Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks

Now for the first time ever – the inside story of the recording of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks is finally told!

One of the two people in the control room during the entire recording of the New York sessions, Glenn Berger, has written the shocking, thrilling inside story on these sessions and the man who created this masterwork, Bob Dylan.

 

This has been called a “must read” by over 25,000 readers.

Here are some of the reviews:

To me this is an incredible piece and a document of art history. Make sure that it does not get lost in the infinity of the internet. Thanks for posting this. Joachim Richter

you outgha write a book about your studio times. great stuff! owen

Yes, you do have a book here and one I would love to read. You have an understanding of artists and art that few have anymore – people are screwed by “People” magazine mentality, but you were and are interested in the substance and source. Thank you. Write the book, please, whatever it is. jfreed
This is a great, great story. Very well written! It’s about the ‘coming of age’ of a youngster who is witnessing the making of history. Thanks for posting this beautiful story. (PS: I would have published it in a magazine or a book, instead on the internet) Tjeerd

Thans for a beautifuly written essay that captures an incredibly important moment. Ron Rosenbaum

You tell the story like it was yesterday. Thank you for this piece. You’ve done a great job putting this memory down in words. I could feel the passion beating throughout the passages. MonicaC

That was one of the best Bob Dylan pieces I’ve ever read. Read it top to bottom. Beautifully woven story.

truly an amazing piece of history and music presented and preserved with great flair while still being, as you yourself may have put it, quiet…humble…a bit in the background. i absolutely loved this article and hope to read more from you in the future. ken hill

You nailed it, Glenn: the immediacy of the sessions, the 19 year old’s POV of a major music industry event — the rusty razor blade that was NYC in 1974. Awesome.
sb

Please think about writing a book on your experiences! This is fascinating info…

 

As a writer I put an amazing amount of time and effort into my craft. If you’d like to make a contribution of a mere $3.29 to purchase this as an ebook that would be great.

Buy Now
 

OR YOU CAN READ ”BOB DYLAN’S BLOOD ON THE TRACKS: THE UNTOLD STORY” FOR FREE BY CLICKING HERE.

 

[button link="http://wp.me/p1TMxi-ei" type="icon" newwindow="yes"] Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks: The Untold Story[/button]

 

[box type="bio"]

Dr. Glenn Berger is a psychotherapist, relationship counselor, business and artist’s coach, and young person’s mentor. He sees patients in New York City, in Mt. Kisco, NY, and around the world by Skype.[/box]

[one_half][box type="info"]Ask Dr. Berger for FREE advice now.

[button link="http://www.glennberger.net/contact" color="red"] Ask Here Now

[/button][/box][/one_half]

[one_half_last][box type="info"]Make an appointment with Dr. Berger now.

[button link="http://www.glennberger.net/contact" color="red"] Start Now

[/button][/box][/one_half_last]

[box type="download"]The PsychotherapistAre you looking for instant relief from anxiety or anger?

 

Purchase Shrinky’s Remedies, apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad.

 

Carry proven therapeutic techniques in your pocket, to use whenever you need them, all for $2.99.

[button link="http://wp.me/P1TMxi-4n" color="red"] Buy Shrinky Now

[/button][/box]

DiggFacebookLinkedInShare

95 Responses to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks: The Untold Story

  1. I enjoyed your peice. but I dont think dylan has ever poured his guts out on anything. things are just easy for him. I got to hang out with him the day he made the video for Political World. he wasnt’ even concerned. He wasn’t concerned if it worked or it didn’t. Nor is he concerned about this woman from NYTimes. He’s just done his thing and it’s always worked. good or bad, he’s the bob. of course he’s worked hard, but things have come easy for him. I love selfportrait. before its time. people are stupid. dylan is smart and dont talk.

    • Darkeyez says:

      Dylan not concerning himself with a video shoot, and not concerning himself with a recording session, are two completely different things. Although he is the master of “if this doesnt work, move on” you’ve got to understand that he is a mental genius and a sponge, to figure that out we also would have to know what it’s like – and we never will, only Shakespeare, Mozart, and Chopin can ;-)

    • raggedclown says:

      Music videos are just record company shit, Bob has never hidden the fact that he couldn’t give a stuff about them. He put more of himself into ‘Blood on the Tracks’ than maybe any record he’s ever done; the title is not an accident.

      This is an excellent article. Unfortunately, Glenn doesn’t get mentioned in the otherwise excellent book ‘A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks’ by Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard (2004). That book is still a must read, though, especially if you want to know about the Minnesota sessions and the uncredited musicians in them. Maybe Glenn should contact the authors in case they do a second edition!

