Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bob Dylan - Medicine Sunday

Bob Dylan – Medicine Sunday
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?
2.  I Wanna Be Your Lover
3.  Freeze Out
4.  One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)
5.  New York Instrumental #1

Side B:
6.  Positively 4th Street
7.  Brand New Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
8.  I’ll Keep It With Mine
9.  She’s Your Lover Now

This is a reconstruction of a theoretical album consisting of the early sessions for Bob Dylan’s seminal 1966 album Blonde On Blonde.   Abandoning most of these New York-based recording sessions with The Band in favor of rerecording with session musicians in Nashville, these early sessions represent a different sound that would emerge on Blonde On Blonde -- looser but more energetic, closer to a studio capture of Bob Dylan’s live sound in 1965 and 1966.   Using the best sources possible, most tracks feature unique edits and mixes I have created to offer a more finished album with a modern stereophonic soundstage. 

After his ascension from folk hero to rock star with his groundbreaking “Like a Rolling Stone” and its accompanying album Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan buckled down and rode the wave, intending to continue pushing the boundaries of rock music with symbolic, obtuse and intertextual lyrics, juxtaposed with a driving rock rhythm section and the twin chime of electric guitar and Hammond organ.  For that, he would need a band.  His ad hoc assemblage of players for his infamously electric July 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance, including Al Kooper and members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, were not available to continue.  After recommendations from a few associates, Dylan recruited a group of Canadian rockers--Levon and The Hawks--to back him for the national concerts in support of Highway 61 Revisited, who would later rebrand themselves as The Band. 

Meanwhile, Dylan’s management and label continued to feed the machine and keep this new “electric Dylan” product flowing.  Just two months after the release of “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Positively 4th Street” was released as its follow-up single in September 1965.  Despite being simply an outtake from the Highway 61 Revisited sessions from July, the song was a Top 10 hit and is considered one of Dylan’s most cherished tracks.  With fear of losing momentum, Dylan was whisked back into the studio to pump out his next single.  This time Dylan brought with him The Hawks, attempting to capture the electricity from his current live shows.

Unfortunately, Dylan had blown through all of his good material.  Bob and his band gathered on October 5th to woodshed new material at Columbia Studios in New York, but with dismal results: two song fragments, “Jet Pilot” and “Medicine Sunday” (the later evolving into “Temporary Like Achilles”); a merely semi-interesting Robby Robertson-led instrumental; and a scant jam of another Highway 61 Revisited leftover “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”.  The only cut of real value tracked on this day was “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, an electrifying and rollicking tribute (or parody?) of the Fab Four, who allegedly influenced Dylan to form a backing band in the first place.  Sometime after the session, drummer Levon Helm left The Hawks, fed up with being a sidesman, as well as the confrontational audiences on Dylan’s tour.

Returning to the studio on November 30th with session drummer Bobby Gregg (whom had already backed Dylan on both Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited) and a brand new composition he believed to be one of his best, Dylan was revitalized to create a follow-up single.  Dylan had a special feeling about his latest epic poem “Freeze Out”—later retitled to “Visions of Johanna”—and special care was given to find the perfect arrangement.  Dylan struggled to find the right sound for the song with The Hawks, and the group plowed through a number of completely different arrangements: Take 4 was a slow, uncertain romp that began quietly with just Dylan on electric guitar, adding instruments as the song built to a rocking end; Take 5 was a more organized version of the previous take, but lacked the suspense, danger and dynamic; Take 7 slowed the tempo but succumbed to typical bar rock trope; Take 8 was an icy, electric march with bursts of celeste; Take 14 was slowed down to ballad territory, the closest to its finial incarnation on Blonde On Blonde.  Despite having several great takes—all sounding completely different (especially 4, 8 and 14)—Dylan was not satisfied with “Freeze Out” and set it aside… temporarily.  Instead, the band focused on a new uptempo arrangement of “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”, nailing Take 10, which was rush released as a single in December.  It was a flop, stalling at #58 on the charts.

Refocusing his attention from a single to an album, Dylan reconvened with The Hawks (this time with fill-in drummer Sandy Konikoff) on January 21st, 1966, armed with new material intended to populate this follow-up LP.  Beginning with another heartbreak-themed long-form poem, Dylan searched for the thin, wild mercury sound to accompany it.  “Just Another Glass Of Water”—later published as “She’s Your Lover Now”—could have been one of Dylan’s masterpieces on Blonde On Blonde, on par with “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”.  But Dylan could not find the sound he was looking for, struggling not only to communicate his ideas but for The Hawks to interpret him.  Take 15 came very close, before breaking down halfway through the fourth verse.  Exasperated, Dylan called off the session, the song lost forever.  Before leaving the studio, Dylan recorded a demo of the complete 8-minute composition alone at a piano, at the very least immortalizing his idea before it was abandoned forever. 

