Bob Dylan’s Picnic at Blackbushe | A Story By Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton reads an extract from his best-selling music memoir Bringing It All Back Home about the time he went to see Bob Dylan at Blackbushe in 1978.

‘One of the best books about popular music ever written.’ – Record Collector

‘A music-powered helter-skelter of living and learning, as perceptive as a Bob Dylan lyric and as earthy as a Bessie Smith blues.’ -Val Wilmer

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Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home

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Bob Dylan 1966 London Press Conference

Already weary from a confrontational world tour, and beyond tired of the media circus, Bob Dylan held a press conference on 3rd May 1966 shortly after he arrived in London in advance of the British leg of his tour. It did nothing to calm the growing hostility towards the artist. This extract from Clinton Heylin’s book JUDAS! paints a picture of how it went.

Bob Dylan arrives in Britain for his second British tour on Monday (May 2)—and is bringing his American backing group with him. The group—just called The Group—will play all Dylan’s British dates with him. They will accompany the singer for half of each concert and he will do the other half alone.
—‘DYLAN BRINGS OWN GROUP’, MELODY MAKER, APRIL 30 1966

This brief news story, in the music paper most British Dylan fans liked to read, served as an all-important backdrop to his May 1966 UK tour, scheduled to run from the fifth to the twenty-seventh. To those of a folk-minded disposition, for whom two electric albums and five electric singles were not enough of a clue as to Dylan’s ‘current bag’, it confirmed their worst fears. It also suggested they should look to scalp any tickets already purchased—especially in London and Manchester, where shows were already sold out.

Whereas in 1965 articles announcing how ‘The Beatles Dig Dylan’ and whether an acoustic troubadour could be a poet had lit the way for Dylan’s arrival, by 1966 he was a bona fide pop star with a #1 album (Bringing It All Back Home), a #4 album (Highway 61 Revisited) and three Top 10 singles (‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and ‘Positively 4th Street’) to his name, all in the twelve months since last he played the City Halls of Albion.

This time, he needed no advance hype to sell out a full tour of the British Isles. Nor did he need the press to follow him around firing questions. So, instead of multiple formal and informal press conferences, backstage interviews with student reporters, one-on-one interviews with all the important music weeklies and the odd impertinent questionnaire, he agreed to exactly one press conference at the Mayfair Hotel—having relocated from the Savoy (perhaps still unhappy about the previous year’s ‘who threw the fucking glass’ incident, captured in Dont Look Back). At the press conference scheduled for the day after he flew in, he would again use the film crew as personal foils in another grand charade.

Not surprisingly, members of the English music press were a little put out to find themselves sitting cheek to jowl with ‘the establishment press … [who] didn’t understand what was going on in the musical arena’. As to what they could expect, they might have seen one of the questionnaires he had filled in the previous May, for Jackie, which listed the ‘loves and hates of Bob Dylan’. In the former category he had included ‘originality in anybody—makes such a big difference when they’ve got their own ideas to give out’. Personal bugbears included, ‘Rules. Why should we have them? … the importance that money has in our society …[and] that strange feeling when you come into a room that something’s gone wrong.’

There was certainly a ‘strange feeling’ in the Mayfair Hotel suite on the May day Dylan deigned to lock horns with another querulous quorum. Even familiar faces were given short shrift, Dylan ‘blanking’ Max Jones before making him the butt of one of his best one-liners. When Jones suggested he had heard he didn’t write protest songs any more, Dylan fired back, ‘All my songs are protest songs. You name something, I’ll protest about it. All I do is protest.’

Jones had been the first person Dylan called on when he visited London in December 1962 (Jones having been recommended by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott), and had been someone Dylan opened up to on both previous May visits, in 1964 and 1965. So he was bemused to find Dylan being wholly uncooperative but relieved to find he was not singled out for the treatment, prompting the headline to his resultant feature, ‘Will The Real Bob Dylan Please Stand Up?’:

Chatting up Bob Dylan … used to be easier, but as he gets older he seems to grow more and more fed-up with questions. Very difficult it is getting him alone. When you’ve failed in that, the next hindrance is his reluctance to impart information. It’s not that he won’t answer. But his replies, sometimes oblique and often designed to send-up, carry vagueness to the borders of evasion. Asked if the label folk-rock, sometimes applied to his current music making, meant anything to him, he queried back at me: ‘Folk-rot?’

To raise the level of the conversation a bit, I injected the names of Bukka White, Son House and Big Joe Williams. Did Dylan listen to such blues singers?

‘I know Big Joe, of course. But I never listen to these men on records too much. Lately I’ve been listening to Bartok and Vivaldi and that sort of thing. So I wouldn’t know what’s happening.’

Before we parted, another journalist was questioned by Dylan. He mentioned his paper. Dylan looked blank. ‘It’s the leading musical paper in the country,’ said the reporter firmly.

‘The only paper I know is the Melody Maker,’ was Dylan’s reply. One way or another he makes it clear he’s not out to win friends and influence newspaper men.

