The Story Behind The Music | Iain Matthews Busby Babes

Iain Matthews is a lifelong Manchester United supporter. Football was his life as a boy. He was 11 years old in 1958. The news his mother gave him when he came home from school one February afternoon had a profound effect on him. This from his memoir Thro’ My Eyes:

I came home from school one February afternoon in 1958 and Mom had just got in with her shopping. ‘Have you heard about the crash?’ she asked. I hadn’t. ‘Sit down,’ she said and then told me that there had been a plane crash in the ice and snow at Munich airport and Manchester United was involved. I turned on our tiny black and white television with the magnifier on the front. The news came screaming at me. The Busby Babes, my Babes; David Pegg, Roger Byrne, Mark Jones, Billy Whelan, Tommy Taylor and Frank Swift, the guru of all sports writers, were all dead. Duncan Edwards was clinging to life and Matt Busby was on a respirator. They’d been returning from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade and had stopped to refuel at Munich. The plane crashed into a bank at the end of the runway following a third attempt to take off with ice forming on the wings. My tiny fragile world came crashing down. I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it. I ran out of our house up to Martin Carnaby’s about a half mile away. Had he seen it? Was it true? He had and it was. We shed a tear.

For the rest of the term I couldn’t concentrate at school. I paid little attention to what the teachers were saying and became quarrelsome with friends. This got me in hot water with my teachers and some of them I’m sure were unable to forgive me for the rest of my time there. I became more withdrawn and moody at home. No one seemed to notice and that only served to make things worse. Didn’t they realise what it meant? The Babes were the single most important thing in my life. Why was I the only one feeling this way?

Thrirty-four years later, the impact of the tragedy still lingered in him and came out in song. This led to a spooky encounter whilst on a European tour with Al Stewart.

Thanks to Al, I played before some big crowds on that tour and his fans loved to see us come out together to sing ‘Meet on the Ledge’ as an encore. I was a good opener for Al and later that same year he took me on his German tour. One of the shows was in Munich. By then they had built a brand-spanking-new airport and the venue for the night was the old abandoned airport. After the soundcheck, one of the promoters walked up beside me.

‘I’ve been looking for you,’ he said and took me by the arm. ‘Come with me, I want to show you something.’

He walked me away from the terminal, out into the darkness, until we were away from all the commotion going on inside. Looking back, I could see large chunks of stonework missing from the walls of the old building.

‘Okay, stop here’, he said, ‘this is it. This is the spot. This is where it happened.’

As if I’d been hit in the back of the head with a brick it dawned on me what he was talking about. I was standing on the very spot I’d seen so vividly in those old black and white television images. This is where my heroes died. For a moment I was that distraught eleven-year-old kid again. I re-experienced the sheer hopelessness I’d felt all those years before, the absolute irreplaceable sense of loss. I turned and walked back towards the terminal, forcing myself into a workable reality. I had once thought I was over it, but now I don’t know if it will ever leave me.

On my album Pure and Crooked I wrote eight of the songs. One of them, ‘The Rains of ’62’, was about leaving home for the bright lights of London. Another was a tribute to my boyhood heroes and called ‘Busby’s Babes’. This was the song my German guide had heard.

 

Thro My Eyes Deluxe Iain Matthews

Click here to order a signed copy of Iain’s memoir.

 

 

 

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Leave The Capital Review in Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal

A review of Paul Hanley’s Leave The Capital in Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal by Robert Iannapollo.

Worth the reader’s time and effort is a slim volume entitled Leave the Capital by Paul Hanley. Hanley was the drummer for The Fall, one of the finest bands to emerge from the post-punk scene, and which performed for 40 years under the stewardship of their volatile leader Mark E. Smith. The personnel was rarely stable for more than a few years and Hanley was there during one of the peak periods (1980–1985).

Hanley’s book, subtitled A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings, is an informed perspective written with intelligence and wit. Hanley frames his story around the creation of recording studios based in Manchester. Any band not based in London during this period would have to make the journey south to record in an ‘acceptable’ studio. Even the Beatles had to record in London (not Liverpool) throughout their career. Not until 1968–69 was a decent recording facility established in the third largest city in Britain. But Hanley starts his story further back than that.