  2. Tony Brown says:

    What made it doubly difficult for the sidemen (at least for me)was that Dylan had his guitar in an open tuning, yet he was fingering chords on top of that tuning. So it was virtually impossible to read the chords unless you knew the tuning, which I didn’t!
    However, it gave his guitar a distinctive and striking sound which can best be heard on the NY sessions version of Tangled Up in Blue. TB

    • Darkeyez says:

      You did better than you probably think. I prefer the NY sessions to the “juiced up” Minn versions. Intimacy is what those songs needed and you have it to us. Thank god we’ve got to hear them!

    • Shrinky says:

      Hi Tony. Thanks for reading, writing, and adding a nuance I was unaware of! You did an even more amazing job than I knew.

      • a. says:

        glenn, thanks for this, thanks so much.

        i thought i’ll write in to tell you that i live in very-far-away india, have never travelled to the united states, but i have a CD of blood on the tracks in the glove compartment of my car, and that CD contains the version you recorded.

        i haven’t listened to the MN version much since i got my hands on the blood on the tracks NY sessions about ten years ago. what you helped create has endured and passed the great tests of time and distance. just thought you’d like to know.

        peace, and thank you again.

    • gringo557 says:

      I’ve never heard anybody else get the correct open tuning correct on their covers of Blood On The Tracks songs. It took me a couple of years, but eventually figured it out and then learned all the unusual guitar chords that he used in the songs. It’s about 8 or 10 positions all used throughout the original New York sessions versions. Kinda brilliant, really, to create all those great songs with 8 or 10 positions. What a crime Dylan re-recorded in Minnesota. I always considered those versions lame compared to the original NY sessions.

  3. Amber Harvey says:

    I enjoyed this especially the philosophy expressed in: “He goes down, deeper into himself than any of us dare, goes through hell on the journey, steals the sacred fire, and brings it up to share with the rest of us. Who are we to judge the way he behaves when he does that much for us?” In the end it’s what he’s done artistically that counts. He’s used his great gifts and I thank him for that.

  4. Darkeyez says:

    Jesus that was a good read. With Bob you’ve got to be ready for anything, and that being said it doesn’t surprise me that he re-recorded the songs (Im familiar with all the BOTT sessions). I appreciate you giving us this side of the story on the NY sessions, others have tried but only you and Phil have enough cred to really give us the truth.

  5. Joachim Richter says:

    To me this is an incredible piece and a document of art history. Make sure that it does not get lost in the infinity of the internet. Thanks for posting this.

  6. owen says:

    you outgha write a book about your studio times. great stuff!

    • jfreed says:

      Yes, you do have a book here and one I would love to read. You have an understanding of artists and art that few have anymore – people are screwed by “People” magazine mentality, but you were and are interested in the substance and source. Thank you. Write the book, please, whatever it is.

  7. Junior says:

    Shrinky, you are a writer. God bless you.

  8. DianeS says:

    I think you read too much into his comment. He wasn’t asking if the song itself was sincere. Of course it was when he wrote it. The question was whether he captured the sincerity of it on that recording.

  9. MemphisBluesAgain says:

    Great behind the scenes info and very well told Glenn. Thanks for sharing. Had always heard rumors of Mick Jagger wanting to play drums on some of the NYC BOTT sessions. Your story finally places Jagger near the scene. Great stuff.

  10. Tjeerd says:

    This is a great, great story. Very well written! It’s about the ‘coming of age’ of a youngster who is witnessing the making of history. Thanks for posting this beautiful story.

    Tjeerd
    Holland

    (PS: I would have published it in a magazine or a book, instead on the internet)

  11. Liamy says:

    Glenn

    ONEderful! May you continue to build a ladder to the stars… Beannachtaí, LMN

  12. Kevin says:

    That was a great and well written story man. I can feel your angst during the recording parts, and the disappointment that must have been felt when you read the album cover. Hey, on the bright side, I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime down the line the NY version is released as a volume of the Bootleg Series, and your deserved credit is officially revealed. Best wishes

  13. Thans for a beautifuly written essay that captures an incredibly important moment.
    The one thing I don’t get is why you were so shocked by the “sincere” comment. Maybe you had to be there, but it sure sounds to me like Dylan sarcasm (one of his most finely honed attributes). Coudn’t it be that it wasn’t that he’d been faking it, it was that he knew how incredibly it had been, and was a bit embarrassed by the nakedness of the self-disclosure and said what he said to be kind of self-deprecating, and cover up his genuine woundedness? And so what if he’d been faking it anyway? All great art isn’t purely confessional or autobiograhical, right?

    I’m working on a book about D. for Yale University Press and I’d love it if you’d contact me to discuss. But in any case thanks for the great read.

    • Shrinky says:

      Great points, Ron. You’ve captured the many possible nuances. I can understand all that now, but couldn’t then. I’d love to talk.