The reporter from the ‘leading musical paper in the country’ was Keith Altham, NME’s hippest reporter. But even this well-known face made very little headway with the man behind the shades when trying to raise the tone:

For posterity’s sake, I framed a question which might have been construed as ‘being aware’ … why is it that the titles of his recent singles, like ‘Rainy Day Women #12 + 35’ apparently bore no connections with the lyric? ‘It has every significance,’ returned Dylan. ‘Have you ever been down in North Mexico?’ ‘Not recently …’

A nonplussed Altham turned his attention to ‘a large gentleman with a grey top hat and movie camera permanently affixed to his shoulder, lurch[ing] about the room like Quasimodo, alternately scratching his ear and his nose, with the occasional break to “whirr” the machine in the face of perplexed reporters’. It was Pennebaker, of course.

Altham also observed ‘a lady in grey denims wav[ing] what appeared to be huge grey frankfurters about … [which] proved to be microphones attached to tape recorders’. The lady was Jones Alk.

Mrs Alk—whose husband Howard was hovering somewhere in the background—found herself an unwitting bit-part actor in another of Dylan’s games for May on the one occasion the ‘establishment press’ managed to ruffle Dylan’s feathers. He found himself ducking a series of questions regarding his recently reported marriage, a touchy subject at the best of times, until the mirror behind the glasses almost cracked:

Q: Are you married?
A: I’d be a liar if I answered that, and I don’t lie.
Q: Well, tell the truth then.
A: I might be married. I might not. It’s hard to explain really.
Q: Is she your wife? [points to Jones Alk].
A: Her? Oh yeah, you can say she’s my wife.
Jones Alk: No, my husband wouldn’t like it.
Q: Are you married to Joan Baez?
A: Joan Baez was an accident … I brought my wife over last time and nobody took any notice of her.
Q: So you are married then?
A: It would be very misleading if I said yes, I was married; and I would be a fool if I said no.
Q: But you just said you had a wife.
A: That depends on what you mean by married.

The four music press reps in attendance—Jones and Altham, plus Record Mirror’s Richard Green and an unnamed correspondent from Disc & Music Echo—valiantly tried to stem the tide of inanity, but it was a losing battle. Time to just sit back and enjoy the ride:

Q: What do you own?
A: Oh, thirty Cadillacs, three yachts, an airport at San Diego, a railroad station in Miami. I was planning to bus all the Mormons.
Q: What are your medical problems?
A: Well, there’s glass in the back of my head. I’m a very sick person. I can’t see too well on Tuesdays. These dark glasses are prescribed. I’m not trying to be a beatnik. I have very mercury-esque eyes. And another thing—my toenails don’t fit.
Q: Tell us about the book you’ve just completed!
A: It’s about spiders, called Tarantula. It’s an insect book. Took about a week to write, off and on … my next book is a collection of epitaphs.
Q: Who’s the guy with the top hat?
A: I don’t know. I thought he was with you. I sometimes wear a top hat in the bathroom.

Eventually, as in Copenhagen, ‘Mr Dylan started to interview the journalists’, as things again turned sour. After he told the Daily Sketch’s Dermot Purgavie they were boring, ‘the stroppier ones among us indicated that they weren’t too enchanted by him, either’. At the end of proceedings, the Sun’s Christopher Reed spoke for his fellow Fleet Streeters when he observed how Dylan had ‘managed to answer questions for an hour without really answering any of them at all’.

As the press filed out, a CBS publicist suggested, ‘Cliff Richard was never like this.’ Mr Reed now had his headline. Purgavie was equally sniffy about the uncooperative artist in his Sketch headline, ‘At least in his songs Mr Dylan has something to say.’ On the other hand, England’s thriving mid-sixties music press, to a man, sided with the star. Appropriately, Disc & Music Echo, the weekly that had run his notorious ‘Mr Send-Up’ interview the previous May, seemed particularly amused:

Bob Dylan arrived preceded by an almost violent reputation for being rude and uncooperative. He is rude—to people whom he considers ask stupid questions. He is uncooperative—he doesn’t like giving up his precious free time for individual interviews. But Bob Dylan is also a very sympathetic man with a vast sense of humour. He explained why he was wearing dark glasses. ‘I have glasses at the back of my head too. Look. I’m not trying to come on like a beatnik. I have to wear them under prescription because my eyes are so bad.’ … He played with a huge ashtray and then, this man who has said more with his songs than many say in ten thousand words, was asked some of the most ridiculous questions in the world. Things like a barrage of question[s] about whether he was married as though it was the most important thing since the nuclear bomb. No wonder he lost his patience.

Record Mirror’s Richard Green took equal delight in quoting ill-advised questions from the straight press, juxtaposed with the non-sequiturs Dylan provided for answers. Like Altham, he had realised immediately that ‘the farce … was obviously being staged’ for the cameras’ benefit and played dumb:

Until then, I’d always thought that Juke Box Jury was the funniest thing ever. But Dylan’s handling of the press left that standing. Asked if he had any children, he said, ‘Every man with medical problems has children.’ Asked what his medical problems were, he said, ‘Well, there’s glass in the back of my head and my toenails don’t fit properly.’ Dylan’s bunch of assorted film cameramen and sound recordists were happily enjoying the farce which was obviously being staged for their benefit. They continually trained cameras on the reporters and pushed weird microphones at people who spoke. Then somebody mentioned folk singer Dana Gillespie and at once Dylan brightened up. He laughed out loud, smiled broadly and asked, ‘Yeah, where is Dana. Come on out, Dana. I’ve got some baskets for her. Put your clothes on.’

