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

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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 Slowman, 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.

Book Launch | No One Else Could Play That Tune

The book launch for Clinton Heylin’s monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece will take place on Saturday 13th October, at Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, starting at 2:45pm.

This date is also National Album Day, so we’ve teamed up with our friends The CAT Club, one of the UK’s longest running record listening clubs. The launch presentation will be followed by a playing of the original New York version of Blood on the Tracks. We will be joining many others simultaneously celebrating albums on this day with a needle drop time of 3:33pm.

The CAT Club has a noble policy of encouraging gatherings to sit and listen to an album in its entirety. We’ve chosen the New York ‘Test Pressing’ version of Blood on the Tracks as Clinton’s monograph is focused on the New York sessions. The listening experience will be consistent with Columbia PR officer Paul Rappaport’s attitude to his copy of the original Test Pressing. who is quoted in the monograph thus:

I played it to friends in the company, I played it for the [people in] radio, because I thought it was one of the greatest things ever, and when he decided to change it, me and a handful of others at Columbia were heartbroken. Because we thought we had heard one of the most perfect recordings of all time. You didn’t [usually] share test pressings … with many people … [But] I would sit with people and I would get a bottle of wine and I’d say, You’re gonna sit here with [a] glass of wine and you’re going to listen from beginning to end, and you’re not going to utter a word. And every person I played it for was just so moved [by] the end, they couldn’t talk.

Tickets for the launch event are £15 and include a copy of the monograph (cover price £15). Clinton will be on hand to sign copies.Click here to book your place.

If you want to make an afternoon of it, the Tap & Barrel is the best lunch spot for miles around. Head chef Gary Pickles has worked in some of the best restaurants in Europe and the US alongside some of the best chefs in the world. There’s a staple menu and weekly specials. Click here for more details and to book a table.

(*** 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.)

If you can’t make it to Pontefract, but would like to order a copy of the monograph, we will start shipping after the launch. Click here to get your copy.

Wanted Man Study Series | Take Two

Route is delighted to publish a new edition in the Wanted Man Study Series, starting with Take II – Vol.1, Clinton Heylin’s monograph No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece. Here’s a note from Clinton outlining the rebirth of the series.


Between 1983 and 1986, the Bob Dylan Information Office that I had co-founded in 1981 with John Bauldie, Dave Dingle and other friends – known to one and all as Wanted Man – published five monographs in its own, self-proclaimed Study Series.

Each volume, according to the series editor, the late John Bauldie, was supposed to be a ‘stud[y] of [an] individual LP record by Bob Dylan, or of particular themes in Bob Dylan’s written and recorded work’.

The first two volumes published were indeed devoted to specific albums: John Hinchey’s fine essay on Slow Train Coming and John B.’s own monograph on Dylan’s ‘other’ mid-seventies masterpiece, Desire. The intention was to produce work with an academic rigour outside of the rigid confines of academia, which back then was wholly disinterested in Dylan.

If academia has slowly woken up to Dylan’s cultural and artistic importance in the intervening decades – so much so that there is now an Institute of Dylan Studies at the University of Tulsa – the rigour that these Wanted Men displayed then (and now) is still disappointingly hard to find inside most mausoleums of higher learning.

As such, methinks now is the time to revive the Wanted Man Study Series, beginning with an account of what many fans consider the greatest of ‘individual LP records by Bob Dylan’: Blood On The Tracks; in it, I draw on new first-hand interviews and access to the full session histories for the original, so-called ‘New York’ album, recorded between September 16th and the 19th, 1974.

It is hoped that the rebirth of the Study Series will prompt others to follow in the footsteps of John Hinchey, Aidan Day, Nick de Somogyi and Bert Cartwright, submitting further potential volumes to myself – as John’s successor in the role of self-appointed series editor – via Route Books, our new publisher. After all, as the mercurial bard himself said, ‘You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.’

– Clinton Heylin, September 2018.


Take !! – Vol. 1 of the Wanted Man Study Series, Clinton’s No One Else Could Play That Tune is available exclusively from Route. Click here to order a copy.

The Story Behind the Music | The Sex Pistols TV Debut

September 4th 1976, Tony Wilson’s Granada TV show So It Goes broadcasts The Sex Pistols performance of ‘Anarchy in the UK’.

An abridged extract from Anarchy on the Year Zero by Clinton Heylin

For the Pistols, problems were a day-to-day occurrence, but so was a common determination to turn Rock on its head. And what better place to really shake ’em up than Manchester, second home to the band and the movement, and the first home of Granada TV studios. Because, after much toing and froing, the Pistols had been booked to close the last show in the first series of Granada’s late-night music show, So It Goes, compered by none other than Tony Wilson.

