How Bob Dylan’s ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ ‘Stunned the World’
When Bob Dylan entered Columbia Records’ Studio A in mid-January 1965 and blew out an 11-song LP in three days, he didn’t merely go electric, invent folk rock and transition from an acoustic troubadour to a boundary-pushing rock & roller. He conjured performances that would completely reimagine how pop music communicated – not just what it could say, but how it could say it. “Some people say that I am a poet,” he wrote coyly in the prose-poem notes on the back cover. Now, he was ready to test the limits of what that meant, rewiring himself for a singularly revolutionary moment. The fallout-shelter sign in the cover shot was on point: Bringing It All Back Home was the cultural equivalent of a nuclear bomb.
“The thing about Bringing It All Back Home was his words,” says David Crosby. “That’s what Bob stunned the world with. Up until then we had ‘oooh, baby’ and ‘I love you, baby.’ Bob changed the map. He gave us really, really good words.”
As Dylan put it in his memoir, Chronicles, “What I did to break away, was to take simple folk changes and put new imagery and attitude to them, use catchphrases and metaphor combined with a new set of ordinances that evolved into something different that had not been heard before.”
Dylan had been considering his next artistic leap forward for some time – at least since early 1964, when he’d been bowled over by hearing the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio. “They were doing things nobody was doing,” he recalled. “The chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and the harmonies made it all valid. You could only do that with other musicians.”
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On January 13th, 1965, the first day of sessions for the album, Dylan recorded solo and entirely acoustic, just as he always had, with a guitar, harmonica and piano. Some believe the idea was to cut demos for an all-electric LP. But Dylan was clearly feeling out the best approach for each song. His instincts were shark like. “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” “On the Road Again” and a variant of “Outlaw Blues” were recorded on that first day, in versions that have since surfaced. Within the next 48 hours, all those songs would be recut electric for the final release.
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