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.
Forty-nine years ago, on June 16, 1965, Bob Dylan and a handful of ace session musicians including the great blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield and a upstart organ player, Al Kooper, recorded the take of “Like A Rolling Stone” that established Bob Dylan as one of the great rock ‘n’ rollers of all time.
The session took place in Columbia Studio A in New York, where Dylan was comfortable working, and where he had recorded his previous albums.
Dylan had started recording the song the previous day but didn’t cut a killer take.
Michael Bloomfield, guitar, Joe Macho, Jr., bass, Bobby Gregg, drums. Al Kooper, organ; Paul Griffin, piano; Bruce Langhorne, tambourine.
Greil Marcus writing about the fourth take on June 16, 1965, the take with the magic:
Take 4 — 6.34
“Four,” Wilson says. As it happens, this will be the master take, and the only time the song is found.
“One two, one two three”: the bang that sets it off is not quite as big as in the take just before, but it somehow makes more space for itself, pushes the others away for the fraction of a second necessary to mark the act. Gregg, too, has found the song. He has a strategy, creating humps in the verses and then carrying everyone over them.
As big as the drums are, Griffin plays with light hands; you can imagine his keys loosening. At the very start, piano and bass seem the bedrock — but so much is happening, and with such gravity, you cannot as a listener stay in one place. You may have heard this performance thousands of times, but here, as it takes shape, the fact that it does take shape doesn’t seem quite real. The false starts have created a sense that there can be no finished version, and even if you know this is where it happens, as with all the takes before it you are waiting for it to stop short.
Bloomfield is playing with finesse, passion, and most of all modesty. He has a sense of what to leave out, of when to play and when not to. He waits for his moments, and then he leaps. And this is the only take where, for him, everything is clear.
There is a moment, just after the first “How does it feel?” when Kooper’s organ, Bloomfield’s guitar, and Gregg’s cymbals come together in a single waterspout, and you can feel the song running under its own power. You wonder: what are the musicians thinking, as this astonishing story, told with such a sensation of daring and jeopardy, unfolds in front of them for the first time?
Kooper holds down a stop at the fade, long after everyone else has quit playing. “Like wild thing, baby,” someone says, beside himself. “That sounds good to me,” Wilson says, happiness all over his voice.
You can read Marcus’ description of the entire June 16 session here.
The song that changed everything:
“Maggie’s Farm” into “Like A Rolling Stone” at Newport Folk Festival, July 25, 1965:
Hollywood Bowl, Sept. 3, 1965:
Liverpool, England, May 14, 1966:
The Royal Albert Hall, London, May 26, 1966:
Not sure when or where this is from or who is playing the solo but it smokes:
Bob Dylan with Michael Bloomfield, Warfield Theater, San Francisco, November 15, 1980:
Michael Bloomfield played the electrifying lead guitar parts on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. He was there in the studio, an active participant, as Dylan and the other musicians Dylan had assembled created a radical new rock sound.
Larry “Ratso” Sloman interviewed Bloomfield by phone in late 1975, while in the midst of reporting on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review tour. Sloman ended up writing an excellent book about the tour, “On the Road with Bob Dylan.”
Yesterday I excerpted part of Sloman’s interview with Bloomfield. Today I’ve got more from the interview. This picks up right after Bloomfield has spoken about meeting and hanging out with Dylan for the first time in Chicago in the early ’60s.
Michael Bloomfield: The next time I saw him was at a party in Chicago and he was traveling with a bodyguard, a big fucking Arab, named Victor Maimudes, an Arab, and he was a bodyguard, that’s what he was. I didn’t know that then, what did I know? I hung with the [blacks], what did I know about him and his bodyguard, and he was trying to get pussy and, believe me, he got a lot of pussy, and we hung out at that party and we talked…
The next time, I get a phone call from him, would I want to play on a record with him and I said, “All right.” And I really didn’t know he was a famous guy, I really didn’t know, I was so into the black music scene and Am radio that I didn’t know this guy was famous.
And I went to Woodstock, and I didn’t even have a guitar case, I just had my Telecaster and Bob picked me up at the bus station and took me to this house where he lived, which wasn’t so much, and Sara was there I think, and she made very strange food, tuna fish salad with peanuts in it, toasted, and he taught me these songs, “Like a Rolling Stone,” and all those songs from that album and he said, “I don’t want you to play any of that B. B. King shit, none of that fucking blues, I want you to play something else,” so we fooled around and finally played something he liked, it was very weird, he was playing in weird keys which he always does, all on the black keys on the piano, then he took me over to this big mansion and there was this old guy walking around and I said, “Who’s that?” and Bob said, “That’s Albert,” and I said, “Who’s Albert?” and he said that he was his manager, and I didn’t recognize Albert even though I had met him many times before. He had short hair before and now he looked like Ben Franklin, he looked like cumulus nimbus. I didn’t know who he was and I asked Bob if he was a cool guy and Bob said, “Oh, yeah.”
