Dylan / Blonde on Blonde: 'That Thin Wild Mercury Sound' (Daryl Sanders book, Oct. 2018)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by HominyRhodes, Oct 15, 2018.

  1. Roger Ford

    Roger Ford Forum Resident

    Bristol, England
    Daryl, I have automatic book updates turned on, but I still have the first edition of your book, with no sign of the corrections you mentioned. And when I go to Manage My Content & Devices in my Amazon account, I don't see any 'Update available' flag against your book. Could you maybe check this out with Amazon if you get the chance?
  2. Roger Ford

    Roger Ford Forum Resident

    Bristol, England
    Good commentary, Peter. I'd love to know when Columbia in Nashville started producing acetates with that label design. I'm sort of surprised they were concerned with 'Compatible Stereo' as early as that.
  3. Daryl Sanders

    Daryl Sanders Forum Resident

    Will do, Roger. I'll let you know what I learn.
  4. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    Thanks to Roger for alerting me to the location of this, which is actually much longer (and much earlier on Big Blue) than I recalled.

    02 August, 1965 "Queen Jane Approximately - Take 2" (Disc 7, Track 11). It's also on the 6CD set (Disc 4, Track 9). Al is playing celeste on this take and is referencing the four note motif of The Crystals song throughout. I wonder if he had worked it out with Bob, or whether it was spontaneous...

  5. CBackley

    CBackley Chairman of the Bored

    This book sounds fantastic. Does it get into all the various stereo and mono mixes, remixes, etc?
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  6. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    If you have any love for "Blonde on Blonde" it is an essential purchase. The book doesn't address all the different mixes that emerged post-recording but I don't think that diminishes its value. Of course, @Roger Ford provides extensive commentary on mixes and a great deal more on his Electric Dylan website which he updates regularly.
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  7. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    My library just got this in. What a quick read. Real good fly on the wall stuff and some background on the musicians I didn't know.
  8. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    pp 100 - 103 (@Daryl Sanders guides us succinctly through the Nashville recording of "Visions of Johanna", having previously discussed the composition and the New York recordings at length in Chapter 3.)

    Don't ask me where I've been these last eight months - I might just tell you the truth. Well, alright, the truth is I couldn't get started on this. I mean, what else is there to say about "Visions of Johanna" that hasn't already been said? So I start with a blank page, rearrange other people's words, add a few scattershot observations, and wait for the accusations of plagiarism to roll in... :)

    We left Bob in the control room of Columbia's Studio A in Nashville at around midnight on 14 /15 February 1966, listening to a playback of the 20th take (the one slated as the second Take 19) of "4th Time Around", probably feeling very pleased that he had given the Nashville Cats a chance. There was a belief that he'd been persuaded to record with the Nashville players by Bob Johnston, but Bob Johnston, in an interview with Richard Younger in 2000, said, "I didn't have to do s**t..... I took him to Nashville ....because he'd said, "Let's go down there". It wasn't me pressuring him in any way."

    As we have seen, this take as recorded that night, with Al Kooper's organ and Kenneth Buttrey's drums locked forever together on the same tape track (or stem, as I believe it is known these days), is available only on two of the mono LPs that featured pre-overdub mixes and the LPs that feature the first stereo mix; you won't find it on "The Cutting Edge" no matter how hard you listen. (Incidentally, in that same interview with Younger, culled from several telephone conversations in 2000, Bob Johnston says about his career, "I was marvelling at everything that was happening: I was on the cutting edge.")

    Now, with the overtime clock ticking, satisfied he had a band that could decipher what he wanted out of a song, and with the newly-arrived Jerry Kennedy augmenting the soundscape with his Gibson 335, Bob elected to continue the late night/ early morning sessions with a song he'd first tried to capture during the 14 takes in New York on 30 November. (Daryl includes in his book an evocative full page photo of Jerry which is also displayed alongside the famous guitar in The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.)

