Posts Tagged ‘John Wesley Harding’

Bob Dylan / Travelin' Thru 1967-69 Bootleg Series vol 15

Sony’s Legacy Recordings continues the long running Bob Dylan ‘Bootleg Series’ as they announce “Travelin’ Thru 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series vol 15” which revisits Dylan’s musical journeys to Nashville from 1967-1969, focusing on previously unavailable recordings session made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and Self Portrait sessions.

Travelin’ Thru is simpler and more affordable than previous sets as it comes as a three disc package for both CD and vinyl.

Disc one of this set offers alternate versions of tracks from John Wesley Harding”the album Dylan recorded as a trio (himself, Charlie McCoy on bass and Kenneth Buttrey on drums) in late 1967 after his infamous motorcycle accident of the previous year. Amongst the unreleased material is a different version of All Along The Watch TowerNashville Skyline sessions offer an alternate of ‘Lay Lady Lay’ and a new song ‘Western Road’.

Discs two and three are centred around Dylan’s work with Johnny Cash, including Columbia Studio A sessions and on-stage performances at the Ryman Auditorium (May 1st, 1969) for the recording of the premiere episode of The Johnny Cash Show (originally broadcast on ABC-TV on June 7, 1969).

Disc Three features Self Portrait outtakes, including ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ (recorded with guitarist Fred Carter two days after the Johnny Cash Show on 3 May) and closes with tracks recorded on 17th May 1970 with bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs for the PBS television special, Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends” (originally aired January 1971).

‘John Wesley Harding’ is still among my top two or three best Dylan albums. The album is so rich with imagery that each song feels like a little screenplay. This just might be the release that leads me to re-evaluate ‘Nashville Skyline’, I feel drawn to Dylan’s music during all its ‘phases’ I think that the whole Bootleg series has done more to elucidate Dylan’s genius than most of the original releases in their original form and time. When you consider albums like ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, ‘Blonde on Blonde’ or ‘Blood on The Tracks’, that says a lot about what he’s contributed and what’s still to be heard.

Travelin’ Thru 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series vol 15 will be released on 1st November 2019.


When Bruce Springsteen joined English singer songwriter John Wesley Harding on “Wreck on the Highway” in 1994, it would be his only performance of that song in a 20-year span. The audio has been officially out there for years, but this week we’re proud to premiere a video documenting that performance.

The occasion: for Record Store Day, Ominvore Recordings is putting out John Wesley Harding’s first covers album, Greatest Other People’s Hits, which includes that live duo performance as well as Wes’s cover of “Jackson Cage” (he likes The River, it seems). It’s the first time on vinyl for both recordings. Look for the LP at indie shops this Saturday, April 21st.

In the autumn of 1967, Bob Dylan took a mysterious trip to Nashville. “As I recall, it was just on a kind of whim that Bob went down,” Robbie Robertson, who had spent much of that summer wood shedding with Dylan and the rest of the Band in upstate New York, would later say. To this day, no one knows for sure when Dylan wrote many of the 12 songs he recorded on his secretive visit. He hadn’t played a single one of them during his mythic sessions in the basement of “Big Pink” near Woodstock that year, and he reputedly composed several of the best new tunes (“The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” and “Drifter’s Escape”) during his two-day train ride from New York to Nashville. Once there, he knocked out his eighth album in just three sessions in a local studio. “We did the whole thing in nine, nine and a half hours,” says Charlie McCoy, who returned from the Blonde on Blonde sessions to play bass on the new material. “He was focused. And he never used a lyric sheet. To memorize those lyrics, with all those double meanings, was impressive.”

Bob Dylan released his eighth LP “John Wesley Harding” on December. 27th, 1967. This record marked Dylan’s return to acoustic music and traditional roots, after three albums of electric rock music.

The album was well received by critics and enjoyed solid sales, reaching #2 on the US charts and topping the UK charts. The commercial performance was considered remarkable considering that Dylan had kept Columbia from releasing the album with much promotion or publicity. Less than three months after its release, John Wesley Harding was certified gold by the RIAA.

“All Along the Watchtower” became one of his most popular songs after it was recorded by Jimi Hendrix the following year. How long did it take for you to realize that “All Along the Watchtower” was not written by Hendrix?

John Wesley Harding came as a shock to fans, and decades later, it stands alone in Dylan’s discography – a hard pivot away from the revolutionary rock & roll masterpieces that preceded it, and equally distant from anything else he’d done or would do. Its tightly crafted country-folk songs lack traditional choruses but teem with cryptic tales and strange warnings. “There was to be no wasted language, no wasted breath,” Allen Ginsberg later said of the approach to songwriting that Dylan adopted after Blonde on Blonde“All the imagery was to be functional rather than ornamental.” Dylan himself traced the change to his 1966 motorcycle crash: “I thought I was just gonna get up and go back to doing what I was doing before,” he recalled in 1969. “But I couldn’t do it anymore.”


Dylan began incorporating explicit religious language into his lyrics; much has been made of Beatty Zimmerman’s report around this time that her son kept “a huge Bible open on a stand in the middle of his study.” The death of Dylan’s early idol Woody Guthrie, on October 3rd, 1967, less than a month before recording began, may well have influenced songs like “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” (a surreal riff on the labor-rally folk standard “Joe Hill”).

The sound of the album was bracingly austere, which Dylan later explained as a reaction to the “very indulgent” psychedelic orchestration of albums like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandCasting aside his own ambitious arrangements on the previous year’s Blonde on Blondehe called back only two of his sidemen from that album – McCoy on bass and Kenny Buttrey on drums – and kept his interactions with them at a bare minimum. “He didn’t talk to us, which was unusual,” McCoy says. “Just did not communicate. I think he appreciated what we were doing. It was hard to tell.”

Happy 49th Birthday to the LP “John Wesley Harding”!!