The next session on January 21st was more productive.  With Bobby Gregg back behind the kit, the group hammered out another new Dylan composition, this time a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Memphis Blues.  Nailed in presumably one take, “Brand New Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” seemed to fit The Hawks as this steady yet bombastic recording tops the eventual Nashville version released on Blonde on Blonde, in this listener’s humble opinion.  Moving on to a dynamic breakup ballad driven by Paul Griffin’s exquisite piano, “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” was eventually perfected by Take 24.  Again rush-released as a single in February, the song did moderately well, charting at #33. 

It was now obvious that the fruits of these New York sessions with the Hawks were few and far between and Dylan grew weary of only stumbling across the right arrangements.  An additional session on January 27th proved mostly uneventful, resulting in yet another song fragment, “Lunatic Princess”.   Despite the previous week’s results, a remake of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” was attempted as well, but Dylan was not even bothered to see it through completion.  Finally, Dylan takes his band through a mere rehearsal of a magnificent song dating back to the initial acoustic Bringing It All Back Home sessions almost exactly a year earlier.  “I’ll Keep It With Mine” is loose, beginning with Dylan solo at a piano, with The Hawks individually coming in as they figured out the changes.  With only this single run-through, Dylan was done with the band—and this city—for recording his follow-up. 

At producer Bob Johnston’s suggestion, Dylan relocated to Nashville in February and March to finish the album that was barely begun, only bringing Robby Robertson and Al Kooper along.  Re-recording both “Visions of Johanna” and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”—as well as a sudden wealth of brand new compositions—Dylan completed Blonde On Blonde.  Released to universal acclaim as Dylan’s masterpiece, the only New York recording to make the cut was “One Of Us Must Know”, a tombstone to the album Blonde On Blonde could have been under different conditions.  Is it possible to reconstruct what a New York Blonde On Blonde would have sounded like?

For this reconstruction—which I have named Medicine Sunday, after the song fragment which isn’t actually featured here—we will try to create a single-LP follow-up to Highway 61 Revisited from these late ‘65/early ’66 sessions.  Since the sessions were obviously never completed, it will be difficult to make a complete-sounding album.  The only rule we will implement is to include material with some sort of precedent on other Dylan albums.  Hence, all of the one-minute  song fragments (“Jet Pilot”, “Medicine Sunday” and “Lunatic Princess”) will be excluded, as not only is there no precedent, but their inclusion would make Medicine Sunday sound less complete.  With a lack of finished material, we will have to look at two filler-tracks: the untitled instrumental (here I appropriately titled “New York Instrumental #1”) and “Positively 4th Street”.  While it is true Dylan is known for his distinctive voice and lyric, Dylan would go on to release instrumentals on both Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait.  Just as well, “Positively 4th Street”, while not a part of the New York sessions proper, was the current single at the time.  It is conceivable the label might have included it on the LP anyways as a cash cow, as previous singles like “Like a Rolling Stone” was included on Highway 61 Revisited and “One of Us Must Know” was included on Blonde On Blonde. 

Side A begins with the lead single from these sessions, “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”.  Using the complete semi-stereo version found on The Bootleg Series Vol 12: The Cutting Edge, here I have widened the stereo spectrum to further separate the instruments to an ideal nine and three o’clock.  It is followed by “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, again taken from The Cutting Edge with the stereo spectrum widened.  Take 8 of “Visions of Johanna” (here we use its original working title “Freeze Out”) from The Bootleg Series Vol 8: No Direction Home follows, a version that tops the Blonde On Blonde recording in my humble opinion.  Next is my own personal remix of “One of Us Must Know” from the multitrack stems, as provided on The Cutting Edge.  My mix attempts to replicate the balance of the original mono mix, while retaining a modern stereophonic image with a centered drum track.  Likewise, I have replicated the edit before the third verse, only ever heard on the rare mono single mix; thus, this is the first time that original edit has ever appeared in stereo!  Side B concludes with “New York Instrumental #1” as a sort of intermission, again taken from The Cutting Edge with a widened stereophonic spectrum.