    Here is an example of Jerry's guitar style from his 1965 "Nashville to Soulville" LP:-

    And this is the guitar (or, in fact, the modern day Gibson Custom Shop Jerry Kennedy "Pretty Woman" 1961 ES-335 Replica)


    Some say "Visions of Johanna" is Bob's masterpiece, as Daryl does on page 100, and who am I to argue? One thing's for sure, if Bob had landed on Earth from nowhere, recorded this one song in the way he did after midnight in Nashville and then disappeared for ever, he'd surely still be regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

    The recording of it in Nashville seemingly happened very quickly. Take 4, the released take, the final and only complete take recorded in Nashville, might remind the listener somewhat of the first complete take in New York (also, as it happens, Take 4). Back in November the session had started with the song, then called "Freeze Out", in a kind of rockabilly style, almost as though it really was a serious contender to be the next single. (The budget allocation - as seen on the Artist Job Sheet, below, recently published on Bob's Instagram site - was for a Pop Single.) By Take 3 Bob was telling the players to slow down, "It's not hard rock..." he advises. On Take 4 they almost get it, particularly Garth, but still it sounds too frantic, too much driven by Bobby Gregg's drums. Take 14 was the the last complete take, almost fully realised now, and if that one had ended up as the album cut it would still have been lauded as a major achievement, a great song.


    After the New York session, Bob took "Visions of Johanna" on the road, slotting it into his solo acoustic set, having made particular reference to the new song in his San Francisco press conference on 03 December - "You'll hear it on the next album," he said. At this point he might have thought one of the takes (either 4, 8 or 14 perhaps) would make it to the LP; he didn't try it out again at the next New York sessions in January.

    By all accounts, Bob played "Visions of Johanna" for the first time in front of an audience at Berkeley following the press conference, but the first known live recording of the song that circulates among collectors was made, with Bob's permission, by Allen Ginsberg at the San Francisco Masonic Memorial Auditorium on 11 December. The so-called "Ginsberg Tapes", featuring somewhat murky but listenable recordings made by the beat poet at the San Francisco show and the San Jose show the following night, surfaced out of the blue in 2017. Some of those bootleggers make pretty good stuff...

    Unheard Bob Dylan Show Recordings Made by Allen Ginsberg Just Surfaced Online

    The following is extracted from a post I made at the time on another thread:-


    On the San Francisco stage he tunes his guitar and blows a little harp before indicating that this next song is newly recorded, played last week in concert and that it is called "Seems Like A Freeze Out". A couple of other apparently amusing comments follow but these cannot really be determined. He follows these by announcing, deadpan to a laughing audience, the alternative title, "Alcatraz To The 9th Power Revisited", planting a collective thought in the minds of the audience that this might just be a comedy number. There follows some strumming, interrupted by another wave of subdued laughter from the audience - was he doing a couple of his Charlie Chaplin moves here, I wonder? Two minutes has passed and the strumming seems tentative, even as the audience appears to be attentive.

    Finally the song begins. A complete verse on harmonica lasting a minute before the vocal begins. It's difficult to comprehend from this distance that this is a brand new song and, what?, 99.999% of the audience that night will never have heard this song before; a song that these days is so familiar to us all . There is an occasional cough as Bob sings, carefully and with clear intonation, but the overriding impression is that the entire audience is listening intently to the words. There are chuckles in appreciation of the wordplay in:-

    "We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
    Ask himself if it's him or them that's insane."


    "He's sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
    Muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall."

    Full blooded laughter and applause breaks out after

    "But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
    You can tell that by the way she smiles.."

    but dies away immediately lest the next line is missed. More chuckles ensue for the primitive wallflower and the jelly-faced women before the place erupts with amusement after

    "Hear the one with the moustache say, "Jeez, I can't find my knees""

    There is a short, blues-tinged harmonica break before the fiddler speaks, and the peddler steps to the road and examines the nightingale's code, and there is a short harmonica flourish as the song ends to rapturous applause which is truncated by the recorder being switched off.