The story starts with two British Invasion bands that would seem like small potatoes in the history of rock: Herman’s Hermits and Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. The latter band was primarily known in the US for two hits (‘The Game of Love’ and the Wayne Fontana-less ‘Groovy Kind of Love’) but had a somewhat higher profile in the UK. In that group was a member critical to the story of Manchester-based music: rhythm guitarist and composer Eric Stewart. As the Mindbenders’ career wound down, Stewart was approached with some seed money to start a studio in Manchester, which was something he has always wanted to do. He, in turn, approached songwriter Graham Gouldman, who had written hits for some of Manchester’s finest – Hollies, Mindbenders, Hermits – and even for London-based bands such as the Yardbirds. Gouldman had been approached by US bubblegum producers Kasenetz and Katz to write some songs for their US label (Buddah). Stewart added Kevin Godley and Lol Crème to help round out the instrumentation and compositional chores. This turned into a production deal when they realized that the Manchester duo produced demos that were better than their US counterparts and soon these demos were being released under the monikers of the Ohio Express and other teeny-bop sensations.

All was going well with profits plowed back into the studio when an ‘accident’ happened. In the process of producing a recording where they were testing a new Ampex 4-track they had acquired, they kept experimenting, trying to acquire a certain percussive blend. Stewart happened to play it for a friend who was an A&R man at Phillips, to show him what they were doing in the studio and the A&R man said it could be released as it was and be a hit. They released a track titled ‘Neanderthal Man’ by a fictitious group called ‘Hotlegs’ and it proceeded to reach number two in the UK and the top 20 in the US, and to sell over two million copies worldwide. This posed a dilemma because the four had a number of recordings they’d been wanting to release, but surely not as Hotlegs. And so it was that the band 10cc was born, a group that was phenomenaly successful in Britain between 1972 and 1978 and had a few big hits in the US as well.

At the same time, their Manchester-based studio, now christened Strawberry Studios (after Stewart’s favorite Beatles song), began to take off and the band had a dual career as both a highly successful rock band and studio producers/engineers. The studio was highly regarded for the productions that emerged. Among the first of their successes was the re-igniting of Neil Sedaka’s career in 1972 with two very popular albums. To really hear what this studio was capable of, one need only listen to 10cc’s biggest hit, ‘I’m Not in Love’. Its fulsome sound, massed choir of voices, and otherworldly ambience shows just what could be done there. Subsequently, many other bands began recording there, including Joy Division, The Smiths, Paul McCartney, the Buzzcocks, New Order, Happy Mondays, and many others.

Going back to the Hermits, although Peter Noone (aka Herman) is perhaps the only one remembered today, two members had a more substantial impact on the development of Manchester’s music: rhythm guitarist Keith Hopwood and lead guitarist Derek Leckenby. Concurrent to Stewart’s early acquisition of the building to house Strawberry Studio, Hopwood was interested in starting his own studio and Stewart agreed that he could start a second studio in the same building on the second floor. Hopwood and Leckenby named it Pluto Studios. Leckenby eventually bailed when the Hermits reformed. Hopwood remained, but he built Pluto into the second viable option for recording in Manchester. The studio plodded along and succeeded in luring groups who preferred not to venture south to London to record. Pluto had its first number-one in 1977 with a song called ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’ by Brian & Michael. It was a distinctly English and distinctly Mancunian piece of work but was enormously popular and is still lauded today. The importance of both of these studios in developing quality recording facilities set the stage for the Manchester that produced such subsequent English stalwarts as the Smiths, the Stone Roses, and many others.

Hanley tells his story entertainingly and does it in a thorough, readable, unpretentious manner. Hanley’s witty prose is to be found even in the book’s copious footnotes. Well researched, Hanley provides some good, unique information about the British music scene that most probably do not know. At a little over 200 pages, it could have been a little bit longer, but even in its brevity, it is one of the best books I have read on a rock topic in years.

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The Story Behind The Music | Seven Bridges Road

Iain Matthews, Steve Young, Bob Neuwirth.

Iain Matthews, Steve Young, Bob Neuwirth.

