Dylan's New LP: Three 'Billys'

Hokey honky-tonk tunes for Peckinpah's new Western

Bob Dylan appears in a film still for 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid' which was released in May 1973 (for which he also did the soundtrack) and filmed in Durango, Mexico.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
August 2, 1973

New York — The album of the soundtrack from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, which will be — for better or worse — considered as Bob Dylan's next album, is due out July 16th. It'll be on Columbia, the label from which Dylan has been estranged for a year and a half.

The album, according to Charles Lippincott, publicity executive at the MGM film studios, is not exactly the soundtrack. For example, there are three versions of the theme song, "Billy," entitled "Billy 1," "Billy 4," and "Billy 7," only one of them actually used in the film. ("Billy 4" was recorded in a drunken nighttime session at CBS Discos studios in Mexico City, as reported in Rolling Stone, March 15th, 1973.) Of the ten tunes on the album, the most likely single, if any, will be "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," the tune played under Slim Pickens' death scene.

Gordon Carroll, producer of the film, is also credited as producer of the record, which includes Roger McGuinn, Booker T. and Priscilla Jones, Russ Kunkel, Jim Keltner and Bruce Langhorn as backup musicians.

Album artwork was to have featured a collage of paintings done by Dylan on the set of the Sam Peckinpah-directed film, but, Lippincott said, "the paintings were destroyed by mistake when they were packing them up in Mexico to be shipped to Los Angeles." The front cover, as it is, carries only the title of the film; on the back is a shot from the movie showing R.G. Armstrong holding a gun to co-star Kris Kristofferson's head. A melange of other stills by unit photographer Bob Jenkins — and photographs by Sarah Dylan — will be in a poster included with the album.

For the Western, Dylan sounds almost consciously cowboy-hokey, using a pre-electric country voice, making up rhymes like "hacienda" and "send ya," and using a Tex-Mex sound on several tunes.

But, Lippincott said, Dylan has also cut three songs for a separate new album, the label yet to be decided. Dylan is known to be distant from Columbia — possibly asking for more than the post-Clive Davis company is willing to give. And Columbia reportedly got the soundtrack album only by outbidding several other labels, including Atlantic, Warner Brothers and A&M.

Dylan, in fact, may arrange one-shot deals for his future work, according to Lippincott. If so, Dylan and his attorneys would be making a risky move, forgoing the big-money deals possible only through long-term contracts. And if the rumors about their demands on Columbia are true — asking retroactive boost of record royalties as part of a new deal — Dylan may be disappointed at companies not willing to spend money on a one-album stand, by an artist no longer probably as commercial as — well, as many others.

This story is from the August 2nd, 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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