    The song does not feature on the recording made at the San Jose Civic Auditorium the next evening. As Ginsberg had switched off or paused the portable Uher machine between each of the songs, presumably to save tape, it is not certain whether Bob missed out "Visions of Johanna" from the set that night or Ginsberg just didn't record the performance. Either way, we know that the song continued to be played at the live shows in early 1966 leading up to the Nashville session in February.

    The Nashville recording session for the song that is presented on Big Blue is remarkably short - under 11 minutes of music from which a fully formed seven and a half minute song emerged. Take 1 is simply a 20 second false start because the vocal mic had not been switched on. At least we know from Bob Johnston's slate that the song has lost both its obscure and jokey titles. Now it is "The Visions of Johanna". On Take 2 Bob barely gets beyond the first verse before he stops. Take 3 hardly gets going, another sub-30 second false start. On none of these first three attempts has Bob begun the song with the voice of his harmonica, nor has Kenneth Buttrey joined in with that so-familiar rat-a-tat-tat drum intro, and yet here it is, "Visions of Johanna", Take 4, fully realised and ready to grace the LP - Side One, Track Three. Was there some off-mic discussion or rehearsal before Take 4, or are we hearing The Nashville Cats with Al Kooper and Bob Dylan dishing up, almost out of the blue, the best seven and a half minutes in the history of "...not hard rock..."? I leave this question hanging - how much practise must one band have....?

    One of the first significant reviews of "Blonde on Blonde" was probably the one contained in an essay written in July 1966 by Paul Williams and which featured in the 4th issue of his little mimeographed magazine "Crawdaddy" which he flogged at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival for 25 cents a piece. He called it "Understanding Dylan" and it takes a while for him to get to the review, but the first song from the album he mentions, fittingly, is "Visions of Johanna", "...full of pictures, moods, images: persons, places and things." He goes on in his inimitable style to explain that he can't necessarily explain lines like, "Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial", but then tells you how it all feels to him. He ends the essay with, "All you have to do is listen." For those who don't have the anthology of Paul's work, "Watching The River Flow", in which the essay appears, here is a link to the original.

    Crawdaddy Archives

    In late 1994 an advertisement appeared in the "On The Tracks" fanzine. Eight acetates, apparently belonging to Albert Grossman, were being auctioned - minimum bid $2000. Seven of them featured multiple tracks from "Blonde on Blonde"; one, a 10" acetate, featured - all alone - "Visions of Johanna". By the time the fanzine reached me it was far too late to make a bid but I tell myself I probably wouldn't have been successful anyway. It's a mystery to me where it and they ended up; in my world this image from the magazine is all that remains...


    Cultural End Note: In 1970 the popular beat combo from England called The Rolling Stones released an LP called "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out" featuring rocking performances from the US Tour of 1969 (with some overdubs, of course). The front cover featured a photograph by David Bailey. Although the animal on the left of the photograph is actually a donkey, not a mule, it does have jewels and binoculars hanging from its head.

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  9. Richard--W

    Richard--W Forum Resident

    Peerless post, Percy Song.
    Percy Song likes this.
  10. revolution_vanderbilt

    revolution_vanderbilt Forum Resident

    New York
    Ah, but you weren't mistaken after all. It does indeed appear here, but check out I Want You take 1. The same motif appears between the verses. On the next track, things start off with a rehearsal of sorts and you can hear Kooper in particular working on his part, coming up with something more original. By time they start performing take 2, he's already got the recognizable piece in place. It's amazing the pace they managed to achieve by the final session.
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  11. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    Yes, it's there but much less in your face than on "Queen Jane...Take 2" I think. (Don't forget, you're talking to someone who is about as deaf as it is possible to be without actually being deaf... :))
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  12. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    Definitely a worthy addition to my books about Dylan.
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  13. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    I'd forgotten about these, which should remind me to do proper research before I start a post:-

    It's most likely, I'd say, that two of the eight "Blonde on Blonde" acetates that were auctioned by "On The Tracks" in 1994 ended up on E**y at some point and are now stored in Arie's den.