In January 1973, Iain Matthews moved from London to Los Angeles after being given the chance to work with Michael Nesmith on a new album for Elektra. He’d left a lot behind and was excited about a new start. The album, Valley Hi, didn’t quite turn out as he wanted it to, despite it becoming perhaps his most popular album. One song he recorded for the album was Steve Young’s ‘Seven Bridges Road’, the arrangement of which was controversially lifted by the Eagles, without credit. In this short extract from his memoir Thro’ My Eyes, Iain picks up the story.


One song we recorded for the album was a rearrangement of Steve Young’s ‘Seven Bridges Road’, which inadvertently created folklore history. A few years later I found myself at Don Henley’s house. In his sparsely furnished living room he had a simple, unassuming sound system with a stack of LPs leaning against the wall next to it. At the front of the stack was a copy of Valley Hi. In 1980, the Eagles released a live album and on it was an almost note for note version of my arrangement of the song, but the sleeve notes claimed that it had been ‘learned from their friend Steve Young in San Diego’. I knew that they hadn’t and they knew it too. None of the band ever acknowledged their sourcing of the song until twenty years later on a greatest hits package where in the sleeve notes Glenn Frey talks about how they took the arrangement from me. In a way they did, but let it go on record that up until now I’ve all too easily taken credit for that arrangement, when in fact, had it not been for Michael Nesmith’s acoustic flatpicking skills, it could have been a completely different kettle of fish. Michael was equally responsible for birthing that version of the song. Possibly a different version wouldn’t have appealed to Don Henley the way it did and the ensuing controversy may never have happened. Steve Young later confided in me that of all the numerous covers of his song, mine was always his favourite.


An article on the Alabama origins of the song can be read here

Here’s Iain’s version from Valley Hi

Here’s the Eagles version

And here’s the original Steve Young version from his 1969 album Rock Salt & Nails.

Thro My Eyes Deluxe Iain Matthews

Click here for more on Iain Matthews’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes

Upon Yon Hill The Game Will Commence

Haxey Hood sway 2008

Haxey Hood 2008. Ian Clayton and Martin Oxley getting stuck in to the sway.

Ian Clayton reflects on the long tradition of the Haxey Hood game, a sort of mass scrum of beer drinkers, which ‘stands head and shoulders for me above anything I’ve ever seen to do with pubs’. During the most recent hood, only one of the four pubs usually involved was open.


When I wrote It’s The Beer Talking, I wanted to include a section about pubs and folklore. There was no contest in my mind about what particular folklore I should write about. ‘The Haxey Hood Game’ stands head and shoulders for me above anything I’ve ever seen to do with pubs.

The game takes place on the twelfth day of Christmas (January 6) every year in Haxey and Westwoodside, two villages in the Isle of Axholme in North Lincolnshire. Unless the 6th falls on a Sunday, then it takes place on the day before. The locals will tell you that the game has taken place for going on seven hundred years, and that it celebrates a day when the local landowner’s wife Lady Mowbray had her hood blown off in the breeze while out riding. The hood was returned to her by some local farm labourers. Lady Mowbray, impressed by the act of chivalry, suggested that the event should be re-enacted each year on some fields she donated for the purpose. Since then a whole series of rituals has grown up: the singing of songs like ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Farmers Boy’ and the ‘smoking of a fool’ act as a preamble to the main action, all this in colourful folk costumes.

The main action starts on fields between the two villages when a leather cylinder – the hood – is tossed into the air and then ‘the sway’ begins as people of all ages try to move the hood this way and that. These days the point of the game is to sway the hood towards one of four pubs: the Kings Arms, Duke William and The Loco in Haxey and the Carpenters Arms in Westwoodside. The game ends when the landlord or landlady of one of these pubs takes hold of the hood. The hood is kept at that particular pub until the following year.

In some ways the game is an ancient form of rugby, but one without too many rules and with no restriction on player numbers. Anybody can take part and some years hundreds of players join in. It’s truly a community event, with people of all ages and backgrounds taking part. It’s a tough game and, depending on the weather, it can get very muddy. There is no time limit, nobody seems to know what time it starts and it can go on until well after dark. The local pubs take the precaution of removing all breakables from their rooms and lining furniture and carpets with protective sheeting.