Much like many album from the 60s, Side B begins with the previously-released single “Positively 4th Street”, the original stereo mix taken from Side Tracks but with its stereo spectrum narrowed to match the rest of the album.  Next is “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”, taken from No Direction Home, a personal favorite as aforementioned.  Next is “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, taken from The Cutting Edge; in order to make this recording more complete, I have edited out Dylan’s vocal flub in the intro, as well as extracted and patched Bob Johnston’s talk-back interruption during verse one.  Despite being a mere rehearsal and probably meant to have a more thorough and defined arrangement, this recording works as a loose arrangement precursor, as we would soon hear similarly-relaxed Dylan arrangements on The Basement Tapes and New Morning.  Medicine Sunday appropriately concludes with the epic that never was, “She’s Your Lover Now”.  Using pieces of Takes 15 and 16 on The Cutting Edge, I was able to create a complete performance of the song by editing a proper intro onto take 15 and crossfading into take 16 at the point where the band trails off, hopefully giving the illusion that The Hawks intentionally stopped playing and Dylan finished the song solo.  A further edit was made at the outro so that Dylan concludes with the tonic of the song, giving it a resolve and a remorseful vocal improvisation to end the album.  

Sources used:
Bootleg Series Vol 8: No Direction Home (2005)
Bootleg Series Vol 12: The Cutting Edge (2015 Collector’s Edition)
Side Tracks (2013)

Flac --> wav --> mixing & editing in SONAR Pro & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included


  1. Thanks – this is tremendous! Inspired title too. A fascinating impression of what might have been if Columbia had insisted that Dylan keep up the punishing schedule of releasing a new album every 6 months or so, which he had managed on average since “The Times…” in Jan ’64, and had scheduled a release for, say, Feb ‘66. This sort of pressure was commonly applied by labels at the time, fearful if their artists were out of the public eye for more than a few months, that their fans would abandon them and move on to someone else. Let alone the lost financial opportunity. (Case in point - in the UK, EMI/Parlophone were so concerned, during the seemingly interminable 10 month gap between “Revolver” and “Sgt Pepper’s…” that at the end of 1966 they snapped and, in time for Christmas, released a weird Beatles compilation “A Collection of Beatles Oldies”, itself ironically now largely forgotten).

  2. nice. thank you. it takes me forever to crawl through the Bootleg series CDs

  3. Thanks for the new post, all your efforts are very much appreciated.

  4. Great effort! I thought about it for a while, and made up a more "imaginative" version for myself.
    Instead of an all out authentic version, like yours, I chose the finished, Blonde on Blonde versions of some songs (except Pillbox Hat), and replaced the instrumental for Temporary Like Achilles, as it was on an embrionary form, by then.
    It's basically if he had persisted with the NYC sessions for a little longer, and my guess would be that he'd finish some songs, and bring others closer to their BoB arrangements. Complete with resequencing:

    Bob Dylan - Medicine Sunday
    Side One:
    01 I Wanna Be Your Lover
    02 Temporary Like Achilles
    03 Visions of Johanna
    04 One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
    05 Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?
    Side Two:
    06 Positively 4th Street
    07 I'll Keep it With Mine
    08 Brand New Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat
    09 She's Your Lover Now

    Yours is still the superior version, in regard to authenticity and probability. But I feel that this version benefits immensely from the addition of a track like TLA, and a different side one sequence.
    Thanks for your work!

    1. Nice! I guess I left mine open for the Nashville sessions to be it's own single album on it's own, minus Visions, Leopard and One Of Us of course.

    2. Absolutely!
      And within my timeline, you can still pull out a 51-minute, 9 song album out of it, plus a Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) single, that's pretty good.

  5. Been waiting for someone with technical expertise to attempt a mix of the (B)band version of She's Your Lover Now with the solo piano take for a "complete" version.

    Well done, soniclovenoize!

  6. As ever, loving what you do, soniclovenoize, just wonderful as an idea and as you realise it here. Thanks so much. I have duly posted links to the website and this especially!

  7. Thanks Sonic! Ever planning on tackling Bruce Springsteen? A huge artist with a huge back-catalog and plenty of unreleased albums that you are yet to dabble in.

    1. Any suggestions? The Ties That bind was already officially released, and I tried an Electric Nebraska but it really didn't come together well.

    2. Maybe the Nebraska/BITUSA double album?

      Disc one was supposed to be the acoustic Nebraska tracks, and the second, electric songs from their Jan/May 1982 sessions.

      There's a tracklist for the band album in here:

      I personally use that, and add Losin' Kind to side two of Nebraska, to make both have 11 songs and 45 minutes.

      The ideal thing would be you stripping out the gated reverb on the songs, and hoping for the best :D

    3. Another possibility would be the LP (or two) that would have likely come out after Born To Run if the court case hadn't pushed Darkness out to 1978. There are a handful of BTR outtakes, a ton of Darkness outtakes, and even a few Wild, Innocent ones that might work. Obviously, there were no real proposed LPs due to the lawsuit, so you'd have much more room to use your discretion.