      • That would be great. Where are you located? I’m in NYC. Email me when you get a channe. I’m interested in what you think/howwould ou describe what makes Dylan Dylan and not just another great great singer/songwriter.
        Anyway somebody’s line came to mind:”Sincerity is the most difficult thing to achieve in art. Once you can fake that, you’re golden.” Or something like that. Could hav been said by Bob since he often seems obsessed with whether or not he was sincere. Like when he now says he never liked folk music.”Folk music is for fat peole”. But he must have been “sincere’ when he wrote “song for Woody”. Or did he fake that?

        • Tony Kleu says:

          Ron, that was actually a French playwright, [Hippolyte] Jean Giraudoux: “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
          Heorge Burns is credited with a version of that, but like any decent comic he scavenged widely!

          Glenn, that was a great read, thank you :)

    • Fred says:

      As a strict orthodox Marxist I have to tell you that
      Groucho his very self said :

      “Sincerity – If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

    • James says:

      Ron, I think you got it. My first thoughts as well. Looking forward to your book.

      And Glenn, thanks for your writing. There’s a thread on it here, in case you haven’t seen it. Take with a grain of salt though:

      http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=249003

      James (in Vancouver, BC)

  14. wardo says:

    Indeed. A wonderful read, and any of your other stories about working at A&R would be great. Thanks for letting us into the sessions!

  15. MonicaC says:

    You tell the story like it was yesterday. Thank you for this piece.
    You’ve done a great job putting this memory down in words. I could feel the passion beating throughout the passages.

    I think Bob has so many levels in his personality just as many as in his songs. We will never understand him because he works on his own orbit. Sometimes he troubles us when we get to know more about him, at the same time he gives us tremendous delight for his genius.

  16. Corliss Harmer says:

    Great read, Glenn. Wish you had expanded the part where he came back to re-record. But I have the sense that this is a intermediate draft in what will be a larger story, a story about you and life with glimpses of these greats to learn from. The true hero is the Great Soul within us all, the one that gets crucified and rises from the dead, sort of. (Otherwise we wouldn’t all love Dylan as we do.)
    I love how you use lines from the songs to illustrate the feelings that came up in the recording. Once in an AA meeting it came out of my mouth that “feelings are like Jaws, you can never tell when they will come up and get you.” Dylan sure could express raw feelings. And you show a lot of raw feelings in this piece, as with killing the cats. I’d like more blow by blow detail on that if you can remember it, but– you are the mixer on this piece of art!

  17. Peter Wiley says:

    I commented yesterday and put your article on my Facebook page. That was one of the best Bob Dylan pieces I’ve ever read. Read it top to bottom. Beautifully woven story. Did Dylan rerecord some of those tracks in MN and are those tracks on Blood On The Tracks?

    I always wondered about that title as with many things Dylan writings; is that a reference to shooting heroin?

    • DianeS says:

      It’s a hunting term. If you’re tracking a wounded animal you’re looking for blood on the tracks.

      And of course the tracks on the record itself.

  18. Victoria Miller says:

    It is all about the story after all. This was wonderful to read. The place, the time, the equipment, the people. Just goes to show how much really goes into the creative process, and how much great help great artists require to get it ‘out there’. And the story continues to be told. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Moses Kravitz says:

    Thanks for the great writing and clearing up once and for all that Phil was not in The Ramones ;)

  20. allison hadar says:

    Glenn, you always leave me floored by your honest writing. I was going to read the sunday paper this morning but quickly ran thru my emails first when I saw this. I spent a very happy hour reading and picturing. I’m a die hard Dylan fan. Blood On The Tracks got me thru many years of my youth and beyond. I’m so glad you had the courage, finally, after all these years to process what went on and to declare your place in it. It’s fucking amazing that you were there.

  21. Pete Hill says:

    Re-recording half the tracks in Minnesota was one of the biggest blunders of Dylan’s career I reckon.
    The original album is one of the greatest things he ever did.
    The Minnesota versions are a travesty; the studio musicians don’t give him decent support and most of the lyric rewrites are inferior.

  22. John says:

    Mr. Rosenbaum

    In “Chronicles”, Dylan elaborates at great length on his love for folk music and the great impact it had on his life and music. I don’t think there’s any question of his regard for it.

    That book actually does accomplish what I think he wanted it to; It explains what he was thinking at certain times, and why he did what he did. It dismantles some of this “mysterious, enigmatic” stuff that always gets thrown at him.

  23. ken hill says:

    truly an amazing piece of history and music presented and preserved with great flair while still being, as you yourself may have put it, quiet…humble…a bit in the background.

    i absolutely loved this article and hope to read more from you in the future.

  24. horizonwarrior says:

    I am not surprised by any of this….

  25. tjkeats says:

    Lots of possible associations in “blood on the tracks.” One curious reference to “blood on the track” (singular) is to be found in the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. When each of the step sisters in turn tries to jam her foot into the glass slipper and cannot, the mother cuts off part of her foot to make it fit. As the Prince and the evil sister ride off a bird speaks to the Prince, saying “Prithee look back, prithee look back/ there’s blood on the track/ the slipper’s too small/ the true bride waits you home at her hall.”

