Forty years ago, on December 30, 1974, Bob Dylan finished recording Blood On The Tracks at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis; on that day he rerecorded three songs for the album.
He had recorded a version of the entire album in New York, but after he played the album for his brother David Zimmerman, decided to recut some of it in Minneapolis with his brother producing.
“I had the acetate,” Dylan said later, after the album was released. “I hadn’t listened to it for a couple of months. The record still hadn’t come out, and I put it on. I just didn’t… I thought the songs could have sounded differently, better. So I went in and re-recorded them.”
The musicians he used in Minneapolis: Greg Inhofer (keyboards), Bill Berg (drums) and Chris Weber (guitar, 12-string guitar), Bill Peterson (bass), Peter Ostroushko (mandolin) and Kevin Odegard (guitar).
That day Dylan tried one more time to nail “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” and “If You See Her, Say Hello.”
Clearly he was pleased with the outcome, as those were the takes that ended up on the album.
(According to Clinton Heylin, Dylan may have recorded “Meet Me In The Morning” that day too, although Michael Krogsgaard, who was given access to the recording sheets of the sessions, didn’t find that song listed.)
According to Wikipedia, Dylan told Mary Travers in a radio interview in April 1975: “A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean… people enjoying that type of pain, you know?”
Dylan once said that “Tangled Up In Blue” took ten years to live and two years to write.
Dyaln also said of “Tangled Up In Blue”: “What’s different about it is that there’s a code in the lyrics, and there’s also no sense of time. I was trying to make it like a painting where you can see the different parts but then you also see the whole of it… the characters change from the first person to the third person, and you’re never quite sure if the third person is talking or the first person is talking. But if you look at the whole thing it doesn’t really matter.”
“Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” official version:
“If You See Her, Say Hello,” official version:
“Tangled Up In Blue”:
“Tangled Up In Blue”:
“Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”:
“If You See Her Say Hello”:
Check out my post on “If You See Her, Say Hello” here.
“Meet Me In The Morning,” alternate take, recorded September 19, 1974 according to Harold Lepidus at the Bob Dylan Examiner site. (This version was officially released in 2012 as the B side of the “Duquesne Whistle” single):
[I recently published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]
Forty-Seven years ago, on December 27, 1967, following just three one-day recording sessions, Bob Dylan released his minimalist masterpiece, John Wesley Harding.
“We can all relax now,” wrote the music critic Ralph J. Gleason in Rolling Stonefollowing the release of John Wesley Harding. “Bob Dylan isn’t dead. He is all right. He is well and he’s not a basket case hidden from our view forever, the lovely words and the haunting sounds gone as a result of some ghastly effect of his accident.
“And his head is in the right place, which, is after all, the best news of all.”
While the best-known song off the album is “All Along The Watchtower,” due to Jim Hendrix’s explosive rock version, every song is a gem.
Dylan recorded in Nashville with producer Bob Johnston, and for all but the final two songs, was accompanied by just two other musicians, drummer Kenny Buttrey and bassist Charlie McCoy. Pete Drake played steel guitar on the two country songs, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “Down ALong The Cove.”
Some comments Dylan made, according to the Drifter’s Escape blog:
“I didn’t intentionally come out with some kind of mellow sound. I didn’t sit down and plan that sound.”
“There’s only two songs on the album which came at the same time as the music…’Down Along the Cove’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. The rest of the songs were written out on paper, and I found the tunes for them later. I didn’t do it before, and I haven’t done it since. That might account for the specialness of that album.”
“I asked Columbia to release it with no publicity and no hype, because this was the season of hype.”
“What I’m trying to do now is not use too many words. There’s no line that you can stick your finger through, there’s no hole in any of the stanzas. There’s no blank filler. Each line has something.”
In an interview published in Newsweek in February 1968 Dylan told writer Hubert Saal:
“I was always with the traditional song. I just used electricity to wrap it up in. Probably I wasn’t ready yet to make it simple. It’s more complicated playing an electric guitar because you’re five or ten feet away from the sound and you strain for things that you don’t have to when the sound is right next to your body. Anyway it’s the song itself that matters, not the sound of the song.”
“I could have sung each of them better. I’m not exactly dissatisfied but I’m just not about to brag about the performance. In writing songs I have one great trouble. I’m lazy. I wish I could but you’re not going to find me sitting down at the piano every morning. Either it comes or doesn’t. Of course some songs, like ‘Restless Farewell,’ I’ve written just to fill up an album. And there are songs in which I made up a whole verse just to get to another verse.”
“It [John Wesley Harding] holds together better. I’ve always tried to get simple. I haven’t always succeeded. But here I took more care in the writing. In Blonde on Blonde I wrote out all the songs in the studio. The musicians played cards, I wrote out a song, we’d do it they’d go back to their game and I’d write out another song.”
