May 16: Bob Dylan released Blonde On Blonde in 1966

blonde on blonde

May 16: Bob Dylan released  Blonde On Blonde in 1966

The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde on Blonde album. It’s that thin, that wild mercury sound. It’s metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That’s my particular sound.
~Bob Dylan (to Ron Rosenbaum – Nov 1977)

Blonde on Blonde is all resonance. The songs and their stories and evocative lines and seductive melodies inhabit a realm of sound unique to this album, different from anything created before or since by Dylan or anyone else. Dylan called it “that thin, that wild mercury sound-metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up.”
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan Performing Artist I: The Early Years 1960-1973)

bob dylan blonde on blonde photshoot

To have followed up one masterpiece with another was Dylan’s history making achievement here…Where Highway 61 Revisited has Dylan exposing and confronting like a laser beam in surgery, descending from outside the sickness, Blonde on Blonde offers a persona awash inside the chaos…We’re tossed from song to song…The feel and the music are on a grand scale, and the language and delivery are a rich mixture of the visionary and the colloquial.
~Michael Gray (Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan)

Visions of Johanna – Live in Melbourne 1966:

The ghost of electricity
Howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna
Have now taken my place

Wikipedia:

Released May 16, 1966; the date is only “theoretical”. Check David Burgess’s comment to the post.
Recorded October 5, 1965; November 30, 1965; and January 25, 1966, Studio A, Columbia Recording studios, New York; February 14–17 and March 8–10, 1966, Columbia Music Row Studios, Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Folk rock
Length 72:57
Label Columbia
Producer Bob Johnston

Blonde on Blonde is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on May 16, 1966 on Columbia Records. Recording sessions began in New York in October 1965 with numerous backing musicians, including members of Dylan’s live backing band, The Hawks. Though sessions continued until January 1966, they yielded only one track that made it onto the final album—”One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”. At producer Bob Johnston’s suggestion, Dylan, keyboardist Al Kooper, and guitarist Robbie Robertson moved to the CBS studios in Nashville, Tennessee. These sessions, augmented by some of Nashville’s top session musicians, were more fruitful, and in February and March all the remaining songs for the album were recorded.

Blonde on Blonde completed the trilogy of rock albums that Dylan recorded in 1965 and 1966, starting with Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Critics often rank Blonde on Blonde as one of the greatest albums of all time. Combining the expertise of Nashville session musicians with a modernist literary sensibility, the album’s songs have been described as operating on a grand scale musically, while featuring lyrics one critic called “a unique blend of the visionary and the colloquial”. It was one of the first double albums in rock music.

The album peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart in the USA, where it eventually went double-platinum, and reached No. 3 in the UK. Blonde on Blonde spawned two singles that were top twenty hits in the USA: “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “I Want You”. Two further songs, “Just Like a Woman” and “Visions of Johanna”, have been described as among Dylan’s greatest compositions and were featured in Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

bob dylan 1966 5

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again – Live version from 1999:

Recording Sessions:

Recording sessions took place in New York City @ Studio A, Columbia Recording studios between October 5, 1965 & January 25, 1966. And in Nashville @  Columbia Music Row Studios between February 14 & March 10, 1966.

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He had a piano in his room at the hotel and during the day I would go up there and he would teach me a song. I would be like a cassette machine. I would play the song over and over on the piano for him. This served a double purpose. One, he could concentrate on writing the lyrics and didn’t have to mess with playing the piano; two, I could go to the studio early that night and teach it to the band before he even got there, so they could be playing the song before he even walked through the door.
~Al Kooper (talking about BoB recording sessions)

Al-Kooper & bob dylan

Al Kooper: The Making of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde / The Record That Changed Nashville (50min video):

Track listing

All songs written by Bob Dylan.

Side one
  1. “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”  – 4:36
  2. “Pledging My Time”  – 3:50
  3. “Visions of Johanna”  – 7:33
  4. “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”  – 4:54
Side two
  1. “I Want You”  – 3:07
  2. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”  – 7:05
  3. “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”  – 3:58
  4. “Just Like a Woman”  – 4:52
Side three
  1. “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)”  – 3:30
  2. “Temporary Like Achilles”  – 5:02
  3. “Absolutely Sweet Marie”  – 4:57
  4. “4th Time Around”  – 4:35
  5. “Obviously 5 Believers”  – 3:35
Side four
  1. “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”  – 11:23

Personnel

  • Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano
Additional musicians
  • Bill Aikins – keyboards
  • Wayne Butler – trombone
  • Kenneth Buttrey – drums
  • Rick Danko or Bill Lee – bass guitar (New York)
  • Bobby Gregg – drums (New York)
  • Paul Griffin – piano (New York)
  • Jerry Kennedy – guitar
  • Al Kooper – organ, guitar
  • Charlie McCoy – bass guitar, guitar, harmonica, trumpet
  • Wayne Moss – guitar, vocals
  • Hargus “Pig” Robbins – piano, keyboards
  • Robbie Robertson – guitar, vocals
  • Henry Strzelecki – bass guitar
  • Joe South – bass guitar, guitar
Technical personnel
  • Bob Johnston – production
  • Jerry Schatzberg – cover photographer

4th Time Around – Sydney 1966

Critical reception and legacy

  • Pete Johnson in the Los Angeles Times, “Dylan is a superbly eloquent writer of pop and folk songs with an unmatched ability to press complex ideas and iconoclastic philosophy into brief poetic lines and startling images.”
  • The editor of Crawdaddy!Paul Williams, reviewed Blonde on Blonde in July 1966: “It is a cache of emotion, a well handled package of excellent music and better poetry, blended and meshed and ready to become part of your reality. Here is a man who will speak to you, a 1960s bard with electric lyre and color slides, but a truthful man with x-ray eyes you can look through if you want. All you have to do is listen.”
  •  In 1974, the writers of NME voted Blonde on Blonde the No. 2 album of all time. 
  • Demonstrating the transitory nature of such polls, in 1997 the album was placed at No. 16 in a “Music of the Millennium” poll conducted by HMV,Channel 4The Guardian and Classic FM. 
  • In 2006, TIME magazine included the record on their 100 All-TIME Albums list. 
  • In 2003, the album was ranked No. 9 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
  •  In 2004, two songs from the album also appeared on the magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time: “Just Like a Woman” ranked No. 230 and “Visions of Johanna” No. 404.

Bob Dylan 1966 10

 

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-Egil & Hallgeir

12 thoughts on “May 16: Bob Dylan released Blonde On Blonde in 1966”

  1. In England Blonde on Blonde was released on Friday 29th July 1966 the day before the World Cup final
    I know this because I was in my local record shop in Wembley as they unpacked it

  2. Shalom & Boker tov…This is nonsense. I bought my copy on 28 June 1966 in Horrorwood…my sister had later a radio promo copy with 15 July on the white labels. ‘One of Us’/’Queen Jane’ was the 14 February 1966 single (4-43541), and ‘Rainy Day’/’Pledging’ was released in April (4-43592). It was in June (the album was not available anywhere) that I was thrilled when ‘I Want You’/Tom Thumb’s’ was released as a single (4-43683), giving us all a chance to hear a live ‘Tom Thumb’ with The Hawks from Liverpool 14 May 1966. On 16 June 1966, there was an overdubbing of ‘4th Time Around’ in Nashville, a new drum track by Ken Buttrey added to the original tape (a plan to have Charlie McCoy play harpsichord with the drums was abandoned before the session), replacing the old drum/organ track, which makes a 16 May 1966 release date one of those quantum impossibilities….it is analogous to the 5 October 1965 ‘Can You Please’ sessions being the basis for the single, but THE CUTTING EDGE saying it was recorded in November 1965 yet released as a single earlier…. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    STEPHAN PICKERING / חפץ ח”ם בן אברהם
    Torah אלילה Yehu’di Apikores / Philologia Kabbalistica Speculativa Researcher
    לחיות זמן רב ולשגשג

    THE KABBALAH FRACTALS PROJECT

  3. This album has been riding shotgun with me for many years. Each track a trip into another in time and space that only Bobby seems to own. Following him as he takes us into his world of vision is one of the rarest of rare privileges.

  4. Bob was and still is a cutie, I guess he owns the 60’s, same way Lou Reed owns the 80’s, no Daniel Lanois produced comeback can hold a candle to New York, no one can, Bob was pretty cool in the 80’s though!!

  5. In response to Geoff Chambers claim that he borrowed most of the melodies on the album I think by this stage Dylan was developing as a composer not just a lyricist. I know Dylan is a bit of magpie but there are some really strong sturdy melodies here which are not simply blues based structures.For example ONE OF US MUST KNOW/ MEMPHIS BLUES/JUST LIKA A WOMAN/MOST LIKELY…/ SWEET MARIE ./SAD EYED LADY are brilliant tunes which show another less stated side to Dylan’s creativity. Even when working within a more traditional structures he stills put his own unique spin on it For me Blonde on Blonde is His most complete work.

  6. The album was released in the U.S. at the end of June, sometime during the week that started with Sunday, June 19th. I was eagerly awaiting Blonde On Blonde, and unlike previous Dylan albums, knew this one was coming. The single of “I Want You” with the live “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” was released ahead of the album, and as noted in the comments above, May 16th would have been an impossible date to get it out. I was constantly calling record stores as well as Columbia Records distribution centers (yep, they existed back then, great place to get posters) trying to find the release date. I saw my first copy in a record store in Times Square the last weekend in June. I was on my way to summer camp and had to go in early since I was counselor in training.

  7. Wayne Moss – guitar, vocals
    Robbie Robertson – guitar, vocals

    What vocals did these two provide? The Rainy Day Women whoops and laughs?

    I do not recollect any other backing vocals on the album.

  8. May 16 was Columbia’s official release date, but Michael Gray claims it could have been released in the U.S. as late as July. I’m inclined toward late June based on the following Billboard ad:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=MikEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA19&dq=%22blonde+on+blonde%22+bob-dylan+billboard&hl=en&ei=tE2OTf-3HfO-0QGTxvCoCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CEwQ6AEwCTgK#v=onepage&q&f=false

    One of the more remarkable things about BoB, I think, is that Dylan arrived in Nashville with very few songs ready to record. So he wrote most of the album in his hotel room. As usual, he borrowed most of his melodies from classics. For example, Pledging My Time is Robert Johnson’s Come On in My Kitchen and Obviously Five Believers is Memphis Minnie’s Me and My Chauffeur. But he gave the songs a whole new life with his arrangements, his lyrics and “that wild mercurial sound.” Brilliant stuff.

    1. Nice one Geoff I have downloaded that ad to keep . I see the copy ad does not mention the two singles by name on the album cover .

  9. Hi Folks Blonde on Blonde was not released in the UK until early August as it first appeared in the chart about 22nd of that month .The front features includes Rainy Day Women and I Want You as they were both released as singles I Want You was not released until June at least as the b side ” Tom Thumb ” was recorded on 14th May in Liverpool .The date of May release is too soon for the album .

    1. Thanks for the comment David,

      I knew the date was “theoretical” (many of the “release date”s I use are), but I should (and will) comment on the date in the post.

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