I’ve been to it a couple of times. The last time in 2008 when I went with Martin Oxley my old drinking partner. We joined in with the singing and drinking and the laughter as the fool was smoked. The game started late that particular year, I think it was coming dark by the time we got up onto the fields. We were also plaiting our legs with the amount of ale we had supped. We didn’t want to miss anything so we started drinking at noon. For some reason Martin decided we ought to push with the lads and lasses from Westwoodside. For an hour or so there was a concerted effort to get the hood up the hill, from where it would have been an easier shove down the other side to the Carpenters Arms. Try as we might the sway barely budged. In fact it barely budged from the field for at least two hours. Eventually the sway appeared in the village high street at Haxey and after further struggles made its way that year down to the Kings Arms at the other end of the village. Martin and me had retired from it by then and supped some more in the Duke William. To be in that sway is an exhilarating experience. It’s colourful, rough and very sweaty and muddy. The whole thing moves around like something from nature, perhaps like a murmuration of starlings preparing to roost does. People do get hurt occasionally, but you’d expect that on a muddy field when hundreds of people are pushing and shoving, yet it’s all done with great humour and stewarded by experienced men called ‘The Boggins’. These men ensure that when the sway collapses and people are off their feet, the game stops until everybody is up again. You can’t run with the hood, throw it or pass it, it must simply be swayed until it gets to where it’s going. As an example of a community based game, I don’t think Haxey Hood has an equal. And because it is connected to local pubs, it is an important part of social life and friendship and an important reason why pubs are there in the first place.

I’ve heard that the age old folklore and pub culture of this year’s Haxey Hood was disturbed by modern issues. From what I can gather, the Kings Arms is currently closed down, as is The Loco. The Landlord at the Duke William decided not to open on the day of this year’s event, leaving just the Carpenters Arms to sway the hood to. Apparently the landlord at the Duke William has had some sort of falling out with the local community after a failed planning application to turn the pub into houses. In these times of pub closures and attempts and campaigns to keep them open, it seems to me that the good folk of Haxey have an inarguable right to retain their public houses. There won’t be many places you can go to that has a pub connected to a tradition that goes back seven centuries.

Here’s footage of the Haxey Hood in 2008. You can clearly see me and Martin Oxley getting stuck in at 5.35. I’m in my tweed overcoat and beret, Martin has his black captain’s hat on and a blue cagoule.

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EXTRACT | Bob Dylan’s Lost ‘Blood on the Tracks’ Guitar

Prior to the recording of Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan previewed his set of new songs to a handful of friends, including Mike Bloomfield, Shel Silverstein, Jerry Garcia, Stephen Stills and Tim Drummond. One such lucky one-man audience for a preview was Peter Rowan. Dylan had written the songs that would appear on the album on his trusted Martin guitar, only for it to be stolen from his van before the recording. Bob turned up at Rowan’s place looking to find a replacement Martin, and while he was there, treated Rowan to a performance of the new songs. In this extract from Clinton Heylin’s monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune, Rowan recounts his amusement of the occasion.


[Dylan] was already sequencing the songs in his head while continuing to preview them for friends and other strangers. One such lucky soul was country picker Peter Rowan, who first met Dylan at Newport back in 1965, when he was a member of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. Club 47 owner Betsy Siggins had done her best to persuade Rowan to ‘hang out, [insisting] that Bob was a friendly sort, but I was intimidated by the invisible wall that seemed to surround him’.

The next time their paths crossed, Dylan was in Nashville’s famous Columbia Studio A, recording the last few songs for Blonde On Blonde. Rowan remembered it well enough, but it is unlikely Dylan did, which is why Rowan was as stunned as Bloomfield when he got a call from the man himself, eight and a half years down the line:

Peter Rowan: I had moved to Stinson Beach on the coast, north of San Francisco, where I was reunited with Earth Opera partner David Grisman. David was producing my two younger brothers, Christopher and Lorin, for Columbia Records. Dave and I were starting to jam with Jerry Garcia in what became the bluegrass band, Old & In The Way. I got a call from Seatrain lyricist, Jim Roberts, over in Bolinas. Bob Dylan had shown up at his door. [He] must have been on a walkabout from life as a rock and roller! Jim said that Bob was looking to replace his favourite guitar, which had been stolen. I had my treasured 1936 Martin 000 Sunburst guitar and [he wanted to know] did I maybe want to sell it to Bob? Well, Bob got on the line and we talked. But I still thought it was a hoax, a prank, a joke on me. I gave Bob directions how to find my place, Old Sheriff Selmer’s barn-workshop-home. ‘Yeah, ya just follow the Bolinas Lagoon south and turn at the first unpaved road that heads towards the ocean, Stinson Beach. Call from the phone booth right there.’ So he called. ‘Okay, ya see that wooden tower just to your right? Drive up and park in front of it, the big yellow barn. Calle del Ribera. That’s me upstairs in the window!’ I watched the blue van pull up. Out stepped a man in brown corduroy clothes and cap. I watched him find his way and listened to his footsteps on the wooden stairs. In the room was my partner Leslie, and Milan and Mimi Melvin (aka Fariña), just returned from Tibet. We were used to visits from various world travellers and alias members of the Free Mexican Airforce. We waited. Only Bob’s nose entered the doorway, sensing like radar the vibes! I went to greet him, he seemed taller than expected, wearing shades. ‘Someplace we can go?’ he asked quietly. We went downstairs to the empty front room with ocean light filling it. We both were wearing Ray-Ban shades against the glare of the wave-tossed sea outside. I took the old Martin 000 out of the case and handed it to him. He strummed it gently and hummed a melody. He handed it back and said, ‘Here, you play it.’ Really? So I sang him one of my songs, and asked him for one. He took the guitar and started to sing all the material from the unreleased Blood On The Tracks. We sat there for hours trading songs. The ocean outside with wild-horse waves, the glinting afternoon light reflecting on the old wooden walls of the room. It grew dark, and still the songs came! My brother [Lorin] showed up. It was dark and the candle lit, and still he wore his shades, so I kept mine on! Upstairs was silent, not a shoe scrape. ‘Hey, ya know where Jerry Garcia lives?’ And he went on his way in the blue van … Late the next day I went up to Garcia’s house and his wife Caroline – [the] ‘Mountain Girl’ – and I were talking. I tapped an ash into a full ashtray and she said, ‘Careful, those butts are Dylan’s cigarettes!’

Rowan had crossed Dylan’s radar again because of his association with Grisman, with whom Dylan had recently started taking mandolin lessons. The loss of his favourite Martin, meanwhile, would resonate throughout the rest of 1974.

As Ellen recalls, ‘The guitar was stolen from his van when it was parked in front of my house in Mill Valley … We went around town putting up notes asking people to call if they knew anything about the whereabouts of the guitar that I believe David Bromberg had given him … He was truly upset to lose the guitar.’

The loss of the guitar on which he had written this extraordinary body of songs was something Dylan would come to interpret as one more cruel twist of fate, even as he euphemistically informed John Mankiewicz in 1978 that he’d ‘left it behind. I’d squeezed it dry.’ In truth, he was still trying to replace it when he turned up at Sound 80 studios in Minneapolis two days after Christmas, hoping to reproduce the vibe the songs had when he still had his trusted Martin.


No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece is a limted edition mongraph available exclusively from Route. Get your copy here.


Other Titles By Clinton Heylin
Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened
JUDAS! From Forest Hills to The Free Trade Hall, A Historical View of The Big Boo
What We Did Instead of Holidays: A History of Fairport Convention and Its Extended Folk-Rock Family
Anarchy in the Year Zero: The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the ’Class of 76

What’s The Beer Book About?

A blog post by Ian Clayton on his new book It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses.

I’ve always written close to home. When I first started writing, everybody I asked said that I should write about what I know about. I’ve stuck to that ever since, so all of what I write takes place were I’m from. Wherever I have lived, I have never been more than a stone’s throw from a local pub. My new book It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses comes out at the end of October. I suppose the title tells you most of what you need to know about what is inside its covers. Yes it’s about beer and pubs and because it’s a memoir, it’s about what I’ve got up to in ale houses over the years. I hope it’s funny. I wanted to write a comedy, so it would be a bit of a bugger if it didn’t make folk laugh. There’s one or two sad bits in it as well, because even in pubs, life isn’t always funny ha ha. Like my other writing, it is based on memories and emotions and characters I have known. Most of it is true, some bits are made up and the rest, well, if it isn’t true, it ought to be!