Dylan talked to John Cohen and Happy Traum in June and July, 1968, for Sing Out!
Dylan talks about ballads and then John Cohen asks if “Wicked Messenger” is a ballad.
Dylan: In a sense, but the ballad form isn’t there. Well, the scope is there atually, but in a more compressed sense. The scope opens up, just by a few little tricks. I know why it opens up, but in a bllad in the true sense, it woudl’t open ujp that way. It does not reach the proportions I had intended for it.
Cohen: Have you ever written a ballad?
Dylan: I believe on my second record album, “Boots of Spanish Leather.”
Cohen: Then most of the songs on John Wesley Harding, you don’t consider ballads?
Dylan: Well I do, but not in the traditional sense. I haven’t fulfilled the balladeer’s job. A balladeer can sit down and sing three ballads for an hour and a half. See, on the album, you have to think about it after you hear it, that’s what takes up the time, but with a ballad, you don’t necessarily have to think about it after you hear it, it can all unfold to you. These melodies on the John Wesley Harding album lack this traditional sense of time. As with the third verse of the ‘Wicked Messenger,’ which opens it up, and then the time schedule takes a jump and soon the song becomes wider. One realizes that when one hears it, but one might have to adapt to it. But we are not hearing anything that isn’t there; anything we can imagine is really there. The same thing is true of the song ‘All ALong the Watchtower,’ which opens up in a slightly different way, in a stranger way, for here we have the cycle of events working in a rather reverse order.
About songwritng Dylan says: It’s like this painter who lives around here — he paints the area in a radius of twenty miles, he paints bright strong pictures. He might take a barn from twenty miles away, and hook it up with a brook right next door, then with a car ten miles away, and with the sky on some certain day, and the light on the trees from another certain day. A person passing by will be painted alongside someone ten miles away. And in the end he’ll have this composite picture of something which you can’t say exists in his mind. It’s not that he started off willfully painting this picture from all his experience … That’s more or less what I do.
1. Chloé Griffin – EDGEWISE : A Picture Of COOKIE MUELLER (b_books)
This book is an astounding labor of love. The author, fascinated by who Cookie Mueller may have been after witnessing her in all the weirdo John Waters films, including Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, decided to travel the USA interviewing anyone still left alive who spent time with this person. All the insane characters of early 70s Baltimore, P-Town and NYC raise their sloshing glasses to this incredible lightning girl Cookie and all their stories are told in a way which creates a historical travelogue of counter culture avant insanity which is responsible for helping to light the fuse that becomes punk rock and beyond.
2. John Lydon at Rough Trade East 17th October 2014
The Rotten one was bopping around the UK promoting his new book Anger Is An Energy (Simon & Schuster) and we caught his last stop at RT and it was as good as any Sex Pistols or PiL show. He came out with his manager / right hand man and Arsenal accomplice Rambo and a shopping basket full of lager and proceeded to have a high energy back and forth with the audience. His mates from nearby Finsbury Park were there shouting back and forth and Lydon actually did a weird physical transformation into Tony Blair (he hates ‘im). Savage, infuriating – everything his book is – but with a kindness that is always burbling through. I got to meet him fleetingly, the one person I wanted to meet most in this nutso rock n roll world, and he was nice enuff (“Sonic Youth, what are you bloody doing here?”) – but I think he more interested in drowning beers with his pals, which is what he should be doing but damn I think making a record with him in trio with Irmin Schmidt with Can is what Matador should be investing in big time for 2015.
Here’s a list from Ex Hex via Punk News:
In no particular order
* Pentagram show in Minneapolis at Mill City Nights
* King Tuff Black Moon Spell LP
* The Clean Anthology LP Reissue/ Merge
* Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds show in Cincinnati at Mid Point Music Fest
Here’s Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds on KXEP:
* Brooks Headley’s veggie burgers
* Slant 6 Soda Pop Rip off LP reissue/ Dischord
* Ed Schraders Music Beat Party Jail LP
* Man Made LP reissue Teenage Fan club/ Merge
* Black Bananas Electric Brick Wall LP
* Hammered Satin/The Tip/Dirt City show at Smash in DC
Great story by Paul Elie in the December 22, 2014 New Yorker on guitarist Jim Campilongo, who is known for playing a 1959 Telecaster.
Over the years some of Campilongo’s fans includes Lou Reed, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt.
The story begins:
A 1959 Fender Telecaster, blond finish, white pickguard, maple fretboard, will set you back about thirty thousand dollars.
