Prayers Like Rhymes: Blonde On Blonde at 55

What would Dylan’s 1966 double barrel masterpiece of Thin Wild Mercury sound like as a single LP?

Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde turns 55 today (Art: Ron Hart)

“With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,” seethes Bob Dylan on “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” the 11-minute song that closes out his 1966 electric folk masterpiece Blonde On Blonde.

“And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,” he continues. “And your silver cross and your voice like chimes / Oh, who do they think could bury you?”

At the time it was the song Dylan told Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone was drove him to obsession.

“I just started writing and I couldn’t stop,” he told him in 1969. “After a period of time, I forgot what it was all about, and I started trying to get back to the beginning [laughs].”

Critics and “Dylanologists” have suggested the song is about his first wife Sara Lownds, whom he had married in a courthouse in Mineola, NY just three months prior. But when you listen to this list of attributes/grievances Bob rattles off across these 11 minutes, it’s hard to think of something this venomous be considered a wedding song, right?

Bob Dylan Blonde On Blonde, Columbia Records 1966

That’s what makes Blonde On Blonde such a fascinating listen. You got these scholars comparing the lyrics to this album to Algernon Charles Swinburne and the prophet Ezekiel. But what it comes down to is a matter of the heart, as with any great work of rock music worth its weight in acetate. And when I listen to some of my very favorite songs on here–“Johanna,” “Mobile,” “Pill-Box Hat” and, naturally, “Lowlands”–I hear the snide viscera of a scorned man, not some guy ready to marry the love of his life but kiss off the one who hurt him most. But that’s just me. I’m no “Dylanologist.”

I do know that Blonde On Blonde served as a defiant screed to the new wave of Bob Dylan’s sound–that feel he famously dubbed “Thin Wild Mercury” with the help of producer Bob Johnston and a killer studio band featuring Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson from Bob’s own Band as well as such notable collaborators as Al Kooper, Kenny Buttrey, Charlie McCoy and Hargus “Pig” Robbins among others.

The original album was released as a double LP at 14 songs and 112 minutes. In honor of I took it upon myself to transform Blonde On Blonde as a single LP, one that I think tells the proper tale of where Bob Dylan was at when he was painting this particular masterpiece.

 

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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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