Desolation Row

In 1963, the director Federico Fellini released his film 8 ½ with the following scene opening the movie: The scene depicts a man feeling a panic attack come over him during a traffic jam in the inner city. Smoke or steam pours into his car. He struggles to leave the car while faces from theContinue reading “Desolation Row”

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

The legend of The Basement Tapes is that Bob Dylan and The Band woodshedded in Woodstock, NY, making music and writing songs during the summer and fall of 1967 away from the rest of the world. At the time, Dylan was 26 years old and the father of three, including his adopted five-year old daughterContinue reading “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”

Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)

In an interview for Spin in December 1985, Bob Dylan said the following about the act of songwriting: “The best songs are the songs you write that you don’t know anything about. They’re an escape. I don’t do too much of that because maybe it’s more important to deal with what’s happening rather than toContinue reading “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”

When I Paint My Masterpiece

The crime novelist James Ellroy, who is known for giant and intricate novels such as L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid, opens his public appearances book readings with a hyperbolic self introduction. Here’s one version: “Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I’m James Ellroy, the demon dog with the hog-log, the foul owlContinue reading “When I Paint My Masterpiece”

Watching the River Flow

In March 1971, Bob Dylan entered the studio searching for a new sound after the pastoral feel of his previous album New Morning. The song “Watching the River Flow” was the single that emerged from those sessions: This recording session was produced by Leon Russell, a former studio musician who had achieved renown for leadingContinue reading “Watching the River Flow”

Visions of Johanna

On Valentine’s Day 1966 in Nashville, TN, Bob Dylan was finally able to record a version of the song “Visions of Johanna” to his liking: He had debuted the song in concert the previous October in Baltimore and had struggled with various arrangements and instrumentation during a recording session in November 1965 in New YorkContinue reading “Visions of Johanna”

Up to Me

On September 19, 1974, Bob Dylan recorded the song “Up to Me”: It was the last day of the New York sessions for what would become the 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Dylan, aiming for a more commercial sound, re-recorded some of the songs captured in New York before the release of the album.Continue reading “Up to Me”

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You

In 1971, Bob Dylan was interviewed by his friend Tony Glover, though the conversation was not published until 2020. Dylan was direct in his answers throughout and provided an interesting perspective on the relationship between two of his albums, 1967’s John Wesley Harding and 1969’s Nashville Skyline: “The songs of John Wesley Harding were allContinue reading “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You”

Tombstone Blues

Bob Dylan was asked about his 1965 hilariously surreal rock ‘n roll masterpiece “Tombstone Blues” for the 1985 box set Biograph by interviewer Cameron Crowe. Dylan recalled the inspiration for the composition of the song 20 years later: “I felt like I’d broken through with this song, that nothing like it had been done before…justContinue reading “Tombstone Blues”

To Ramona

Bob Dylan recorded all 11 songs on his fourth album — Another Side of Bob Dylan — on a single night, June 9, 1964. As demonstrated in the title, the songs reflected a shift in Dylan’s writing style. The writer Nat Hentoff was present for the recording of the album on that night in JuneContinue reading “To Ramona”