY 1978: Did the motorcycle accident you had in 1966 have anything to do with cooling you off, getting you to relax?
DYLAN: Well, now you’re jumping way ahead to another period of time…. What was I doing? I don’t know. It came time. Was it when I had the motorcycle accident? Well, I was straining pretty hard and couldn’t have gone on living that way much longer. The fact that I made it through what I did is pretty miraculous. But, you know, sometimes you get too close to something and you got to get away from it to be able to see it. And something like that happened to me at the time.
DYLAN, 1984: When I had that motorcycle accident … I woke up and caught my senses, I realized that I was just workin’ for all these leeches. And I didn’t want to do that. Plus, I had a family and I just wanted to see my kids.
DYLAN, Spin magazine, December 1985: In 1966 I had a motorcycle accident and ended up with several broken vertebrae and a concussion. That put me down for a while. I couldn’t go on doing what I had been. I was pretty wound up before that accident happened. It set me down so I could see things in a better perspective. I wasn’t seeing anything in any kind of perspective. I probably would have died if I had kept on going the way I had been.
Esquire interview with Sam Shepard: It was real early in the morning on top of a hill near Woodstock. I can’t even remember how it happened. I was blinded by the sun for a second. . . . I just happened to look up right smack into the sun with both eyes and, sure enough, I went blind for a second and I kind of panicked or something. I stomped down on the brake and the rear wheel locked up on me and I went flyin’.
There is a good summary of what happened here.
Here are a few Basement Tapes songs I’ve been digging recently:
“Young But Daily Growing”:
“I Can’t Make It Alone”:
“Don’t You Try Me Now”:
[In August of this year I’ll be publishing my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.
Or watch an arty video with audio of me reading from the novel here.
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