I’ve written a lot of books, but I’m not always sure what to say when people ask me what my books are about. Perhaps my best known book is Bringing it all Back Home. It’s about music. All sorts of music, from music hall to the blues and pop. Then again it’s not really about music at all, it’s about where music has taken me and how it shapes me. Another more recent book is Song for My Father. I generally say that one is a book about my dad. Yet I didn’t know my dad for most of my life, so it’s a book about looking for him, what happened in the few months after we were reunited and mostly about what happened when we weren’t in each others lives. It’s The Beer Talking follows a similar template. There’s plenty of beer in it, a lot of laughter, one or two tears and now and again a bit of bawdy banter. It’s just a book of stories that take place against a backdrop of the public house. These stories are about the joy of joining in, celebrating who we are and the quest to find the perfect pint. There are journeys here and discovery, but because our favourite pubs are usually in our own back yard, it’s a book that takes place near home. In many ways it’s a book that takes delight in localness, the simple pleasure of where we are from, wherever that might be.

The book starts with my first taste of beer, in a smoke-filled working men’s club, then rattles like a boxful of dominoes through more than half a century of backstreet boozing all over the world in that rare old haunt we call the public house. In a time when local pubs are closing down at an alarming rate, the book is a bit of a call to treasure them. I say this because I believe that pubs are like libraries. More than any other buildings near where we live, they are storehouses of our communal knowledge. At times snapshots of our neighbourhood, at other times a refuge from what’s going on outside, but always somewhere familiar and welcoming. I love the pub most of all because that is where over the years I have found a lot of friendship. Come to think of it, It’s The Beer Talking is a book about friendship. As a matter of fact, all of my books are about friendship.

Be amongst the first to read It’s The Beer Talking. Advance copies can be ordered now. Click here.

A launch event will take place on Thursday 25th October, 7:30pm at The Junction, 109 Carlton Street, Castleford. All welcome. Details here.

The Story Behind The Music: The Recording of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks

A brief overview of 4 days in a New York recording studio in 1974 when Bob Dylan commenced work on his masterpiece album, Blood on the Tracks. The full story of these sessions, take by take, is told in leading Dylan historian Clinton Heylin’s monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece, a perfect companion to the Bootleg Series release More Blood, More Tracks. Get your copy here.

Monday 16th September 1974

‘It looked like old times at Columbia’s A & R Studio September 16th. John Hammond Snr. was there. Phil Ramone was working the board. Eric Weissberg and Barry Kornfeld, two old Gaslight regulars, were unpacking their guitars. And sitting out in the cavernous studio … practically hidden behind a battery of six microphones, Bob Dylan was creating another album. And it was almost as if Dylan were consciously conjuring up the ambience of the early sixties.’ – Larry Sloman, Rolling Stone

On 16th September 1974, Bob Dylan entered A & R Studios in New York to begin recording ‘Blood on the Tracks’. The studio was of course the magical place where he recorded his first 6 albums. His original producer John Hammond joined him in the studio on this night, an ‘historic moment’ for them both. Also with Bob was his girlfriend Ellen Bernstein. Studio boss Phil Ramone was at the engineer’s desk, with Glenn Berger as his assistant. Bob started the session warming up to the task with just himself, guitar and harmonica, reaching for the voice that would define Blood on the Tracks.