    More images can be seen at SFAG

    I'd sure like to know what happened to that "Visions of Johanna" with the Nashville labels, though.

    "All you have to do is listen."

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  14. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    Apparently, around the time the sessions for "Blonde on Blonde" were concluded in March, 1966 the lyrics to "Visions of Johanna" and "4th Time Around" were submitted (by Bob via Grossman, perhaps?) for publication in a US youth-fashion magazine called "Glamour". The two-page piece, in the June edition of the magazine, was titled "Bob Dylan - Poet". Bob's name did not appear on the cover of the magazine.

    I haven't seen the magazine so it isn't clear to me if the inclusion of the lyrics was specifically part of a marketing campaign to promote the forthcoming album. I'm guessing that the June issue of "Glamour" would have been available on the news stands in May and, as we know, 16 May was the originally-planned ship date for "Blonde on Blonde".

    Note one of the features listed on the cover (presumably about Penny Ashton - the cover star): "The Blonde Who Came In From Being Too Blonde". It's not known by me whether there was an ad for leopard-skin pill-box hats in the mag... :)


  15. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    The paperback edition of "That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound" is due to be published in May! With revisions!

    @Daryl Sanders will be making an appearance on Tacoma Radio WOWD-LP (94.3 FM) on Monday, 20 January 2020 to talk about the new edition. That's tomorrow, folks. He may mention this thread.... :)

    Times: 9 a.m. EST / 8 a.m. CST / 2 p.m. GMT

    Here is the link:-

    Takoma Radio WOWD-LP FM

    Seems like there's an archive if you can't listen live.
  16. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    Michael Causey's 45 minute chat / interview with @Daryl Sanders on "Get Up" at Tacoma Radio can be heard here:-

    GET UP! WOWD DARYL SANDERS on Bob Dylan and Blonde on Blonde

    Daryl's reference to "Let It Be" was a stumble; he meant to refer to "Hey Jude". Also, of course, when talking about the lead guitar player on"Visions of Johanna" he meant to say Jerry Kennedy.

    Great to hear Kenny Buttrey's contribution to the album receiving the praise it deserves. Nice also to hear our too-long-absent thread starter @HominyRhodes getting a name check and Roger's Electric Dylan website also be publicised.

    Looking forward to the revised paperback edition.
  17. CBackley

    CBackley Chairman of the Bored

    Any idea what the revisions will entail?
  18. Dr. Luther's Assistant

    Dr. Luther's Assistant dancing about architecture

    San Francisco

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  19. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    I think it would be safe to say there will be no huge expansion to the narrative or appendices, but the existing text has been amended to deal with minor inaccuracies and information gleaned from additional research undertaken by the author during the last fifteen months or so, some of which was raised early in this thread. I'm confident it'll result in a great book being even better.
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  20. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    I sense some frustration @Dr. Luther's Assistant. :) But I think you'll agree that it's better to revise and amend a text when new evidence presents itself, especially when that evidence has been tested to destruction.
  21. Dr. Luther's Assistant

    Dr. Luther's Assistant dancing about architecture

    San Francisco

    Understood. And I agree.

    It's just that I haven't even read my hardback copy yet...
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  22. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Non-essential

  23. Percy Song

    Percy Song Tom's Tambourine Man

    I guarantee you'll enjoy it even though revisions are on the way.
  24. Dr. Luther's Assistant

    Dr. Luther's Assistant dancing about architecture

    San Francisco

    I have no doubt. Unfortunately, it's about three or four books down the queue. I've got to step it up a bit. Slacking...
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  25. CBackley

    CBackley Chairman of the Bored

    I’m curious about the extent of revisions because I, too, have yet to start reading my hardcover copy of the book. If the paperback revisions are moderately substantial or significant, I will maybe buy the paperback and sell the hardcover.

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