Although the show would not be going out live – they weren’t that stupid! – it was going to be recorded live to tape and with Tony Wilson on their side the Pistols hoped it might even be broadcast pretty much ‘as is’. Wilson’s producer was happy to go along with the majority of Wilson’s madcap ideas for the show, even if he hadn’t as yet realized that the Pistols closing the series might be a political statement on Wilson’s part…

…Wilson later claimed, ‘As they came off the stage there was complete silence, except for the footsteps of the producer coming down from the box to try to hit somebody.’ [So It Goes producer Chris] Pye dismisses that frankly incredible version as ‘nonsense’. He does, however, admit ‘we all sat around the following day going, “Fucking hell, what happened last night? What is David Plowright going to say?”’

The performance of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ on So It Goes is still probably the most alive rock performance ever shown on British TV. Even the point at which Matlock leans into the mike to sing the harmony line, realizes the mike doesn’t work and kicks it off the stage, works perfectly in the context of the order-from-chaos being caught on camera.

For the band, it was simply business as usual. But they still decided to make themselves scarce. As Matlock put it, ‘A few mike stands went over at the end of “Anarchy”, nothing more.’ Even if Wilson was later reprimanded, he remained the compere for So It Goes when Granada commissioned a second series, the following year. And this time the staid Mr Walker was nowhere to be seen.

The emphasis of the show would now be mostly, if not entirely, the wave of bands following in the Pistols’ wake. And to kick things into gear, Wilson decided a repeat broadcast of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ was in order. After all, only two regions had ever seen the show first time around – Granada (covering the North West) and London Weekend – coincidentally the two hubs on the punk machine. It also gave the Pistols an opportunity to catch it themselves, since the original broadcast went out on September 4th, while they were in Paris doing a number on the French disco scene.


Read the full story of this episode and its part in a revolutionary year for British music in Anacrchy in the Year Zero: The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the ’Class of 76.
Click here to order a hardback collector’s edition for just £10.

Clinton Heylin With Tim Moon on Coast and County Radio

Clinton Heylin interviewed by Tim Moon on The Folk Programme on Coast and County Radio about Clinton’s book on Fairport Convention What We Did Instead of Holidays. They talk in detail about the Faiport Convention family and a little bit about Bob Dylan. Click play above to listen. Running time 21:12.

You can download this audio as a podcast by clicking here.

Click here to order an author signed copy of What We Did Instead of Holidays: A History of Fairport Convention and Its Extended Folk-Rock Family

Prelude | A Coat Of Many Colours

Clinton Heylin’s prelude to What We Did Instead of Holidays: A History of Fairport Convention and It’s Extended Folk-Rock Family

As every self-respecting folk-rock fan knows, each and every Fairport Convention incarnation has burned bright but ne’er long. Between June 1968 and June 1974, England’s premier folk-rock band would release no less than ten albums, while passing through just as many line-up changes. Only one line-up – 1971’s – would manage two consecutive albums, Angel Delight and Babbacombe Lee, before it was also rent apart by inevitable divisions.

Their most acclaimed configuration – the line-up responsible for the groundbreaking Liege & Lief (1969) – lasted barely four months, playing only a handful of gigs before losing singer Sandy Denny and founding father-figure, bassist Ashley ‘Tyger’ Hutchings, to aftershocks from a twice-fatal motorway crash. No wonder the band at times preferred to call itself Fotheringport Confusion (a reference to the number of members from Sandy’s post-Fairport combo who later joined her parent band).

But it would be the alumni from the era of the four consecutive classic Fairport albums, What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief and Full House – recorded between June 1968 and April 1970 – who would challenge even their parent band’s prodigious output.

Ian Matthews, who would leave Fairport halfway through Unhalfbricking, went on to record an astonishing ten albums between 1969 and 1973, three of them with the chart-topping Matthews Southern Comfort. Ashley Hutchings, who quit less than a year later, would be responsible for eight projects between 1970 and 1973, three with Steeleye Span, his first reconfiguration of the English folk-rock sound and ultimately its most successful exponent.

As for Richard Thompson, after his own January 1971 departure he would record three era-defining albums over three-and-a-half years: Henry The Human Fly, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight and Hokey Pokey – the latter two with new singing partner, Linda.

Such an outpouring of product was possible because of a unique confluence of Circumstance: a commercial climate which abounded in the British MusicBiz for the first and last time, collectively brought about by a handful of young ambitious producer-managers, astute independent label-owners who catered entirely to the new ‘prog’ audience (and ceding artistic control to the bands themselves), complementing a family of musicians constantly pushing each other to define their place in the ever-changing panoply of popular song.

’Twas a time when Fairport were spoken of in the same breath as Led Zeppelin, with whom they famously jammed at LA’s Troubadour in September 1970, and Pink Floyd, with whom they shared a legendary show at the UFO the night Syd lost his mind and Richard Thompson blew a fair few minds – George Harrison’s included – with a thirty-minute reinterpretation of Paul Butterfield’s ‘East/West’. ’Twas also a time when Hutchings’s Steeleye Span not only toured with the Aqualung-era Jethro Tull, but enjoyed a Top Ten album in the wake of that nationwide jaunt.