Jim Campilongo is known for playing a 1959 Telecaster, blond, white guard, maple board, and a few years ago Fender’s custom shop produced a Jim Campilongo Signature Model, based on the one he plays. It was priced at $4,499—not thirty thousand dollars, but four times the price of a regular Telecaster. The Custom Shop has fashioned signature models based on guitars made iconic by Jeff Beck; David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd; and Andy Summers, of the Police. The Campilongo signature model put him up there with them—anointed him a sultan of twang.
At the Living Room, in Williamsburg, the other Tuesday, Campilongo played the ’59 Tele, not the signature model. I could see the guitar clearly—the body nicked and cut like a hockey rink, the fretboard worn to the color of chewed gum—because I was in the front of the audience.
The major musical event of 2014 was the release of Bob Dylan and The Band’s ‘Basement Tapes’ recordings – 140 of them (if you include the two songs included in the hidden track at the end of disc six). But beyond the six-plus hours of mostly better quality versions of these songs than we’ve heard before (along with a batch of songs that haven’t made the bootlegs – at least the ones I got my hands on), a lot of other noteworthy albums were released during the year.
The list that follows is based on what I heard and what I liked. No one can listen to everything, and I don’t pretend to try. But these albums are good ones, and if you haven’t heard some of them, I hope you’ll check them out.
1 Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Columbia): As I wrote when the set was released: Dylan’s best songs are not the straightforward protest songs from the early ‘60s – “Masters Of War” or “The Times They Are A-Changing.” Rather, it’s songs like “Visions Of Johanna,” songs that are opaque. Songs that defy literal understanding. Those are the great ones. I’ve listened to “Visions Of Johanna” 100s of times and still its mysteries remain intact. And a song such as “I’m Not There” – do you know what it’s about? … The lyrics to many of Dylan’s Basement songs are opaque too; as if they’re written in an invisible ink, or in a language that defies translation. And it’s that mystery that keeps bringing me back. One line stands out, gives up something one day, then pulls it back on another.
“Ain’t No More Cane (Take 2)”:
2 Jolie Holland, Wine Dark Sea (Anti): Jolie Holland moved into a whole other zone with the avant-garde guitar sounds that help define “Wine Dark Sea.” She takes her idiosyncratic version of Americana, integrates some wild noise (think Sonic Youth) rock guitar and the result is thrilling. Holland is an incredible singer and songwriter. Perhaps my favorite here is “The Love You Save,” which finds Holland trumping the late Janis Joplin with her take on the Stax/Volt soul of the mid-‘60s.
Jolie Holland – Full Performance (Live on KEXP):
First Sign Of Spring
On and On
Out On The Wine Dark Sea
Who Are you
3 Angel Olson, Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar): At times on Angel Olson’s moving second album, as on “White Fire,” she sounds like a female Leonard Cohen. At other times it’s the Velvets I hear a faint echo of, but on the final track, “Windows,” what I hear is Angel Olson, what I hear is an exquisitely beautiful sound, even as she sings about a man who is oblivious to those around him. Her voice has a fragile quality, but there’s strength too.
4 Wadada Leo Smith, The Great Lake Suites (Tum): A musician friend of mine compares this album favorably to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and I agree. Over two discs composer/band leader Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), Henry Threadgill (alto saxophone, flute and bass flute), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and John Lindberg (double bass) deliver music as intense and spiritual as Coltrane and his combo. And an hour and a half after you start listening, when the music’s over, you’ll want to start it up all over again. This is one for the ages.
5 Karen O, Crush Songs (Kobalt): This low-fi bedroom recording of Yeah Yeah Yeah front woman O’s “crush” songs is intimate and addictive. There’s a hint of the Velvets’ third album here, and that’s a good thing. Proof that anyone with the songs and the voice can make their own “Basement Tapes.”
6 Spoon, They Want My Soul (Loma Vista/Republic): The album title nails what’s going on these days, when corporate America won’t settle for anything less than turning us into unthinking all-consuming zombies. I’ve been a Spoon fan since the mid-‘90s and this album of smart poppy rock is up there with their best. “Rainy Taxi” is intoxicating, and “knock Knock Knock” as well, but the whole album is a keeper. These Austin rockers are fighting the good fight, and winning.
7 Sharon Van Etten, Are We There (Jagjaguwar): The trials of a woman trying to deal with a (sometimes not-so-good) relationship is the theme running through Are We There. Whether these songs are about Van Etten’s real life, when one listens to this album they might as well be – these songs feel so confessional. With haunting voice and music that perfectly suits her theme, Sharon Van Etten has turned pain into songs that are deep, self-reflective and at times confrontational. Check these lyrics from “Your Love Is Killing Me”:
“Break my legs so I won’t walk to you.
Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.
Burn my skin so I can’t feel you.
Stab my eyes so I can’t see
You like it when I let you walk over me.
You tell me that you like it.
Your love is killing me.”
“Your Love Is Killing Me”:
8 Tweedy, Sukierae (ANTI):Tweedy and his son Spencer recorded this 20 song album with help from a few musician friends. It’s beautiful and moving and wonderful. Tweedy says it’s a two record set and suggests the vinyl version is the best way to listen. Very Beatlesque at times – check out “Summer Noon.”
9 Ex-Hex, Rips (Merge): Mary Timony’s new band delivers a garage-rock explosion of a debut album. There are echoes of The Ramones and Patti Smith and Timony’s friends, Sleater-Kinney in the 12 songs. Great guitar riffs from Timony. There’s a priceless energy in these tracks. This trio is on fire.
10 tUnE-yArDs, Nikki Nack (4AD): Merrill Garbus has voice, a big soulful voice and she can really sing. And when you can really sing, and you have the knock for writing catchy songs with loads of hooks, you can go wild with the music and make it work. Sometimes it sounds like Garbus has utilized every object in the junkyard to make her unorthodox tracks, and at other times only her voice.
11 Lykke Li, I Never Learn (Atlantic):
12 Lucinda Williams, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (Highway 20)
13 The Hold Steady, Teeth Dreams (Razor & Tie)
14 The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground – 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Ume):
15 The War On Drugs, Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)
The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting For The Man”:
(In no particular order – these are all great!)
The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll In Ten Songs, Greil Marcus (Yale University Press): Greil Marcus’ latest book is all about what Marcus hears when he listens to ten songs, and what he hears is unexpected and sometimes revelatory. It’s not any kind of history of rock that you or I have ever read before, because Marcus sees no point in revisiting the same old story that we’ve read numerous versions of since the ‘60s. Not a history so much as a theory about rock ‘n’ roll, and then ten examples that, in different ways, back up that theory. Amazing.
I loved You More, Tom Spanbauer (Hawthorne): Tom’s Spanbauer’s book is 466 pages of heartbreak. Think about the love affair that went so wrong for you, the one that tore you down, left you devastated and in pieces. Yeah, that’s this book. Beautifully written. Every sentence is a gem.
A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, Holly George-Warren (Viking): A superbly written biography of Alex Chilton, who is best known as one of the leaders of Big Star. If you start to read it, you soon will find yourself deep into both the Big Star recordings and Chilton’s solo work before you know it.
Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante, (Europa Editions): The third in what looks to be a four book series that follows two girls in Italy from childhood to old age. With this book, Ferrante adds politics to the volatile mix of love, sex, family, money and friendship that fuels the first two.
Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues, Joel Selvin (Counterpoint): More than just a biography of Bert Burns, who wrote such classics as “Here Comes the Night,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Twist and Shout,” discovered Van Morrison, produced records including “Under The Boardwalk” for The Drifters and so much more, Selvin also manages to detail the history of the New York-based rhythm and blues business.
My Struggle (books 1, 2 & 3), Karl Ove Knausgaard (Macmillan): This year I read the first three books of this six volume epic semi-fictional autobiography. Knausgaard goes deep into his first person narrator’s psychology, as he lays out his life for us in minute detail. Somehow it’s fascinating, even when it seems like he’s telling us way more than we need to know. Mesmerizing.
On Highway 61, Dennis McNally (Counterpoint): Actually, I’m only a third of the way through this incredible book, but it’s so good I have to include it. McNally has written the history of how blacks and whites influenced each other musically, as they created what he calls cultural freedom. Along the way he tells the stories of Mark Twain, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, John Hammond, Sr., Thelonious Monk and many, many others. More on this book in 2015.
While the official version of “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” was released on December 21, 1965, a different version was mistakenly released as the A-side of what was supposed to be the “Positively Fourth Street” single three months earlier on September 7, 1065.
As a kid I heard “Positively Fourth Street” on the radio, loved it and went to the record store down the hill from where I lived and bought a copy.
I was surprised to discover a different song on the A-side but it was just as great as “Positively Fourth Street.”
Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper both play on this version, which according to Clinton Heylin, was recorded on July 30, 1965 at Columbia’s Studio A in New York:
Here it is as well in better fidelity:
Forty-nine years ago, on December 21, 1965, the official version recorded with the Hawks on October 4, 1965, was released.
Thurston Moore and his new band, which features bassist Debbie Gooch of My Bloody Valentine, guitarist James Seward, and Steve Shelley, who of course was in Sonic Youth with Moore, perform a 32 minute, four-song set for Seattle’s KEXP.
The group sounds exceptional here and makes me want to revisit the new album, The Best Day.
Thurston Moore Band
1 Germs Burn
3 Speak to the Wild
4 The Best Day
[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]