  26. John Howells says:

    I’m wondering how “Meet Me In The Morning”/”Call Letter Blues” came about. Those were the only songs from the New York sessions to feature an entire band. According to the session notes, those two songs were recorded between “Lily” and “Idiot Wind”, both of which were just Dylan and Tony Brown (overdubs on “Idiot Wind” presumably came later). What was your recollection of this? Were the other musicians overdubbed at a later time?

  27. Rickety Syd says:

    Interesting read, if but a bit too dramatic at times . . . it isn’t necessary to punch someone in the face with every sentence (Raymond Carver knew this best), but a good read anyway . . . and a great insight into what Dylan was like in the studio while working on one of his greatest albums . . . people often dismiss him as kind of a jerk when he worked . . . but I prefer the term “focused” . . .

  28. Marisa Frasca says:

    Art generates art — and this writing, too, is a piece of art. Thank you, Glenn.

  29. martin says:

    Wonderful article – still hot because it seems like you’re still dealing with it. Please do write a book woth all this kind of “insider” stuff. It’s not gossip, it’s genuinely interesting. I imagine that he wrong-footed the session musicians to try to open them up. And it worked. The NY “Idiot Wind” always seemed to me too slow, too confessional, but above all else too slow. “You won’t get it for money” is too simple. “The priest wore black on the Sabbath day/ And sat stone-faced while the building burned” arrested my young 19 year old heart then and as a 53 year old I haven’t seen through to the end of it yet. God knows how many thousands of us have dreamt about getting close to La Zimm: you did, and when he was at his most creative, and you write compellingly about it. I guess you have a much better idea than most of us how it feels not to have written Blood on the Tracks

  30. Mike Roos says:

    Shrinky, this is terrific. Let me join those encouraging you to include this in a book about your experiences. It’s not only that it’s important as history. You write in an engaging style that puts us right there with you at the console next to Phil. Thanks for sharing.
    Was that sincere enough?
    Mike

  31. Thomas LaBelle says:

    Thanks for a great read Glenn. Blood on the Tracks, indeed. From what I’ve been able to deduce from listening to Dylan all these years, I would think that his “Was that sincere enough?” was not intended for the immediate listeners. He was probably responding to the air around him and to someone who had recently questioned his sincerity. Sara? Who knows?

  32. Fabrice says:

    I have another view on the “sincerity” issue and your disappointment. Any actor wants to be sincere when he goes up on a stage, even though he’s saying the lines someone else writes and he’s read them a thousand times. You need a reality check, even if you wrote the lines. “Is it good enough? Is it as sincere as I’d like it to be? Did it touch you? Is it as fresh as when I first thought of it or did I take the energy out of it? Does it rock enough?” I think that’s all he was saying.

  33. Tim says:

    “Sincere enough”. The artist who doesn’t care whether other people get what he intended, or at least get something from what is being performed would be odd. The thing about Dylan is that he always approach making music as a performance. And if you are a performer, you look for those transcending moments, which transforms the recording of something or repetition of something, by finding something there that never existed before that performance. Dylan did after all describe himself as a song and dance man. He even describes the writing process in similar terms, in that it is something where the essence has to be captured in one sitting.

  34. Chris Huff says:

    Here’s my take on the “sincere” comment: Idiot Wind is his most personal, painful song. Nobody has even written a song about the dissolution of a relationship in such stark, horrible detail. He swings from wanting to seeing her dead in a ditch to “I can’t see your face anymore” in a heartbeat. So…I think he was making a little joke to distance himself from the pain of the moment. How hard it is to sing that song – I sing it often at my gigs in the NY BOTT session style, but I can only imagine what it was like living it. The Idiot Wind recorded in NY that’s on the Bootleg Series is my absolute favorite Dylan track. Even Desolation Row doesn’t cut to the quick of it like that quiet, desperate Idiot Wind. The line about the I-Ching being cut out in the final version is almost criminal! But, if you believed he was revealing himself as a “phony” (that was such a big deal in the 60s and 70s, right? You absolutely can’t be a phony), then I understand why you felt betrayed like the audience at Newport. He was kidding, is my take. A bad joke to relieve the tension of revealing (finally) his innermost thoughts and feelings. Always the Jokerman. How unbelievable that you were in the control room when he sang those songs. Holy crap. Please write a book.

    • Serge says:

      Chris Huff says:
      April 20, 2011 at 11:03 pm

      >The original tapes of the NY Sessions >(the non-master tracks) were purchased >at auction by a mastering engineer named >Alan Douches [...] and he burned me a copy on CD, knowing I was a huge Dylan fan. I am happy to provide .wav files to anyone who wants them.