Sympathetic to this synergy of style and English content, the producers and label-heads behind the proscenium gave the various Fairporters enough rope to play the jolly hangman. Which is why manager-producers Joe Boyd and Sandy Roberton and Island boss Chris Blackwell loom almost as large in this history of English folk-rock as many a fairweather Fairporter. This trio oversaw and/or rubber-stamped most of the albums that spouted from the folk-rock faucet during this six-year window of opportunity.

And what artifacts poured forth. If Fairport would never again scale the heights achieved between June 1968 and December 1970 – a period which didn’t just produce four classic LPs, but also a series of endlessly inventive BBC sessions and landmark gigs no one who witnessed them ever forgot – the members they shed more than took up the slack.

For Ashley Hutchings, the band’s founder and erstwhile leader, there would be ever-varying calibrations of English folk-rock, each more challenging than the last. Steeleye’s debut, Hark! The Village Wait, the Albion Country Band’s No Roses and the dance-rock experiment Morris On, were just three of the works he conceptualised in the two years after Liege & Lief’s December 1969 release.

Not content with that blistering burst, over the next eighteen months he threatened to make the Albion Country Band a more authentic version of Fairport folk-rock than Fairport itself, before the psychological scars of a 1969 road crash caught up, driving him to the wiles of Sussex where the healing could begin.

When it came to the star-crossed Sandy Denny, there would be the brave new world of Fotheringay, whose eponymous debut caused almost as many ripples in 1970’s rocky estuary as her Fairport parting glass, Liege & Lief. That band, though, foundered on the rocks of band-finances and irresolvable arguments about who should be the sea captain. Three promising solo albums followed before Fairport again clutched her to their bosoms for one more sea voyage in 1974-75.

Richard Thompson, the guitar wizard who co-founded Fairport with Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol back in July 1966, when barely out of school, came to the realisation no single band could house him or hold him down late. The second of that triumvirate to fly the coop, Thompson would carve his name into the very fabric of folk-rock with his first solo effort, Henry The Human Fly (1972), perhaps English folk-rock’s finest moment.

When that album crashed and burned, critically and commercially, he simply rebooted the brand and bounced back with I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, the first of six albums with the angel-voiced Linda Thompson (aka Peters). This duo would carry the folk-rock brand into the eighties, making music as vital and enduring as any British singer-songwriters in those halcyon days.

But having failed to dent the charts with any of the cult classics which made them critical darlings, the couple parted not as friends. Their bitter musical divorce came in May 1982, documented nightly on a fateful American tour promoting their swansong, Shoot Out The Lights, shows which have become steeped in rocklore for reasons only partially rooted in the musical cliff edge they skirted.

Ian Matthews’ once promising post-Fairport career hit the buffers Stateside after he took Jac Holzman’s Elektra shilling at the end of 1972. Thankfully, the albums he made in 1971-72 – If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes, Tigers Will Survive, Journeys From Gospel Oak and the two Plainsong albums – continue to reward repeated listens.

Unfortunately, the deal he made with the devilish Holzman required him to disband Plainsong, rather than release their second attempt at a post-Fairport sound worthy of the original. Like Ashley, the singer would never again find the drive and determination to make five quality albums in two years. Like his fellow Fairporters, Matthews would plough on regardless, trading on the faint name-recognition his early output still accords him.

When it came to Fairport itself – left rudderless by the departures of Denny and Hutchings in November 1969 and cut creatively adrift when Thompson quit in January 1971 – Island Records continued picking up the tab as it toyed with projects suggested in turn by Simon Nicol (Angel Delight), and furious folk fiddler, Dave Swarbrick (the folk-rock opera Babbacombe Lee and Rosie).

After finally they chanced on a quasi-folk, quasi-soft-rock niche – part-Fotheringay, part-Fairport – in time to produce the eclectic Nine (1973) and a patchy reunion album with Sandy Denny, Rising For The Moon (1975), put the original English folk-rock vehicle in reverse for good.

Though the band, in name only, would bounce from pillar to post for another four years, lasting till August 1979, the brand name had been irredeemably tainted by too many mediocre albums since their late sixties heyday.

By then, the cold wind of social and political change had blown in a new business-first spirit, at odds with the creative free-for-all that had afforded so many talented musicians the opportunity to put the Great back in British pop music; for a while, a fair few innovators had snuck under the radar and into the shops and hearts of its many music fans. The land where Henry the Human Fly, Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman, the Poor Ditching Boy, Matty Groves and the Blackleg Miner could roam free was no more.

Thankfully, a whole lot of folk-rock is their enduring legacy. The substantial soundtrack to their own wacky story is an impressive body of music this single band of brothers and sisters produced over a decade and a half; each and every note inspired by that folk-rock codex first formulated in a house in Muswell Hill that the Nicol family rented out to pay the bills. Which is where our story begins, on a day in 1965, when a certain potential tenant, a working stiff his friends called ‘Tyger’, descends on a house called Fairport, hoping to rent a room above a converted doctor’s surgery…

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