Monday, June 20, 2016

Bob Dylan released Blonde on Blonde 50 Years Ago Today

First posted 5/16/2013; updated 6/14/2019.

Blonde on Blonde

Bob Dylan

Released: 6/20/1966

Charted: 7/23/1966

Peak: #9 US, #3 UK

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: folk rock

Quotable: “??”

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (4/16/66, #2 US, #7 UK)
  2. Pledging My Time
  3. Visions of Johanna
  4. One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) (4/14/66, #33 UK)
  5. I Want You (7/2/66, #20 US, #16 UK)
  6. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
  7. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (5/20/67, #81 US)
  8. Just Like a Woman (9/10/66, #33 US)
  9. Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
  10. Temporary Like Achilles
  11. Absolutely Sweet Marie
  12. 4th Time Around
  13. Obviously 5 Believers
  14. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands


“In 1965 and 1966, Bob Dylan went on a creative sprint that has never been matched. Over the course of fourteen months, Dylan recorded Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited – and then capped it off with Blonde on Blonde, rock’s first significant double album.” TL “If Highway 61 Revisited played as a garage rock record…Blonde on Blonde inverted that sound, blending blues, country, rock, and folk into a wild, careening, and dense sound.” TL It “is an album of enormous depth,” AMG with “a tense, shimmering tone” TL that “reaches some of Dylan’s greatest heights – which is to say, the very pinnacle of rock.” TL Dylan himself said of the album was “‘the closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind.’” JD

It “is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads.” TL “Dylan is having fun…playing with words as much for the way they sound as for what they mean.” JD “The music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands.” AMG It was “a brilliant tour through the music of America past, present and future, touching on everything from Chicago blues to country waltzes to New Orleans marches, all delivered with a voice that was full of rock ‘n’ roll passion, and the ferocity, scorn and lust of a man at the end of his rope.” JD In Howard Sounes’ Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Kooper said, “Nobody has ever captured the sound of 3 a.m. better than that album… even Sinatra, gets it as good.” JD

Dylan initially began recording in New York with his touring group, The Hawks (who later became the band). When “he couldn’t seem to find his groove” JD producer Bob Johnston suggested moving the sessions to Nashville, where Dylan assembled local session musicians along with New Yorkers Al Kooper on organ and the Hawks’ Robbie Robertson on guitar. JD Dylan was moving toward “leaving coffee bars behind forever…to bring country into rock & roll.” BL In addition, he recorded live, having musicians “record in a circle, playing off one another during a series of gloriously sloppy extended jams. Most of the 14 tracks were captured on the first or second take, shortly after Dylan finished writing them. ‘The musicians played cards, I wrote out a song, we’d do it, they'd go back to their game and I’d write out another song,’ the artist said in 1968.” JD

The album “veer[s] wildly between the silly, the serious and the surreal – sometimes all in the same song. But if there is one recurring theme at its heart, it isn't politics or spirituality (the topics the folkie purists hoped the sage would tackle), but something much more familiar yet elusive.” JD The first track, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, “epitomizes the album” JD with its “absurdist title” JD and “a delightfully ragged march (the loose feel was achieved by forcing all of the musicians to switch off from their regular instruments).” JD “The song is at once a devilishly playful and unapologetic pro-drug anthem (one of rock’s first, and most daring for the time, with its recurring refrain of ‘Everybody must get stoned’); a sarcastic and cautionary tale of how society demonizes outsiders and rebels.” JD

“A romantic masquerading as a cynic, Dylan approaches the concept of love from several different angles, equating eroticism with spiritual transcendence in Visions of Johanna; pleading for satisfaction like a clumsy, hormone-crazed teen in I Want You; summoning his full powers of poetry as a tool for seduction in Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands (Dylanologists debate whether this one was about Joan Baez or his then-wife, Sara), and finally giving up with near-misogynistic disgust in Just Like a Woman and comic resignation in Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine.” JD

Blonde on Blonde was “the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period – he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.” AMG

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