The Annotated Blonde On Blonde
November 19, 2003 2:32 AM   Subscribe

The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the 'Blonde on Blonde' album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up.

Bob Dylan 1978

Blonde On Blonde--Seven mixes, four or five covers, four or five women, some missing photographs and one leather coat... (story within)
posted by y2karl (26 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
As for the coat-Dylan wears it on three successive album covers. One coat--three Dylans.

One woman was Claudia Cardinale-she had her picture removed from the inside cover, taking the unknown whisperer and photographer Jerry Schatzberg's self-portrait in the process. They couldn't get permission to use it even for the new remixed SACD reissue.

As noted in the Missing Pictures page, that unknown whisperer is not Edie Sedgwick talking into Bob's ear but as Patti Smith's poem goes, Everyone knew she was the real heroine of Blonde on Blonde.

Common accounts suggest that both Leopardskin Pillbox Hat and Just Like A Woman are to or about Sedgwick--her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls, for example. There is quite the story here, courtesy those fine folks at rec.dylan. who diligently copy out the appropriate passages--Dylan goes to Warhol's Factory--story here-for a screen test and macks on Sedgwick, as well as walking off with the twin silver Flaming Star Elvii-um, the last picture here records the famous face off of Warhol and Dylan. So, Dylan and Albert Grossman lure Edie away from Andy, to his displeasure-amplified upon finding Dylan traded the Elvis II for Grossman's couch. Which couch Grossman perhaps used as his casting couch for the young Carly Simon. Grossman's wife Sally, by the way, was the woman on the cover of Bringing It All Back Home

Another woman is Nico, who met Dylan in Paris in 1964 and slipped off to Greece with him, claiming I'll Keep It With Mine was about her and her infant son and given to her by Dylan to advance her singing career. Here, via, are the pertinent quotes from Richard Witts's Nico: the life and lies of an icon. And here is a great review of Nico's musical career.

And then there is Sara Lowndes-Dylan's Playboy bunny wife as Richard Witt described her. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is her song. (How to impress your bride to be: make a double album and put her very own song on one whole side.) He did not write it in the Chelsea Hotel, by the way-as he claimed later in Sara from Desire. The Church of Bob cannot accept this, however. At any rate, as Lester Bangs observed, If he really did spend days on end sitting up in the Chelsea sweating over lines like ''your streetcar visions which you place on the grass'', then he is stupider than we ever gave him credit for-but as the link above notes, he did--if Jacques Levy can be believed--make the dramatic gesture of singing it in studio to an estranged Sara on its first take and won her back, for awhile...

The Dylanator... Writin' the songs to impress the ladies... And collecting royalties on them, too..

According to Rowland Scherman, this picture was Columbia's choice for the cover of Blonde On Blonde. Luckily, ylanDay aidsay ixNay and they stuck with Schatzberg's photo. Let it be noted those other Encounters with Dylan excerpts can't hold a candle to the cabbie's run in with Dylan quoted there at Amazon.

Listening to that remixed CD and running down what I could about (Sooner or Later) One of Us Must Know is what lead to this post. I thought--and thought wrong-- the Band played on this. Spike Lee's dad did, however...

And while on topic, let the Dylandmarks be noted: EDLIS, "Searching For A Gem", of course Electric Dylan, He's Alive: Bob Dylan On Tour, a New Yorker essay by Alex Ross, provides the current state while David Womack's deconstructive analysis of previous revisionist criticism of Bob Dylan is great as well, and then there is Al Aronowitz AKA The Blacklisted Journalist, the insider's insider, the man who introduced Dylan to the Beatles, and who, from the wilderness, serves up the dish: To me, Bob Dylan was a god. Once, I was in the bed next to his when he was screwing a hooker in the Detroit hotel room we shared...

Oh, I could go but I think this is quite enough... And we were talking about Blonde On Blonde. It is his masterpiece, you know.

posted by y2karl at 2:34 AM on November 19, 2003 [3 favorites]

Wow - and here was I thinking I knew my Blonde On Blonde!

Thanks for making it new again, y2karl!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:01 AM on November 19, 2003

new best post ever.
posted by Satapher at 4:15 AM on November 19, 2003

Does anyone know that song by Nada Surf of the same title? It's one of the most beautiful homages on record to a record that I've ever heard..
posted by boneybaloney at 4:34 AM on November 19, 2003

Great post as well!
posted by boneybaloney at 4:34 AM on November 19, 2003

y2karl - are you, by any chance, a fan of Mr Dylan?

Just joking, man - a great post. Made me dust down BoB, Highway 61 and the bootleg CDs..
posted by Pericles at 4:57 AM on November 19, 2003

Thanks for the wonderful post and reviving fond memories. Dylan is still the man.
posted by nofundy at 5:06 AM on November 19, 2003

Great post. Many thanks.
posted by GiantRobot at 5:28 AM on November 19, 2003

Somebody needs to mash up an MP3 that compares and contrasts the differences in the track versions described in these links. So much easier to "get it" this way. Let me just say that those folks at probably have just the right combination of anal-retentiveness and obsessive devotion to do this.

Great post, y2karl. Particularly enjoyed the excerpt from "encounters," which I immediately added to my amazon wish list.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:45 AM on November 19, 2003


You don't have permission to access /davidwomack/bobdylan-rockandroll.htm" title=" the deluge of media coverage of the boomer generation and their icons, which has been a reflection of the boomers self-interest - their interest in what they liked and bought - insured the elevation of neo-folk heroes to unprecedented levels of scrutiny and propagated an unrelenting continuance of 60 on this server.

Otherwise, [this is good].
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:16 AM on November 19, 2003

Dammit. I thought this post had hot lesbian action.
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:39 AM on November 19, 2003

That great cover photo with the fascinating expression on Bob's face, it was just camera shake? Great story.

BTW, veteran Nashville musician Charlie McCoy, who played harmonica and guitar on Blonde On Blonde, played last weekend at a little C&W bar on the second floor of a dental clinic here in Kyoto, as he often does.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:42 AM on November 19, 2003

Parts One, Two and Three of Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions by Michael Krogsgaard are of related interest, as well....

Here's the particulars of (Sooner Or Later) One Of Us Must Know:

Studio A
Columbia Recording Studio
New York City, New York
January 25, 1966, 2:30-5:30, 7-10 pm, and 11:30-2:30 am
Produced by Bob Johnston.
Engineers: Halee, Dauria and Keyes...

1 and 2 "Brand New Leopardskin Pillbox Hat" on recording sheet. 3-21 "Song Unknown" on recording sheet.

Sessions: 2:30 - 6:00pm, 7:00 - 11:00pm, and 11:30pm - 2:30am.

Musicians: Robert J. Gregg (drums), William E. Lee (bass), Paul Griffin (piano), Richard Danko (bass), Al Kooper (organ) and Robbie Robertson (guitar).

21 released on single and on Blonde On Blonde.


Studio E
Columbia Recording Studios
New York City, New York
July 31, 1975, 8:00 pm-4:00 am.
Produced by Don DeVito...

6. Sara CO121718 Take 1
7. Sara Take 1b
8. Sara Take 2B
9. Sara Take 3b
10. Sara Take 4B
11. Sara Take 5...

2 & 3 "Love Copy" on recording sheet.
6-11 "Sarah Part I" on recording sheet.
12 & 13 "Ices" on recording sheet.

belies the Jacques Levy anecdote, I think. Boy, one thing for sure--those session listings disprove the one take Bob Dylan myth...

Those are from Bob Dylan - The Bringing It All Back Homepage, another Dylandmark, let it be noted.

On review--I got a Charlie McCoy interview up there in the Sad-Eyed lady Of The Lowlands paragraph. Here's one from his producer, Bob Johnston, who credits Dylan for stopping the war in the Viet Nam--that's a bit rich for my taste, but...

With Dylan, you always had to keep your eye on him. He came in and played a song to the band once and that was how they learned it. He never counted off, just launched right into it, so you always had to keep the tape rolling. And that wasn't easy at Columbia; we were using 4-track for that record, 8-track on Blonde on Blonde, and the machines were way down the hall. We had union engineers, so one would be in the control room at the console with me, and I'd say, “Roll tape,” and he'd tell his assistant near the door, “Roll tape,” and he'd yell down the hall to a guy at the other end, “Roll tape,” and then they'd start all over again yelling, “Is tape rolling?” God, it took 20 minutes to get those damned machines going. It was like a Three Stooges short. So I got in the habit of using several machines with Dylan so as not to lose anything. He would start a song on the piano, and if the musicians dropped out during it, he'd go to the guitar and start playing another one. I lost one song that way and said never again, so I always used multiple machines.

does explain that Is it rolling, Bob? from Nashville Skyline.
posted by y2karl at 7:04 AM on November 19, 2003

I read it, Karl, but I couldn't find it again when going back through your links 30 minutes later!
posted by planetkyoto at 7:08 AM on November 19, 2003

Oh, yes--and the Bringing It All Back Home: the Spike Lee Connection! That's Bill Lee on the right in the photo here.
posted by y2karl at 7:15 AM on November 19, 2003


You don't have permission to access /davidwomack/bobdylan-rockandroll.htm"

Oops, crashed the Womack review, Slithy_Tove--should've thought Google cache for Womack--my bad.

On that note, let me add such for Stephen Cummings's review of Blonde On Blonde for Juice magazine - 1997

I would visit my friend Bernard's parent's house Friday nights after school and listen to Dylan. We'd lock ourselves in his bedroom for hours. We drank cider, smoked cigarettes and were very intense.

Save for Bernard and the cider, there's an experience he and I had in common...

Oh, I was quoting the other Bob Johnston interview, planetkyoto.
posted by y2karl at 7:23 AM on November 19, 2003

Have just been watching Don't Look Back again recently, and marveling at what a cheeky bastard Dylan was to reporters and fans and the women in his life. I always learn something new when you post about Dylan, Karl -- thanks.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2003

Good post, y2karl. Every second of Blonde On Blonde evokes some kind of memory of something for me, it's been played so often. Now if you could just explain Renaldo & Clara.
posted by Hildago at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2003

Renaldo and Clara: a synopsis

This extensive discussion of the film 'Renaldo and Clara' was originally posted to by Marc Stein in late 1993. Perhaps it more properly belongs in a Bob Dylan Web Site, but there is enough OBC (Official Beat Content) to justify its inclusion here in Literary Kicks.

Renaldo & Clara Meet John Cage: Aleatory Cinema and the Aesthetics of Incompetence

By David Sterritt


Tarantula by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's Tarantula: An Arctic Reserve of Untapped Glimmerance Dismissed in a Ratland of Clichés
a polemic by Mark Spitzer
posted by y2karl at 1:40 PM on November 19, 2003

thanks, karl. This was great.
posted by bison at 2:24 PM on November 19, 2003

karl.... ill pay for and host im sadly dead dead dead serious
posted by Satapher at 6:41 PM on November 19, 2003

Splendid work, Karl, thank you.

Just a boy from the bush, I travelled to Sydney to see Dylan play in 1966. I remember this amazingly real little bloke, wearing (from memory) a satin polka-dot shirt. And I still have my copy of Blonde on Blonde from about that time.

There is a good story in the recent Neil Young bio Shakey about someone borrowing the hearse in the morning to drive home after a party. A few blocks along, a revenant in tattered mummy garb appears in the rear-view mirror!

It is, of course, Bob, who slept in the hearse after the party, and was in his turban phase. He refused an offer of a lift home, and set off to hitch-hike.
posted by emf at 2:26 AM on November 20, 2003

/walking antique :)
posted by emf at 3:07 AM on November 20, 2003

Oh, yes--and the Bringing It All Back Home: the Spike Lee Connection! That's Bill Lee on the right in the photo here.

Bob Dylan was not the only connection that Spike Lee's dad had with 1960s folk music. It appears that played as a session bassist on many folk rock records by Ian & Sylvia, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Odetta, among others.
posted by jonp72 at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2003

Yes, he was, for one, Odetta's touring bassist for many years as well as a jazzman on his own time.

I've always thought that his exposure to various folk music heavies he might have encountered during his father's career as a sideman to be a topic worth pursuing in a Spike Lee interview. His take on them would be very interesting.
posted by y2karl at 3:32 PM on November 20, 2003

The Annotated Blonde On Blonde. Heh, this post has been syndicated, thanks to one Sheila Lennon.

H'mm, does this count as blogrolling? For MEFi at least--although that readers' comments flesh it out further is somewhat vexing--not to mention her dippy Lester Bangs link....

Here, thanks fo freewheeling61 at Yahoo! Groups's smalltalkatthewall, is the entire Lester Bang's article on Desire. The pertinent paragraphs:

Because Desire is a sham and a fake-out. Ignoring the `El Paso' rewrites and ersatz Kristofferson plodders like `One more cup of coffee' (which is easy), we come at length (and it is reflective of neither generosity nor inspiration that side two of this album is almost thirty minutes long) to `Sara', wherein Dylan, masks off, naming names, rhapsodizes over his wife in mawkish images (`Sweet virgin angel. . . Radiant jewel'), cheap bathos (when in doubt, drag in the kids playing in the sand on the beach), simple groveling (`You
must forgive me my unworthiness'), and, most indicatively of Desire as a whole, outright lies. To wit: `I'd taken the cure and had just gotten through/Stayin' up for days in the Chelsea Hotel/Writin' "Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands" for you.'

Bullshit. I have it on pretty good authority that Dylan wrote `Sad-eyed lady', as well as about half of the rest of Blonde on Blonde wired out of his skull in the studio, just before the songs were recorded, while the session men sat around waiting on him, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. It has been suggested to me that there are better things to do with albums than to try to figure out what
drug the artist was on when he made them, but I think this was one where the chemical definitely affected the content of the music. Those lyrics were a speed trip, and if he really did spend days on end sitting up in the Chelsea sweating over lines like `your streetcar visions which you place on the grass', then he is stupider than we ever gave him credit for.

And, if you want some decent Lester Bangs links, well, you came to right place here... not Subterranean Homepage News, thank you.
posted by y2karl at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2003

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