We fucked around there for a few days and then we went to New York to cut the record and I started seeing that this guy Dylan was really a famous guy, I mean he was invited to all the Baby Jane Holzer parties, and all these people would be walking around with him, and the Ronettes would come up to him and Phil Spector would be talking to him and I noticed that he and Albert and Neuwirth had this game that they would play and it was the beginning of the character armor, I think, it was intense put-downs of almost every human being that existed but the very few people in their aura that they didn’t do this to. It was Bob, Albert, and Neuwirth, they had a whole way of talking, I used to be able to imitate it. David Blue is a very good imitator of it, as a matter of fact I don’t even think he knows he’s imitating it. It’s just like this very intense putdown.
And he was very heavy into drinking wine, to stay calm and loose I guess. We went to this Chinese restaurant and I started putting Bob down, playing the dozens with him and I did it all night long and he and Albert loved it, they were in hysterics because it wasn’t the kind of putting down that they did, it was the dozens, and I talked about his momma and his family and everything, and I had a great time.
Oh, and then I remember one time Bob wouldn’t eat and Albert took him to Ratner’s and bought him plates of sturgeon and like mushroom barley soup and he was taking the sturgeon and just piece by little clump putting it in his mouth and saying, ‘Eat, sturgeon, good,’ I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, it was so fucking far out.
And we cut the album and that was extremely weird because no one knew what they were doing there. They had this producer who was as useless as tits on a pig, he was referred to exclusively out of his presence as Dylan’s [n–ger], this big tall guy, a hillbilly, Johnson, he was a good old boy, no doubt about it. I mean there were chord charts for these songs but no one had any idea what the music was supposed to sound like, what direction it was, the nearest that anyone had an idea was [Al] Kooper and he was there as a guitar player, and as soon as I came in and started playing, he picked up the organ, he was a good organ player but it was weird for Bob. We were doing songs like “Desolation Row” three or four times, takes and takes of that, and that’s crazy, it’s a long song. I mean the guy had to sing these fifteen-minute songs over and over again, it was really nuts. And Sam Lay from Paul Butterfield was playing the drums, and the bassist was Russ Savakus, I think it was the first time he had ever played electric bass in his life, he had been a studio upright player for years and years, and it all sort of went around Dylan. I mean like he didn’t direct the music, he just sang the songs and played piano and guitar and it just sort of went on around him, though I do believe he had a lot to do with mixing the record. But the sound was a matter of pure chance, whatever sound there was on that record was chance, the producer did not tell the people what to play or have a sound in mind, nor did Bob, or if he did he told no one about it, he just didn’t have the words to articulate it, so that folk-rock sound, as precedent-setting as it might have been, I was there man, I’m telling you it was a result of Chuckle-fucking, of people stepping on each other’s dicks until it came out right.
“Tombstone Blues” with Michael Bloomfield, lead guitar:
In Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s terrific book, “On the Road with Bob Dylan,” he interviews Michael Bloomfield on the phone in 1975. Bloomfield, of course, famously played on Highway 61 Revisited and was in the band when Dylan went electric at Newport in 1965.
Bloomfield recounts how in preparation for recording Blood on the Tracks, Dylan came to Bloomfield’s house in 1974 to play him the songs. Dylan was thinking about having Bloomfield play on the album.
Michael Bloomfield: The last time was atrocious, atrocious. He came over and there was a whole lot of secrecy involved, there couldn’t be anybody in the house. I wanted to tape the songs so I could learn them so I wouldn’t fuck ‘em up at the sessions…”
Larry Sloman: What songs?
“The ones that came out later on Blood on the Tracks. Anyway, he saw the tape recorder and he had this horrible look on his face like I was trying to put out a bootleg album or something and my little kid, who is like fantastically interested in anyone who plays music, never came into the room where Dylan was the entire several hours he was in the house. He started playing the goddamn songs from Blood on the Tracks and I couldn’t play, I couldn’t follow them, a friend of mine had come to the house and I had to chase him from the house. I’m telling you, the guy [Dylan] intimidated me, I don’t know what it was, it was like he had character armor or something, he was like a wall, he had a wall around him and I couldn’t reach through it. I used to know him a long time ago. He was sort of a normal guy or not a normal guy but knowable, but that last time I couldn’t get the knowable part of him out of him, and to try to get that part out of him would have been ass-kissing, it would have been being a sycophant, and it just isn’t worth kissing his ass, as a matter of fact, I don’t think he would have liked that anyway. It was one of the worst social and musical experiences of my life.
