“Blood On The Tracks” by Bob Dylan (1975)
Release Date: January 17, 1975
Produced by Bob Dylan
Genre: Folk Rock, Classic Rock
Chart Positions: #1 (US, Canada, New Zealand), #2 (Norway), #4 (UK, Australia), #5 (Netherlands), #35 (Japan), #45 (Germany), #54 (Ireland)
Certifications: 2xPlatinum (US), Platinum (UK, Canada)
Singles: “Tangled Up In Blue” #31 (US)
Blood on the Tracks is the fifteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on January 20, 1975 by Columbia Records. The album marked Dylan's return to Columbia Records after a two-album stint with Asylum Records. Dylan began recording the album in New York City in September 1974. In December, shortly before Columbia was due to release the record, Dylan abruptly re-recorded much of the material in a studio in Minneapolis. The final album contains five tracks from New York and five from Minneapolis.
In a 1975 radio discussion with Mary Travers, Bob Dylan stated that “Blood On The Tracks” was a personally painful work. He has claimed it was not autobiographical yet many of the songs seem to mirror what he was experiencing during the break-up of his marriage.
“Blood On The Tracks” is one of Dylan’s best selling albums having reached #1 in the US, Canada and New Zealand. The album reached #2 in Norway as well as #4 in the UK and Australia.
Initially, Dylan considered recording Blood on the Tracks with an electric backing group, and contacted Mike Bloomfield who had played lead guitar on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album. When the two met, Dylan ran through the songs he was planning to record, but he played them too quickly for Bloomfield to learn. In the end, Dylan rejected the idea of recording the album with a band, and instead substituted stripped-down acoustic arrangements for all of his songs.
Dylan had finished recording and mixing, and, by November, had cut a test pressing on the album. Columbia began to prepare to release the album before Christmas.
Dylan played the test pressing for his brother, David Zimmerman, who persuaded Dylan the album would not sell because the overall sound was too stark. Robert Christgau also heard the early version of the album and called it "a sellout to the memory of Dylan's pre-electric period". At his brother's urging, Dylan agreed to re-record five of the album's songs in Sound 80 in Minneapolis, with backing musicians recruited by David. The new takes were accomplished in two days at the end of December 1974. Blood on the Tracks was released into stores on January 20, 1975.
While recording the album Dylan kept a tiny notebook in which he worked out lyrics and other aspects of the songs that became the album "Blood On The Tracks." This notebook and others numbering up to around 6,000 pieces have been kept in a secret archive for several decades. He sold this archive for $20 million in 2016.
“Tangled Up In Blue,” the albums only single release, was a minor hit reaching #31 in the US but failed to chart anywhere else. The Telegraph has described the song as "The most dazzling lyric ever written, an abstract narrative of relationships told in an amorphous blend of first and third person, rolling past, present and future together, spilling out in tripping cadences and audacious internal rhymes, ripe with sharply turned images and observations and filled with a painfully desperate longing."
During the song Dylan sings "some are carpenter's wives," which was a reference to Laura Nyro. NYro had been part of the New York music scene in the late 1960s and was very much inspired by Dylan. You may remember some of the hits she wrote such as "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Stoned Soul Picnic" (both hits for The Fifth Dimension), "And When I Die" (Blood Sweat and Tears, "Eli's Coming" (Three Dog Night) and "Stoney End" (Barbra Streisand).
The sixth verse, which begins: "I lived with them on Montague Street," is a direct reference to John Lennon. Lennon had moved into Ringo Starr's Montague Square apartment in 1968 (with Yoko) after Cynthia kicked him out.
Dylan wrote "Tangled Up In Blue" in the summer of 1974 at a farm he had just bought in Minnesota. He had been touring with The Band earlier that year. Dylan sometimes introduced this on stage by saying it took "10 years to live and 2 years to write." Dylan said he wrote this song after spending an entire weekend mesmerized by Joni Mitchell's album "Blue."
"Tangled Up In Blue"
Album highlight “Shelter From The Storm” has been covered by several musicians through the decades. Dylan got the title from a line in Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop The Rain?": "I went down Virginia, seekin' shelter from the storm..."
In his April 1975 review for The New Republic J.T. Lhamon Jr writes, "The last verse of the last song on the album describes how the performer finds his highest art by attending to himself in order to attend to others: 'Life is sad, life is a bust / All you can do is what you must / You do what you must do and you do it well / I do it for you, ah honeybaby, can't you tell?' And that's it right there: that immediate consistent and thorough involvement with an audience both characterizes rock as the primary popular form of our time and determines it's promising esthetic."
Bob Dylan (1975)