Three days in January, fifty years ago.
On Wednesday, January 13, 1965, Bob Dylan entered Columbia Records’ Studio A in New York City to begin recording songs for his fifth album. Joining him in the studio that day was producer Tom Wilson and John Sebastian, a fellow Greenwich Village musician, singer/songwriter and, for this session, bass guitarist.
Of the eleven songs Dylan, Sebastian and Wilson recorded on January 13, six of them would appear on the final album, but none in the versions that were cut during this day’s work.
On Thursday, January 14, Dylan was accompanied in Studio A by a band of New York musicians and session players put together by producer Wilson. The members of this group were: Bruce Langhorne, guitar; Bobby Gregg, drums; John Hammond, Jr., guitar; and William Lee, bass guitar.
With Dylan singing, playing harmonica and either acoustic guitar, electric guitar or piano, this ensemble nailed down album-ready versions of five songs: “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Outlaw Blues,” “She Belongs To Me,” and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.” Three of those – “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “She Belongs To Me,” met with Dylan’s approval after the first take!
For the Friday, January 15 session, producer Wilson assembled a somewhat different group for Dylan to work with. Returning guitarist Langhorne and drummer Gregg were joined by guitarists Al Gorgoni and Kenny Rankin, pianist Paul Griffin and bass guitarist Joseph Macho, Jr. This ensemble started off the day with a quick completion of “Maggie’s Farm” and nine takes of “On The Road Again.”
Dylan then cleared the room and recorded “It’s All Right, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” “Gates of Eden,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” with just his acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals. Bruce Langhorne added a high, jangling second guitar part as the finishing touch to “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
“Subterranean Homesick Blues” b/w “She Belongs To Me” was released on March 8, 1965 as the single from the album. It was Dylan’s first Top 40 hit.
Bringing It All Back Home – Columbia LP: CL 2328 (Mono) and CS 9128 (Stereo) – was released on March 22, 1965.
Side One of the album was the “electric side” with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as the first track.
The “acoustic” Side Two opened with “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
In the poem that is part of his liner notes to the album, Dylan wrote: “I am about t sketch You a picture of what goes on around here sometimes. tho I don’t understand too well myself what’s really happening.”
P.S.: John Sebastian was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for The Lovin’ Spoonful, a fabulous Folk/Rock band that had seven consecutive Top 10 hit records from 1965 to 1966.
The sources for the information used in this post were: “Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions [1960-1994]” (1995) by Clinton Heylin, “Bob Dylan Complete Discography” (2006) by Brian Hinton and Wikipedia.