      I absolutely need a WAV or FLAC copies of that CD. Huge collection of Dylan tapes to trade.

      serge

      smironne@free.fr

  35. Corin says:

    GREAT writing here- really stellar. You’ll have to forgive this trainspotter’s gear geek question, but you may be one of the only people able to answer it. I have read that the Minnesota sessions were done on an MCI JH-110 8 track machine. As I own and use one of those, I have often wondered about that. Any idea? Also, what were you tracking to at A&R at the time?

    • Shrinky says:

      I don’t know about the Minneapolis gear, but I would guess we were recording to an Ampex MM-1000 sixteen track at 30 ips non-Dolby. If anyone else has more certain info, I’d be curious to hear it. Thanks for reading, and the comment.

  36. donh says:

    thanks for a great read.
    just a bit too much greil marcus prose though.

    but like the master: VSOP.

  37. Francis X says:

    You nailed it, Glenn: the immediacy of the sessions, the 19 year old’s POV of a major music industry event — the rusty razor blade that was NYC in 1974. Awesome.

  38. Gemini Jackson says:

    How do we still have an untarnished copy of these NY sessions to
    listen to? Just a copy of the master tape he had to butcher?

    • Shrinky says:

      Back in the day when we used audio tape, when we assembled a master tape we didn’t leave the outtakes (the bloody tracks) literally “on the floor”. We would assemble them on an outtake reel. Nothing ever got thrown away. Copies were also made, to tape and to vinyl. (You can find photos of those test acetates on the web.) The originals, which have probably all disintegrated by now, I’m sure were transferred to digital formats along the way. I regretted that I didn’t make a copy of those original recordings for my personal collection, but glad they were found and brought out for others to hear.

    • Chris Huff says:

      The original tapes of the NY Sessions (the non-master tracks) were purchased at auction by a mastering engineer named Alan Douches who “baked” the tapes to preserve them and transferred them to digital. I worked with Alan a few years back and he burned me a copy on CD, knowing I was a huge Dylan fan. I am happy to provide .wav files to anyone who wants them.

  39. Augustine says:

    “Was that sincere enough?” = “That’s it, folks. You just got everything I could give. It couldn’t have been more sincere.”

  40. Having spent a good part of my childhood running around these halls, watching these people work their incredible magic…The tenacity of Glenn and the people he worked with…was incomparable. Every time a record comes out missing/misspelling/replacing your name – it’s like having a rib torn from your chest as you read the words. Sure people don’t believe us Glenn…Remember – It’s magic! But we know the truth…We know what we did…and that is why we can sleep on our pillows…(Yeah – it’s 4:14AM)
    Your writing is beautiful…putting us in the control room right there with you and Phil.It is true, in that little piece of Heaven we called A&R, Phil was GOD. He earned and deserved the respect and the title…But you my little Shrinky Apostle were there too.

  41. @Chris Huff

    Would LOVE a copy, please.

    Thanks!

    rapATrichardpachterDOTcom

  42. dave says:

    Great writing and reading! Thought I’d forward this tidbit about my friend, Sam Billings’ experience with Dylan.

    You may not know the name Sam Billings, but he will forever have a place in the history of music and Dylan Studies as the woodblock player on the demi-epochal 1978 album “Street Legal”. Billings never appeared on another record, but his contribution to “Legal” (often considered Dylan’s most socio-politically personal masterpiece of the pre-Christian era and celebrated as “Most Inscrutable” in a 2007 poll) will forever give him a place in the Dylan Omniverse. Billings, who makes his living as a chart auditor at Children’s Hospital in Rye, New York and lives with his wife Natalie and their three children in the same city, recently told me what it like to meet and play with the legend.

    “The thing is, first of all, I had never played a woodblock in my life. I hadn’t played ANY musical instrument and I mostly haven’t played any instrument since then. It seemed like a chance thing. I was halfway through my economics degree at Columbia and I was working as a messenger for the summer. I was delivering to the Record Factory, which I thought was kind of cool. The receptionist asked me to wait for a few minutes without telling me why and then these two guys came out and asked me to follow them. It was more like they TOLD me to follow them. And they were big guys. And I was like, ‘What is this about?”, and they told me to shut up and follow them. It was strange but I went with it. Later I found out that this was Al Roonie and Paul Sparks who were functioning as Bob’s bodyguards and henchmen at the time. So they take me to a conference room. Nobody was in there and they left me there for about half an hour. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Finally Roonie came back and I asked him what this was and he said, “Bob wants you to play on his next album.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I’m like, Bob? Bob who? I said, “Bob who?” and this seemed to make him angry. He’s got his finger right in my face and he says, “You don’t ask ‘Bob who?’, Bob asks Bob who?” I was confused. Really confused. So I tell him that I’m not a musician and he says it doesn’t matter, that Bob wants me because he’s looking for ‘that sound’. And I’m like, “What sound?” and he gets even more annoyed and says “that sound” and that was it for that. He has a briefcase and he opens it up and pulls out all these papers and tells me to sign them but that there won’t be time for me to read them. The atmosphere was so intimidating that I felt like I better comply. I didn’t read any of it. I could have been signing away my first born. I still worry about that. I did manage to catch a glimpse of the name…Bob Dylan, so that’s when I figured out who ‘Bob’ was. Of course I knew who he was. I had heard “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Lady Lay” on the radio but not much more than that. I was into Elton John and James Taylor and stuff. But I signed.