    4. Thanks your reply! I agree with some of the other commenters.

      There is an album to be made between Nebraska and BITUSA. Either using the early BITUSA outtakes, or the late Nebraska tracks that he made mostly with just a guitar and a drum machine. Almost all of it is unreleased, but there is a couple of decent bootlegs available. Songs themselves are gold.

      There is a potential album between BTR and Darkness, where Bruce was making lot of soul-influenced rock. I don't know if he ever planned on releasing it as an album, or did he just want to get it out of his system, but there is ton of that stuff. Unfortunately many officially released tracks have modern vocals or overdubs.

      Then there is the songs that he made pre-debut, kind of these Dylanesque folk songs. He and his manager had a fight over what kind of artist he was supposed to be. His manager wanted him to go acoustic and solo, while he himself wanted to be a rocker with a band. By the time his debut was released, 7 out of 9 tracks in the album were band-tracks. But there is lot of solo acoustic stuff out there.

      Last and least I would say his early 1990s stuff. After he had dissolved E Street Band, he was kinda lost artistically and tried lot of stuff for his next album. There is lot of bass-heavy music about failed relationships that was never released in his studio albums. Instead he released overly slick Human Touch, and garage rock of Lucky Town, which you could also try "fixing", especially the former.

      I hope this inspires you!

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  9. Can't wait to sit down with this one!

    I routinely run new things through the DR plugin in Foobar just to see how brick-walled things are. Not that this was, at all, really more of a habit that automatically kicked in.

    Anyway, I noticed that this has lots of headroom in it. Not a problem since I have a volume knob, but I was just curious if that was a case of the source material being that way or a conscious artistic decision on your part. If the latter, I'd love to hear the rationale.

    Thanks again for all the hard work and great listening.

    1. Interesting question. The reference volume for this was the volume of the tracks on The Cutting Edge (Collector's edition). I did not change the volume of those tracks at all; that release had a high dynamic range and lots of headroom, while still being loud enough imo. The songs from No Direction Home and Side Tracks were then lowered in volume to match the Cutting Edge songs.

  10. Great one -- love the choices you made here!

  11. As always a fun listen Sonic. A big thanks.

  12. She's Your Lover Now is one of his greatest and it's always been painful when it ends - now we have a proper version!!! The bonus track is great too. Thank you!

  13. Talk about great minds think alike, as I've just posted the perfect companion to this one, made up from the New York sessions as opposed to the Nashville ones, and based on a track listing from the much missed Album Fixer. Compare and contrast if you want.

    1. Having now read the essay more thoroughly I realise that I mis-interpreted the introduction, and thought these were the Nashville recordings whereas they are in fact the New York ones, like my post. Never mind, as Sonic has done his own mixes and mine were directly from the 'Cutting Edge' box set, so they will be quite different, and hopefully both worth hearing.

  14. I'm sure excited about this one. No such thing as too much Dylan from folks like you.

    Thanks man!

  15. I haven't heard this yet, but it'll be worth it for the complete "She's Your Lover Now" alone.

    Sonic, here's a related challenge for you: put together some of the 1966 Dylan hotel room tapes for more complete versions. I mean songs like "Positively Van Gogh" and "If I Was a King."

    1. OH!!! My thinking exactly! Please, please, please try it sometime - I'd love to hear those beautiful hotel room melodies with Dylan's directions to Robbie extracted. In the meantime, this reconstruction is wonderful. "She's Your Lover Now"is a revelation. Something I have been waiting years for without even knowing it... the two takes do blend together very well. I also enjoyed the bonus track!

  16. Nice! Love these projects. This one is much appreciated. My favorite Dylan era for sure. Thank you.

  17. as a huge dylan fan, i couldn't avoid to express my deepest gratitude for this your project...keep the good work...

  18. Speaking of alternate Dylan albums, I've got my own "Albums That Should Exist" blog, and I've been posting a lot of Dylan. So far, I've made six albums covering all of Dylan's stray tracks in chronological order from 1961 to 1964, and I'm still going.

  19. I give thanks and praise for all your efforts. Always big time fun.


    - DC

  20. Wowie zowie. Once again you have moved the needle. Thanks a whole heap for these inneresting takes on classic albums that never were

  21. Love it! I made something close to this but now I have a professional version. A man after my own heart.

  22. malewarebytes is blocking this-is it safe?

  23. Excited to hear this, as always. Much like everyone else, really looking forwards to She's Your Lover Now - thanks for your sterling work x

  24. As a Dylan fan , and a fan of your blog; I am pleased with your latest effort. Appreciating all of the work you put into it. Trying to get into the mind of Dylan is something I would not attempt myself. But; I love seeing what you do and wondering too... what could have been. Thank you again and keep it up. Love all your Who ones too as I am a big Who fan, until Keith died, then they ceased to exist as far as I am concerned.