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Dylan Meets the Durango Kid: Kristofferson and Dylan in Mexico

Page 4 of 4

Dylan was extremely animated by then, sipping vodka straight and rushing to record. He threaded his way into "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and was joined a third of the way through by Kris' band: Mike Utley laying gospel organ over Sammy Creason on drums, Stephen Bruton on electric guitar, and Terry Paul on bass. They started on instrumental tracks, Dylan leading the way with a galloping rhythm, paced by Bruton's electric lead that broke into what could only be called a turkey trot.

Dylan blended lyrics from the title song into it: "Don't it make you feel so low down, to be hunted by the man who was your friend." Then he slowed it to a halt: "Okay, that's called 'Turkey No. 2.'"

Next, he loped into a chunky, accelerating rhythm, trading off licks with Utley. Both were laughing and weaving and daring and challenging each other. Dylan and Terry Paul started a hypnotic "la la" lyric that grew more manic as they stood head to head and urged each other on. They jammed for four minutes and then lurched to a stuttering finish. "Okayyy," Dylan laughed and raised his cup, "we'll call this one . . . uhm, 'Billy Surrenders' or 'Speedball.' They're the same one. Hey, we need Sam here, to say what to do."

Wurlitzer gloomily appeared: "Sam is here, man. I feel him." He looked over his shoulder.

Coburn took his wine and joined the circle in the studio that now included Kris and Rita on backup vocals. He sat before a mike to speak one of his lines, huskily: "Yeah, but I'm alive." Creason hit his drums a rifle shot, Bruton looped his staccato notes around Coburn's repeated line and Dylan and Paul angled in on one mike, like streetcorner drunks, to harmonize on another "lalaaaa" line.

Dylan was pleased with it: "What do we call that one, 'Turkey in the Straw'? Right. I got to put a lyric to that thing. Forget about the movie. Hey, Jim, this's just right for Billy coming out of Lincoln."

Coburn made a swooping motion. "Right! I can see it now, riding down through there and this music. Yeeeeaaahhh!"

Dylan unstrapped his guitar and came over to fetch a drink from a waiter, who had appeared at about 3 o'clock. Weren't there, Dylan was asked, some Doug Sahm riffs in that song?

"Oh yeah," Dylan replied. "We've learned a lot from each other. You should've been at those sessions with Doug in New York, the craziest things I've ever been in. They were the sessions to end all sessions. Oh – sometime you oughta ask the band about the times we had in Europe. Those are stories – I can't even get 'em out anymore."

Another drink and he rushed back to the microphone: "Here's another song, let's just call this 'Holly's Song.' " It was slow and gospelish, with simple lines: "Goodbye Holly, Holly goodbye. Your wife's gonna miss you, your baby's gonna cry."

Dylan, very much in command of the studio, called for his two Mexican trumpeters and showed them what he wanted for "Pecos Blues." He and Terry Paul sang "ah-ah-ahhh" lines over the tinny trumpets and a looping bass. The resulting sound suggested a Mexican whorehouse or a knock-down, pee-smelly dirt-floor bar. It was good, and Dylan nodded and smiled at the two beaming Mexicans, who had waited all night to play for two minutes.

Dylan went into the control room to hear the playback, and Coburn greeted him: "Fantastic, this is fucking fantastic. When it's matched with the film, it'll be beautiful. I hope they realize what they're getting here."

"Yeah?" Dylan looked at him.

Coburn gave him the full wide-screen Coburn treatment: "Yeah."

Dylan laughed: "Yeeahh."

Producer Carroll approached the Big D gingerly. About that song, he wondered, it seemed that it was different than it was on Sam's tape and he just wondered what key Dylan did it in.

"Same key," was the reply. Well, Carroll just thought that Sam's tape sounded richer and he wondered if Dylan would consider cutting it another way.

Dylan was edgy: "No, I can't even hear the song anymore. I guess it's what Sam wants. It's his movie. It's for the film."

Carroll persisted: "I don't understand the sense. What part of the film?" All of it, Dylan replied, all of it or none of it. He grew impatient: "You have two takes, you can have either of them."

Carroll backed down, "Want to hear them played back?"

Dylan, flatly, "I want to hear everything played back."

As Carroll turned, Dylan uttered one word: "Hollywood."

It was four in the morning, and he ordered another bourbon and sat, impassive behind his shades, as he listened to the tapes. Just after Kristofferson, Coburn and Wurlitzer left to get some sleep before watching the Super Bowl, Dylan called for a new tape to be put on. "Let's," he said, "do 'Billy' again."

For the third take, he deleted his harmonica and added bass and drums and had Paul sing harmony. He cut it back to eight verses and the sound was bouncier and flashier.

But he didn't like the take and cut it again, in G, just he and Paul singing over the guitar. He slowed it down and this version was eerie and mournful, almost dirge-like. Where earlier he had toyed with Billy, now he was pleading with him: "Billy, you're so far away from home."

He liked the take and turned to Carroll, "Right after this Garrett rides into town. Right?"

"Right," the producer said. "Right. That really is . . . unbelievable. Um. What do you think?"

"No," Dylan said. "I don't think. Usually. I don't think, I hold it all in and then . . . act! " He laughed. "I'm glad you were on the case, because I forgot all about that original."

Seven AM. The Mexican technicians were rubbing their eyes sleepily and stepping around empty glasses and cigarette butts. As the others headed for the hotel, Dylan was wide awake and ready to return to Durango.

"I'm thinking about doing a show there," he said. "I'd like to. It's just a funky little hall. Real nice audience, though. They make a lot of noise. I'm kind of anxious to do it. I mean a real audience. I'm used to those audiences in the States, and they just come and gawk at you."

He found a last drink and last cigarette before leaving. "That song," he told the writer, "Rudy needed a song for the script. I wasn't doing anything. Rudy sent the script, and I read it and liked it and we got together and he needed a title song. And then I saw The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs and Cable Hogue and liked them. The best one is Ride the High Country. Sam's really, like he's the last of a dying breed. They don't hire people like that to make movies anymore. So I wrote that song real quick and played it for Sam and he really liked it and asked me to be in the movie. I want now, to make movies. I've never been this close to movies before. I'll make a hell of a movie after this."

This story is from the March 15th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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