Sloman: What was he like?
Bloomfield: There was this frozen guy there. It was very disconcerting. It leads you to think, if I hadn’t spent some time in the last ten or eleven years with Bob that were extremely pleasant, where I got the hippie intuition that this was a very, very special and, in some ways, an extremely warm and perceptive human being, I would now say that this dude is a stone prick. Time has left him to be a shit, but I don’t see him that much, two isolated incidents over a period of ten years.
Sloman: What do you see as the cause of that?
Bloomfield: Character armor. It’s to keep his sanity, to keep away the people who are always wanting something from him. But if a lot of people relate to you as their concept of you, not your concept of you, you’re gonna have to do something to keep those people from driving you crazy, but if that is so strong that you can’t realize who is trying to fuck with you and who just wants to get along with the business, if you can’t tell the difference, it’s very difficult.
Sloman: How did you relate to him in the early days?
Bloomfield: When I first saw him he was playing in a night club, I had heard his first album, and Grossman got Dylan to play in a club in Chicago called The Bear and I went down there to cut Bob, to take my guitar and cut him, burn him, and he was a great guy, I mean we spent all day talking and jamming and hanging out and he was an incredibly appealing human being and any instincts I may have had in doing that was immediately stopped , and I was just charmed by the man.
That night, I saw him perform and if I had been charmed by just meeting him, me and my old lady were just bowled over watching him perform. I don’t’ know what, it was like this Little Richard song, ‘I don’t know what ou got but it moves me,’ man, this can sang this song called ‘Redwing’ about a boys’ prison and some funny talking blues about a picnic and he was fucking fantastic, not that it was the greatest playing or singing in the world, I don’t know what he had, man, but I’m telling you I just loved it, I mean I could have watched it nonstop forever and ever…
Bloomfield goes on to talk about getting a call from Dylan and going up to Woodstock and Dylan teaching him all the songs for Highway 61 Revisited and then going to New York and recording them. And then Bloomfield talks about playing with Dylan at Newport.
Bloomfield: So after that we like drifted apart, what was there to drift apart, we weren’t that tight, but after that when I’d see him he was a changed guy, honest to God, Larry, he was. There was a time he was one of the most charming human beings I had ever met and I mean charming, not in like the sense of being very nice, but I mean someone who cold beguile you, man, with his personality. You just had to say, ‘Man, this little fucking guy’s got a bit of an angel in him,’ God touched him in a certain way. And he changed, like that guy was gone or it must not be gone, any man that has that many kids, he must be relating that way to his children, but I never related to him that way again.
Anytime that I would see him, I would see him consciously be that cruel, man, I didn’t’ understand that game they played, that constant insane sort of sadistic put-down game. Who’s king of the hill? Who’s on top? To me it seemed like much ado about nothing but to Dave Blue and Phil Ochs it was real serious. I don’t think Blue’s ever escaped that time, in some ways it seems like he’s still trying to prove himself to Bob. I know David’s one of Bob’s biggest champions. ..
I feel the cat’s Pavlovized, he’s Tofflerized, he’s future-shocked. It would take a huge amount of debriefing or something to get him back to normal again, to put that character armor down. But if he’s happy, who am I to say? I can’t judge if he’s happy, this might be his happiness.
“Like A Rolling Stone,” Michael Bloomfield on lead guitar:
Along with “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Positively 4th Street,” “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” was one of the first Bob Dylan songs I heard.
I was 12 years old and could totally relate to the anger and bitterness in Dylan’s voice.
The surreal lyrics, which have always reminded me of Salvador Dali and Picasso’s Cubist period, run through both “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”
And of course the sound on those records was unlike anything else going on at the time.
Bob Dylan first tried recording “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” on July 30, 1965 while working on Highway 61 Revisited with a group of musicians that included Harvey Brooks (bass), Al Kooper (organ) and Michael Bloomfield (guitar).
There were two takes recorded that day, the second of which was mistakenly released as “Positively 4th Street” on September 7, 1965. I bought that single and have long loved that version of the song.
On October 5th, 1965, Dylan and The Hawks rerecorded the song, and that version was released as a single on December 21, 1965.
I’ve included those versions below, but also a number of interesting covers.