    Next they have me go to this room with some sofas and chairs where there were a few other guys. It was the adjunct lounge to Studio B where they were recording the album, I found out later. Everyone in there seemed equally confused. We talked a little bit, but I’m sure the rest of them had the same feeling that I had, that we were being observed, somehow. There were photographic portraits of a lot of famous musicians and singers on the wall and I was sure I saw Aretha Franklin’s eyes move. To this day I’m convinced it was Bob behind there, but there’s no way of knowing, really. Anyway, I did find out that most of these other guys had never played music before either and that they’d all been brought there much the same way that I had, some of them off the street and some of them from their homes, one of them at gunpoint. There was a little refrigerator in the room and I was starving because I hadn’t had lunch yet. It got so bad that I decided to open the refrigerator even though it seemed risky. The only thing in it was a bunch of cans of Budweiser. I picked one up and looked at it but decided I better not take it and put it back. A few weeks later I got a bill for $4.95 from Bob’s management.

    They kept us there for a long time. In fact I think it was nearly one a.m. before anything happened. Finally a guy with long hair came into the room and said that Bob was ready for us in the studio. We’re all looking at each other, shrugging, totally confused. The long-haired guy unlocked a second door and led us all through a short corridor and then out into this enormous music studio. It was packed with equipment. Guitars, drums, keyboards, amplifiers, everywhere. Microphones with cables running around all over the place. It was completely intimidating. Roonie was in there and he starts calling out our names and assigning us instruments. I got the woodblock. They just handed it to me with a little mallet. At first I was kind of pissed that I got the woodblock because some of the other guys were getting cool instruments like guitars and drums but they were handling them so awkwardly that I realized I had probably gotten lucky. How badly can you screw up on woodblock, right?

    Another couple of hours went by, then. Roonie told us that we had to wait but that we could not play the instruments. We were just to stand there holding them. He said, “Bob wants that sound to be spontaneous. You will not practice.” This seemed a little extreme since I’m pretty sure none of us could have learned to play anything in a couple of hours. I guess Bob wanted the sound of people who had literally never played a single note on their instrument before.

    We could see inside the control room and there were a bunch of people in there and they seemed to be having a perfectly fine time. They were drinking straight from bottles of champagne and I’m pretty sure they were doing lines of cocaine on the sofa at the back of the room but it was hard to see. We were just standing there. It was very awkward to say the least but nobody felt like they could speak up. Finally, another door opens and a very tall, very beautiful black woman enters the room and riding on her, piggy-back style, is Bob Dylan. He’s just a little dude, but even I knew he was. Leather jacket, wild curly hair, shades, Jewish-looking nose, you couldn’t mistake it. He was holding a big sheaf of papers against the back of the woman’s head and writing with a pencil. There must have been fifty sheets of paper and he’s writing and writing and the woman just walks around the room while he’s riding around on her filling up these papers with lines. This continues for a good long time and nobody’s saying anything. The suspense was really killing me and everyone else. Finally the lady lowers Bob into an empty chair in the corner of the room. He writes a few more lines and then hands all the papers to her. She takes them and walks across the room and throws them into this plastic bag-lined wastebasket. Immediately the long-haired guy runs back in, pulls out the plastic bag, ties it up tight and carries it out of the room.

    We’re all looking at Dylan who seems to be just staring at the carpet through those shades. There was complete silence. Then suddenly he speaks:

    “This one’s called ‘Senor (Yankee Tales of Power)’.”

    That’s it. He was just sitting there, no guitar, nothing. Total silence. Staring at the floor. We’re all glancing around at each other, holding these instruments, afraid to move. About thirty seconds went by and then he spoke up again. “No, no, no, man…that ain’t it, that ain’t it. Let’s do it again, man. Tighter, you know, like a mouse trap kind of thing.”
    A voice comes through a speaker from the control room saying, “Senor, take two.” Same thing. Bob just sits there. A minute goes by and then he says “Nah man, nah. This ain’t working, this ain’t working.” He points at the guy that had been put behind the organ. “Organ man, you know, like that silver rabbit Brother James Montgomery kind of thing.” The guy looked terrified. Finally Dylan got up and went and picked up an electric guitar from a stand and strapped it on. Then he put a harmonica holder around his neck and put a harmonica in it and adjusted it, then took the harmonica out and put another one in. There were about 10 harmonicas on a little table. He tried out every one. Then he took off the harmonica holder.

