The Making of Blonde on Blonde in Nashville
04.26.2010
07:13 pm

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
Bob Dylan

image
 
Interesting 2007 essay by Sean Wilentz from the Oxford American Magazine about the recording of one of the greatest albums of the last century, Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. A couple of interesting quotes in the piece from actor-musician Kris Kristofferson, who at the time (1965) worked as a janitor in the recording studio where the album was made. Here Wilentz describes the scene when the epic Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands was created:

The strangest Nashville recording dates were the second and third. The second began at six in the evening and did not end until five-thirty the next morning, but Dylan played only for the final ninety minutes, and on only one song: “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” He would later call it a piece of religious carnival music, which makes sense given its melodic echoes of Johann Sebastian Bach, especially the chorale “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Unlike “Visions of Johanna,” though, this epic needed work, and Dylan toiled over the lyrics for hours. The level of efficiency was military: Hurry up and wait.

Kristofferson described the scene: “I saw Dylan sitting out in the studio at the piano, writing all night long by himself. Dark glasses on,” and Bob Johnston recalled to the journalist Louis Black that Dylan did not even get up to go to the bathroom despite consuming so many Cokes, chocolate bars, and other sweets that Johnston began to think the artist was a junkie: “But he wasn’t; he wasn’t hooked on anything but time and space.” The tired, strung-along musicians shot the breeze and played ping-pong while racking up their pay. (They may even have laid down ten takes of their own instrumental number, which appears on the session tape, though Charlie McCoy doesn’t recollect doing this, and the recording may come from a different date.) Finally, at 4 a.m., Dylan was ready.

“After you’ve tried to stay awake ’til four o’clock in the morning, to play something so slow and long was really, really tough,” McCoy says. Dylan continued polishing the lyrics in front of the microphone. After he finished an abbreviated run-through, he counted off, and the musicians fell in. Kenny Buttrey recalled that they were prepared for a two- or three-minute song, and started out accordingly: “If you notice that record, that thing after like the second chorus starts building and building like crazy, and everybody’s just peaking it up ’cause we thought, ‘Man, this is it….’ After about ten minutes of this thing we’re cracking up at each other, at what we were doing. I mean, we peaked five minutes ago. Where do we go from here?”

The song came to life as swiftly as any of Dylan’s ever had, requiring only two complete takes.

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands took just two takes? WTF?
 

 
The Making of Blonde on Blonde in Nashville

Posted by Richard Metzger

 

 

comments powered by Disqus