Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde (1966)

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter who emerged out of the early 60s folk revival to become an informal chronicler and reluctant figurehead of social unrest. He famously made the move from folk music to electric rock in the mid-60s, and has remained a major figure in music for five decades.

Released in 1966, Blonde On Blonde was Bob Dylan's third 'electric' album, by which point he had pretty much burned his bridges with the folk community he had emerged from and embraced the world of rock & roll. He had released two Top 10 singles in 1965, "Like A Rolling Stone" and the acid-tongued "Positively 4th Street" (the first included on Highway 61 Revisited and the latter a non-album single).
Both guitarist Mike Bloomfield and organist Al Kooper had then departed from his band, and so he had turned to a little-known group called Levon & The Hawks to back him for his upcoming live gigs. The Hawks consisted of four Canadians and one American, and in the early 60s had come together as the backing group of rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. His live debut with The Hawks was in September 1965, after which he had gone into the studio to try and record another hit single - the result, "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window", was not much of a success. His performances with The Hawks around this time were loud and raucous, outraging much of his original folk fanbase. However the recording sessions with them were not going well, so in February '66 Dylan went to Nashville to record songs for his next album, taking with him Al Kooper and Hawks guitarist Robbie Robertson. Joined by a cadre of professional session musicians, they succeeded in recording most of Blonde On Blonde.
It was released in the summer, being one of the first double-albums in rock music. In terms of songwriting, it followed in the footsteps of Highway 61 Revisited, with strange, modernist lyrics stretching out over numerous long verses. The music fused folk song structures with blues rhythms and rock instrumentation, though it was somewhat more laid-back in comparison to Highway 61. Dylan was particularly pleased with the sound he captured on Blonde On Blonde, referring to it as "that thin wild mercury sound".
Of the singles released from the album, the highest charting were "Rainy Day Women #12 & 25" (#2), "I Want You" (#20) and "Just Like A Woman" (#33). The album itself was greatly praised and got to #9 in the US and #3 in the UK. Retrospecively it is now seen as the third installment in his trilogy of mid-60s electric albums, one of his greatest records, and indeed a monumental release in the history of rock music. It includes many of his best songs, including "Visions Of Johanna" and "Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands".
Following its release, Dylan embarked on a European tour with The Hawks. It has gone down in history as a defining part of his career, his electric rock music provoking many of his former fans, most famously leading to an angry confrontation with one fan who accused Dylan of being Judas, at Manchester Free Trade Hall. After the tour Dylan returned to New York, exhausted, and the most prolific chapter of his career came to an end.

Highway 61 Revisited (1965) <|> John Wesley Harding (1967)
More from Bob Dylan


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An awesome album. Feckin great songs all over. God bless him.