    “This one’s called, ‘Stop Crying’,” he said suddenly and this time he does start strumming the guitar a little but he stops after a few seconds and says, “Nah nah nah man, that’s the cue. You play that heart attack thing, backwards, sort of coca-cola, ‘Stop Crying’…” and he starts playing and singing and then I started hitting the woodblock because I was pretty sure that’s what he wanted. So some of the other guys started playing too, just kind of making random sounds on the instruments. It could have been infants or raccoons climbing over these things, I’ve got to tell you. But Dylan goes with it. He starts singing. Of course you couldn’t make out anything he was singing. It was just a constant mumbling drone. He keeps singing while we just stab at our instruments and it goes on a really long time. It was probably 4 a.m. by that time. Eventually he stopped and after that we all stopped. But then he says, “This one’s called ‘No Time To Think’” and he starts playing and singing again and we all just start hitting little notes on the instruments. Talk about no time to think. This just went on and on. We’d play and he’d sing for a while and then he’d stop and go into another one, although it all sounded exactly the same to me. We did about eight of them and when Bob stops at the end of the last one he suddenly breaks out in a big grin and starts laughing and says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, man that’s pretty good, pretty good. You guys got that Mahalia Jackson radial tire kind of thing. That’s good, man. This one’s called ‘New Pony’.” And off he goes again. But this time he stops after about a minute and unstraps the guitar and he’s real agitated, saying, “Nah man, this ain’t working, this ain’t working. I gotta get out of here.” Instantly the big black lady, who had left the room, comes running back in and Dylan climbs on her back and then they’re gone, just like that.

    It was nearly noon the next day and they finally let us go, didn’t say a word, just led us to the front door of the building and pushed us out. I got fired from my job, but I finished my degree and I did all right after that. I didn’t touch a woodblock for about ten years after that, but then I got called to work on the ‘Under the Red Sky’ sessions in ’89, so I took it up again for that. They didn’t use my parts, though. My understanding about ‘Street Legal’ is that he went to California and re-recorded the entire record several times with a bunch of regular session men in L.A. But when the album came out it was our version that they used. They added some horns and back-up singers and it actually sounded ok.

    People ask me what it was like to work with Bob. I would say he was enigmatic. Or mercurial. Enigmatic or mercurial, one or the other, I’m not sure.

  43. sb says:

    Please think about writing a book on your experiences! This is fascinating info…

  44. Chris, please send me the wavs? paulmaherjr@hotmail.com

    Thanks so much, Paul

  45. [...] “It was a central part of our job to protect our star’s privacy. This is one reason I’ve waited to tell this story for almost 40 years. Discretion was inculcated into us. It wasn’t uncommon to light the sign outside the studio entrance that said, “Closed Session.” Our job was to make the artist feel safe. Only then could they create freely. In order to make the great comfortable, we ourselves had to be cool in their presence. Blasé was the order of the day.” (shrinky) [...]

  46. [...] “It was a executive partial of a pursuit to strengthen a star’s privacy. This is a singular reason I’ve waited to discuss it this story for roughly 40 years. Discretion was inculcated in to us. It wasn’t odd to light a pointer outward a college of song opening which said, “Closed Session.” Our pursuit was to have a artist feel safe. Only afterwards could they emanate freely. In sequence to have a good comfortable, you ourselves had to be cold in their presence. Blasé was a sequence of a day.” (shrinky) [...]

  47. Dibble says:

    Shrinky, let me add to the chorus…that was a great article. I’m a huge Dylan fan and LOVE the NY sessions of BOTT. Without doubt, “Idiot Wind” and “Lily, Rosemary and Jack of Hearts” are superior in their original forms. In fact, I think he ruined “Lily, Rosemary” by turning it into a carnival song, for lack of a better description.

    From what I read in the book about the making of BOTT, Dylan was kind of a prick in those sessions. I think he was trying to be a prankster but his style didn’t translate well with the NY musicians. Maybe it simply wasn’t a good fit. He seemed a lot more “relaxed” during the making of his next album, Desire.

    So whatever became of your association with Phil Ramone? Were there any other collaborations? Are you friends to this day?

    • Shrinky says:

      Thanks. Phil and I worked together on several albums, including the hits “Still Crazy After All These Years,” by Paul Simon, “Judith” by Judy Collins, and the first two albums by the recently departed Phoebe Snow (my next article will be about her). At 21, I graduated to senior mixer and continued to work at A and R for another four years, during which time I would work with Phil occasionally, for example, on Karen Carpenter’s solo album (!) Phil and I have seen each other at the rare party over the decades since. With the release of this story, Phil contacted me and we have renewed contact. Inspired by the success of this tale, we are talking about collaborating on a really exciting project, the details of which will at this point remain undisclosed!

      • Marcia says:

        Glenn, I do hope you’ll write about the Karen Carpenter sessions at some point, and of course Paul Simon. You’re a wonderful writer – loved the Mick Jagger story! :)

  48. Joseph says:

    So awesome. Thank you for this!