As I ran around the studio tweaking mic positions, he called off a tune. ‘Let’s do “Tangled Up In Blue” in G.’ He hit his guitar, but instead of a G chord, it was an A. He was playing in a different key from the one he had called off and the lyrics were [to] ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’. – Glen Berger, Assistant Engineer

Including that first take of ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’, he recorded 6 songs over 10 takes solo before being joined in the studio by Eric Weissberg’s band Deliverance, with whom he tackled 4 songs in 13 takes. There was little in terms of rehearsal, and the band were left to watch Bob’s hands for chord changes as he ploughed through the takes; no so easy with him playing in open tuning. One of the takes – ‘Meet Me In The Morning’ – made it through to the final cut of Blood on the Tracks and another – ‘Call Letter Blues’ – was later released on Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3. But it was the attempts of ‘Idiot Wind’ and ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ with just Bob and Deliverance bass player Tony Brown that would ultimately set the tone for the rest of the album…

Tuesday 17th September 1974

Dylan knew his vision for these songs, [which] was very pure and unadorned … Bob lived these words as he created them. Most of the tracks grew and changed organically … He knew as soon as he heard something whether or not it was what he was going for. It never took him more than one time to know … He worked so instinctively, more so than anyone I’ve ever worked with. – Ellen Bernstein, Columbia A&R person & girlfriend.

The feel for the album’s sound was starting to take shape on the second day of recording, with bass player Tony Brown the only member of Deliverance invited back for the session. Keyboardist Paul Griffin came in to try organ and piano on a few takes, sometimes with Brown, sometimes without. There was a change in the assistant engineer’s chair too, Glenn Berger who had sat in the chair on the 16th had moved next door to work with Mick Jagger on mixing a Rolling Stones live tape for radio broadcast. His chair was taken up by Rich Blakin.

In all there was less than half the takes of the previous day, but the session was no less productive. Five songs intended for the album were attempted over 13 takes, plus one warm-up cover. From this session, the fourth take of ‘Shelter From The Storm’ and the third take of ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ made it all the way to the released album. The second take of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ was released later on Biograph and the second take of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ was released on Bootleg Series Vol 1-3. An edited version of the first take of ‘Shelter From the Storm’ recorded this day featured on the soundtrack to the film Jerry Maguire.

By the end of the day, all 12 songs in consideration for the album had been attempted.

Wednesday 18th September 1974

On the third afternoon, Dylan was not so sure of himself and all he had wrought. As they began to mix songs from the master reels, a few takes fell foul of the review process, perhaps reflecting a darker mood on Dylan’s part. Engineer and studio chief Phil Ramone was busy mixing tracks pulled to master from the previous two days, and pedal steel player Buddy Cage was brought in to add overdubs on a few of the takes. As far as recording goes, this was the least productive day of the four. Bob had a go at recording ‘Buckets of Rain’ under the gaze of Mick Jagger in the control room, but abandoned it after four attempts. He left the studio early to go watch a concert and think about what he needed to do the following day to get the album he was hearing in his head.

Thursday 19th September 1974

Dylan cut the whole [album] in six hours on a Monday night … Then came back in on Tuesday and cut most of [it] again … That seemed to work, but it turned out not … On the Thursday, we recorded the album for a third time … Now that blew my mind. – Glenn Berger, assistant engineer.

On this fourth and final day of recording on the Blood on the Tracks New York sessions, a revivified Dylan was determined to finish what he had begun on the Monday. Starting proceedings at seven, he recalled Tony Brown, and Brown alone, to (re)capture the last few tracks. However, if Brown was thinking this will be like Tuesday – fourteen takes and home – he was soon disabused. It was 3.30am before Dylan was satisfied. By then, he and Brown had endured a recording marathon, capturing eight songs whole over a multitude of takes. Mick Jagger was once again looking on.

By the end of the evening, they recorded takes of ‘Buckets of Rain’ and ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ which would make it all the way to the final album. They also got takes of three further songs that would make it to the original test pressing of the album: ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Idiot Wind’. Bob had his album… for now. Three months later a last minute change of heart would propel him to Sound 80 Studio in Minneapolis to rerecord five of the ten tracks that would appear on the released album. But that’s a different story…


The complete recordings from the sessions are now made available on the Bootleg Series release More Blood, More Tracks. For the full story on these historic sessions, let leading Bob Dylan historian Clinton Heylin be your guide in his limted edition monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece. After tracking down and interviewing just about every eye-witness still standing, and spending time at the Bob Dylan Archive in Tulsa with the two working notebooks of the songs, Clinton has created a highly evocative companion piece to the set. Get your copy here.