Each of these artists — the Hold Steady, Jimi Hendrix, The Vacels and Transvision Vamp — make the song their own.
I think the Transvision Vamp version is quite good, especially if you don’t try and compare it to the Dylan versions,
Bob Dylan (version that was mistakenly released as “Positively 4th Street”):
Bob Dylan and the Hawks:
The Hold Steady:
Jimi Hendrix – Can You please Crawl Out Your Window (1967)
Transvision Vamp – Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window.flv
A years in the making documentary on the great blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield, “Sweet Blues: A Film About Michael Bloomfield,” will be premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in Mill Valley, CA, on October 11. Filmmaker Bob Sarles spent 25 years working on the documentary.
A taste of Bloomfield’s inimitable playing:
Bloomfield first came to national attention as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a favorite of the counter-culture rock crowd
in the late ’60s. As a session guitarist he played on Bob Dylan’s album, Highway 61 Revisited, including Dylan’s Top 40 hit, “Like A Rolling Stone,” and was the lead guitarist in the band Dylan used at his infamous Newport Folk Festival performance, which was the first rock ‘n’ roll performance of Dylan’s professional career.
To introduce Bloomfield on November 15, 1980, when the guitarist joined Dylan for a performance of “Like A Rolling Stone” at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, Dylan talked about meeting Bloomfield for the first time: “I was playing in a club in Chicago, I guess it was about 1956, or nineteen-sixty. And I was sittin’ there, I was sittin’ in a restaurant, I think it was, probably across the street, or maybe it was even part of the club, I’m not sure — but a guy came down and said that he played guitar. So he had his guitar with him, and he begin to play, I said, ‘Well what can you play?’ and he played all kinds of things, I don’t know if you’ve heard of a man, does Big Bill Broonzy ring a bell? Or, ah, Sonny Boy Williamson, that type of thing? He just played circles, around anything I could play, and I always remembered that.” (Thank you Greil Marcus, for including Dylan’s introduction in your book, “Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan At The Crossroads”.)
So Dylan hired a great blues guitarist for the Highway 61 Revisited sessions, but he was intent on making his first full-bore rock album, so Dylan gave Bloomfield cryptic instructions before the sessions began.
“I went to his house first to hear the tunes,” Bloomfield said in a June 1968 interview for Hit Parader. “The first thing I heard was ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ He wanted me to get the concept of it, how to play it. I figured he wanted blues, string bending, because that’s what I do. He said, ‘Hey, man, I don’t want any of that B. B. King stuff.’ So, OK, I really fell apart. What the heck does he want? We messed around with the song. I played the way that he dug and he said it was groovy.
“Then we went to the session,” Bloomfield continued. “Bob told me, ‘You talk to the musicians, man, I don’t want to tell them anything.’ So we get to the session. I didn’t know anything about it. All these studio cats are standing around. I come in like a dumb punk with my guitar over my back, no case, and I’m telling people about this and that, and this is the arrangement, and do this on the bridge. These are like the heaviest studio musicians in New York. They looked at me like I was crazy.”
Bloomfield and his band, The Electric Flag, at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967:
Bloomfield’s biggest success came with the release of Super Session, a jam with Steven Stills and Al Kooper that reached #12 on the Billboard Top 200 in 1968, the year of its release.
Bloomfield is considered one rock’s greatest guitar players; he was ranked #22 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All TIme.”
Bloomfield became addicted to heroin, and in the early ’70s, maintained a low profile, spending much of his time at his house in Mill Valley, CA. As a teenager, a friend and I knocked on Bloomfield’s front door one afternoon. He opened the door, and when we told him we were big fans, he invited us in. That day he spoke to us freely about the blues, as well as his sessions with Dylan. The following year when my friend and I were putting on dance concerts at Tam High in Mill Valley, Bloomfield agreed to play, and with a pickup band headlined the show at the high school auditorium and delivered what I remember as a knock-out performance.
For the rest of his life, Bloomfield played occasional club dates around the Bay Area, sometimes with the exceptional blues pianist Sunnyland Slim, including a terrific set I caught at the Opal Cliffs Inn in Santa Cruz. He was found dead of a drug overdose on February 15, 1981. He was 37 years old.
In the documentary, Sarles includes interviews with numerous people who knew Bloomfield including guitarist Carlos Santana, harmonica ace Charlie Musslewhite, singer/songwriter Country Joe McDonald, guitarist Elvin Bishop, B.B King, Al Kooper and many more.
Bluesman Charlie Musslewhite talks about Bloomfield in the film: