….when we recorded Bringing It All Back Home, that was like a break through point, it’s the kind of music I’ve been striving to make and I believe that in time people will see that. It’s hard to explain it, it’s that indefinable thing..
~Bob Dylan (Paul Gambaccini Interview, June 81)
This is the point where Dylan eclipses any conventional sense of folk and rewrites the rules of rock, making it safe for personal expression and poetry, not only making words mean as much as the music, but making the music an extension of the words. A truly remarkable album.
~Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com)
#1 – Subterranean Homesick Blues
Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
By the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten
Your breath is sweet
Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
Your back is straight, your hair is smooth
On the pillow where you lie
But I don’t sense affection
No gratitude or love
Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above
One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee ’fore I go
To the valley below
JW: John Wesley Harding – why did you call the album that?
BD: We… I called it that because I had that song John Wesley Harding. It didn’t mean anything to me. I called it that, Jann, ‘cause I had the song John Wesley Harding, which started out to be a long ballad. I was gonna write a ballad on… Like maybe one of those old cowboy… You know, a real long ballad. But in the middle of the second verse, I got
tired. I had a tune, and I didn’t want to waste the tune, it was a nice little melody, so I just wrote a quick third verse, and I recorded that. But it was a silly little song….
~Bob Dylan to Jann Wenner November 29, 1969
This quiet masterpiece, which manages to sound both authoritative and tentative (a mix that gave it a highly contemporary feel), is neither a rock nor a folk album—and certainly isn’t folk-rock. It isn’t categorisable at all.
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)
51 years ago Bob Dylan entered Columbia Studio A, Nashville Tennessee tempting his third (and final) recording session for “John Wesley Harding”.
May God bless and keep you always May your wishes all come true May you always do for others And let others do for you May you build a ladder to the stars And climb on every rung May you stay forever young Forever young, forever young May you stay forever young
May you grow up to be righteous May you grow up to be true May you always know the truth And see the lights surrounding you May you always be courageous Stand upright and be strong May you stay forever young Forever young, forever young May you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy May your feet always be swift May you have a strong foundation When the winds of changes shift May your heart always be joyful May your song always be sung May you stay forever young Forever young, forever young May you stay forever young
– Forever Young by Bob Dylan
Here is a great live version.
San Francisco, California
25 November 1976
Dylan delivers a knock-out performance. The gospel material is powerful and biting without a condescending edge. The older standards are performed with a new fire and passion that includes them among the best live versions to date. Dylan stumbles on the lyrics once or twice, but adds new lines as well that more than compensate. The vocals are crisp are over the top out front and in your face. The music is tight, well mixed, and well performed.
Saenger Theater Saenger Performing Arts Center New Orleans, Louisiana 10 November 1981
Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
Fred Tackett (guitar)
Steve Ripley (guitar)
Al Kooper (keyboards)
Tim Drummond (bass)
Jim Keltner (drums)
Arthur Rosato (drums)
Clydie King, Regina Havis, Madelyn Quebec (background vocals)