Highway 61 Revisited sessions

June - August 1965

album released August, 1965

Ballad of a Thin Man (released)
Barbed Wire Fence (1)
Barbed Wire Fence (2)
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window (1)
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window (2; single briefly available Sept '65)
Desolation Row (1)
Desolation Row (2;released)
From a Buick 6 (1;released, then withdrawn)
From a Buick 6 (2;released)
Highway 61 Revisited (released)
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (1)
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (2; released)
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (released)
Like A Rolling Stone (released)
Positively 4th Street (single, September 1965)
Queen Jane Approximately (released)
Tombstone Blues (released)

First the official album itself: A classic! There are at least three different versions of the album - the original mono, the original stereo (both mono and stereo versions have different mixes and song lengths in some cases), and the alternate version (both mono and stereo?) with From a Buick 6 replaced by a different take (a version that is still supposed to be available in Japan). Whichever version you happen to have, this is one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made. The backup band consisting of Al Kooper / Mike Bloomfield / Harvey Brooks / Paul Griffin / Bobby Gregg still sounds vital today. There is such a great live-in-the-studio sound that has rarely been duplicated, even by Dylan himself, and has been copied by many. In fact the piano/organ/guitar sound of this album is still associated closely with the "Dylan sound", even though it may not have been entirely new at the time (The Hawks had been using this combination for years prior to hooking up with Dylan), and has been the musical basis for many bands inspired by this album (Procol Harum and Mott the Hoople to name just two). Unlike the previous album, where the electric songs were thrown in for novelty's sake, the rock numbers here are serious, ominous, and joyful at the same time!

The unreleased (at the time this was originally written) songs are of course the most interesting. Let's take them one at a time:

Barbed Wire Fence - There are two known versions of this. The best known one has been around for a long time on such famous bootlegs as Great White Wonder (the original bootleg) and Stealin', among others. No matter where I've heard this track it always changes tone and volume about midway through the song so that what starts out crisp and clear winds up sounding slightly muddy. The other, rarer version is very different. The copy I've heard is in stereo and has piano (sounds like Dylan playing) as the most prominent instrument. Bloomfield's wailing guitar can be heard in the background, but just barely. This is obviously just a run-through for the real thing. I'm hoping that version 1, the strongest take, will be released officially on the upcoming CD set because I'd really like to hear this song without the tonal change in the middle.

Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window - Once again there are two different versions floating about; one fairly well known and the other pretty obscure. Both versions sound very similar, but the more familiar one is definitely superior. In fact the better take was officially released by mistake under the title Positively 4th Street and quickly withdrawn. I was lucky enough to find a copy not too long ago when I bought what I thought was the common Positively 4th Street single. Shocked the shit out of me when Crawl Out Your Window came crashing out of my stereo instead! Those who have only heard this song on Biographhave been missing quite a lot and I hope this mistaken single version will find its way onto an official collection someday. By the way, contrary to popular belief that's neither an electric piano nor a xylophone being played - it's actually a celeste.

Desolation Row (version 1) - The song as it wound up on the album was recorded at a different session with different musicians and is the only "acoustic" song on the album. It's great but I prefer the earlier take recorded at the Kooper/Bloomfield sessions. This version is slightly slower and much more dramatic. It also features some interesting variations on the lyrics ("they're feeding Casanova the boiled guts of birds" rather than "to get him to feel more assured", for instance). No drums or keyboards; instead what we have is Dylan on acoustic guitar accompanied by Bloomfield on electric guitar and (probably) Harvey Brooks on electric bass. It's only a rehearsal and there may be other, more fully-electric versions in existence.

From a Buick 6 (version 1) - This version is the weaker take (in my opinion) that found its way onto the official album for a brief period of time. Some of the lyrics are different, but not drastically so, and the entire musical feel is different. It starts out with harmonica and the lead guitar is more Muddy Waters than Chuck Berry.

It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry (version 1) - The same arrangement as performed at Newport '65, this features the full hard-rocking Kooper/Bloomfield sound ala Tombstone Blues. This version is exciting, but I think it's one example of where the final released version is way better. The lyrics have wild variations and the original title of the song was Phantom Engineer!

Rough mixes for most of the "official" songs are also in circulation. These songs include Like a Rolling Stone, Positively 4th Street, Tombstone Blues, It Takes a Lot To Laugh (version 2) as well as the alternate Desolation Row and the rarer take of Crawl Out Your Window. The nice thing about these rough mixes is the opportunity to hear the endings without the fadeouts.



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