    Portrait of a sound engineer as a young man…

  49. Thanks Glenn. Terrific writing. Great to be a fly on the wall of your part in a masterpiece historic recording. The Minnesota tapes were an intrusion. They should put out a box-set of all the A&R Studio takes & include your notes. But wanna know more — what about the buttons of Bob’s leather jacket clicking on some of the takes? Was it verbotum for Phil & you to mention it to him? And as for Bob’s “Planet Waves” music being “indistinct” – I strongly disagree. Just re-listen to “Forever Young” “Going Going Gone” “Tough Mama” “Dirge” & dig Dylan’s powerful vocals, the Band’s sound of iron & wood recorded very dry & distinctively by Ron Fraboni & Nat Jeffery. An album that walks by itself with a unique personality & sound.
    But if you disagree, well, that’s what makes horse races.
    Keep on keepin’ on Shrinky!
    -George Gerdes

    • Shrinky says:

      George! Great to hear from you. I’ve been a fan for a long time. We may have met a few times back in the neo-folk days. You are right about Planet Waves — I remember Rob playing me the master before it came out and was struck by the unique dry sound. I’ve taken out that “indistinct” word. It was ill-considered. As far as the buttons, good listening! Of course you are right. Verboten. I’m happy to pass on any other details you want to know. I left out the whole part of the story with Susan Blond. Gotta keep something for the book! Thanks for the support, and keep in touch.

  50. I’m listening now to the NY Sessions for the first time in a while. Absolutely glorious. What a wonderful article – what any of us wouldn’t give to have been in the studio while Dylan et al were creating this masterpiece.

    Great too to hear confirmation from Tony Brown that the songs were indeed in Open Tuning. I remember attempting to play along with the record and it proving fruitless – can’t imagine what it must have been like to attempt to play along with Dylan to songs you don’t know in keys and tunings you don’t know!

    Thanks for this piece Shrinky. Reading it has made my day.

    So long, Idiot Wind has started playing….

  51. Great article! Thank you so much. Can’t wait for the book…

  52. Oh, one question, Glenn, if you don’t mind: Do you happen to know anything about the tapes supposedly having been sped up a bit for the pressing of the record?

    • Shrinky says:

      Ramone tells me that he noticed the speed up. It wasn’t intentional. In those days, tape machines could easily run off-speed, if not checked. The mastering machine, he assumes, was off. As Ramone had something like perfect pitch, he was always noticing such things, and was usually correct.

      • That’s fascinating info. There’s a legend circulating that Dylan wanted the speed-up, so that’s not true it seems.
        On the other hand it’s true then that the half-speed master vinyl re-issue, rips of which are circulating, does indeed sound different. It seems it’s the only issue of the album that has been mastered at the correct speed, and it sounds markedly warmer – but being without perfect pitch, I was always wondering if it just sounded better because I wanted it to.

  53. Garry Rindfuss says:

    Hi Glenn,
    Great story, and thank you for posting. I am a fellow traveller in the NY studio scene. I’m a few years younger than yourself, but I’m sure we have worked with a lot of the same people, including Dylan, briefly, years later. I met Phil Ramone a couple of times, but we never worked together. I am really not a fan of that old “treat your second engineer like dirt” school of engineering, having been through it more than once myself. My question is this: while he was giving you that brutal dressing down, for asking a perfectly reasonable question, did he REALLY refer to himself as “The Great Ramone”?

    Garry

    • Shrinky says:

      Garry, your name sounds very familiar to me. Perhaps we crossed paths at some point. As far as your question goes, can you believe it?

      • Garry Rindfuss says:

        Glenn,
        I worked at Power Station for several years, (’79 to ’87) then a bunch of other places. I’m still engineering, just not in the music biz (WHAT music biz?). Film Post Production and Restoration is what I mostly do these days.
        Here’s a link to my website: http://www.garryrindfuss.com

        Cheers,
        Garry

  54. [...] time in the rock ‘n’ roll trenches, chapters of what I hope will be a full book. After his fascinating account of being in the studio with Bob Dylan for his landmark Blood on the Tracks album, Glenn has [...]

  55. Michael says:

    “Bob Dylan kills the studio cats”

    Sorry but the way this is written leaves me confused. Rather than a recording session with the best in the biz, Dylan turns it into an audition? And like the Queen of Hearts, he summarily axes one after another until he’s left with a bass player who doesn’t understand what Dylan is playing? So… what was recorded and who played what on it?

  56. [...] in the middle of finishing up Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. (For the rest of that adventure, read “Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks: The Untold Story.”) When Mick heard that Dylan was in the other studio, he asked to meet him. I was happy to introduce [...]

  57. [...] more music blogs from Shrinky here, including his pieces about working with Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Solomon Burke, and Phoebe [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Follow me