As the penultimate press conference of the world tour wound to its predictable conclusion, Keith Altham went looking for one last usable quote, not from Dylan but from one of his sidekicks: taking ‘one of Dylan’s undercover agents to one side (I knew he was a Dylan man as he had dark glasses on) I enquired why a man with Dylan’s obvious intelligence bothered to arrange this farce of a meeting’. It was Bobby Neuwirth, whom he recognised from the previous year. He wasn’t about to sugar-coat it; ‘Dylan just wanted us to come along and record a press reception so we could hear how ridiculous and infantile all reporters are.’

For the remainder of his time in the British Isles, Dylan kept the press at arm’s length—clearly a conscious decision. The one time he decided to rebut accusations fired his way by reviewers of the shows, it would be from the Royal Albert Hall stage to a captive audience.


Read about the whole tour in JUDAS! Click here for more details and signed copies!

Other Clinton Heylin Titles

No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece
Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened
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

 

Bob Dylan Interview | Mary Travers and Friend Radio Show

In his book No One Else Could Play That Tune Clinton Heylin notes that the only contemporary radio interview in which Bob Dylan discussed Blood On The Tracks was with Mary Travers but he carefully steered her away from it after a brief exchange. This is said interview (just the talk, the commercials and music are edited out). They also talk Woody Guthrie, topical songs, and about the then forthcoming Basement Tapes release. At one stage the conversation gets a little philosophical until Bob points out to Travers that she is crossing another one of his red lines.

Click here for more on No One Else Could Play That Tune, Clinton Heylin’s book on Blood on the Tracks

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

Clinton Heylin Talks Blood on the Tracks

A podcast of Clinton Heylin’s presentation at Durham Book Festival 2018. Clinton reads from his monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune, plays two tracks from the New York recording sessions for Bob Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks and takes questions from the floor. Running time is 49 minutes. Recorded at City Theatre, Durham, 13th October 2018. Click play above to listen.

No One Else Could Play That Tune is a session by session and track by track account of the New York recording sessions for Blood on the Tracks, and is the prefect guide to the Bootleg Series release More Blood, More Tracks. It is a limited edition hardback available exclusively from Route. Click here to order a copy.

Blood On The Tracks Events With Clinton Heylin

To mark the publication of his monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece and the release of Bootleg Series Vol 14 More Blood, More Tracks, Clinton Heylin is taking to the road to talk about the Blood on the Tracks New York recording sessions.

Clinton has tracked down and interviewed just about every eye-witness still standing, including the only musician – Dylan excepted – to play at all the New York sessions; a new interview with Ellen Bernstein, Dylan’s CBS A&R girlfriend at the time; at least one engineer previously undocumented and two old Village friends who attended the initial sessions at Dylan’s behest. He also spent a fortnight at the Tulsa Dylan archive, researching and annotating the two working notebooks into which the artist wrote two dozen original songs, only a dozen of which would make it all the way to the September A&R sessions.

In No Else Could Play That Tune, he tells the full tale of the making of Dylan’s greatest masterpiece as well as providing a detailed examination of the thought processes that went into the unmaking of it; as Dylan dismantled the New York album, re-recorded 60% of it and sped the rest of it up, removing audible blood from each and every track he changed. Never fully revealed before, it is a story only now ready to be told, accompanied as it is by the full soundtrack, courtesy of Sony Music. Clinton will be talking all about it at the following events:

Saturday 13th October, 2:30pm
Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, England
A book launch event and a playing in full of the New York version of Blood on the Tracks in association with The CAT Club and National Album Day. (*** UPDATE *** The launch event will take place in the theatre area of the Tap & Barrel. Seats in this area have SOLD OUT. There is a public bar adjacent to the theatre which is open to all. If you want to drop by, the record will play through to the public bar and you will be able to pick up a copy of the book on the day.)

Sunday 14th October, 4pm
The People’s Bookshop, Durham, England
A Durham Literature Festival event, Clinton will be joined by Durham-based musician Matty Oliver, who has the aura of a young Bob. (See him sing Subterranean Homesick Blues.) Tickets here.

Thursday 18th October, 6:30pm
The Woody Guthrie Centre, Tulsa, OK, USA
A talk in partnership with the Bob Dylan Centre in Tulsa, home of the Dylan archive. Details here.

Monday 12th November, 7pm
KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York City, USA
A Red Room event, Clinton will be presenting from his book and New York session tracks will be played. Free event. Details here.

More events to follow as they are announced.

If you can’t make an event, you can order a copy of the book direct from Route
Click here for more details and to order your copy of No One Else Could Play That Tune
.


Related Titles:
What We Did Instead of Holidays
New Title | Trouble In Mind
JUDAS!
Anarchy in the Year Zero | Collector’s Edition

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.