It was hailed as a landmark album. Rock music critics variously ranked it among the greatest albums of all time, with some placing it at the top of that all-too-fickle list. Released fifty-one years ago this month, though the exact date is debatable, it’s still considered one of the finest recordings in the history of rock music. To many, including me, it remains at the top of that list.
Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde capped a trilogy of albums that began with Bringing It All Back Home, followed by Highway 61 Revisited, both released the previous year. In the history of rock music, Blonde on Blonde was among the first double albums with a gatefold cover and one song, “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” that spanned the entire fourth side of that two-LP set. Initially I thought Highway 61 Revisited, containing the timeless anthem, “Like a Rolling Stone,” could never be surpassed. Man, was I was wrong! At first listen, Blonde on Blonde blew me away.
For a budding teenage guitar player just beginning to get the hang of playing and singing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from the Bob Dylan Song Book I’d purchased months before, the songs from Blonde on Blonde offered a new challenge. I desperately wanted a leg up on learning them. Desperation turned into exultation when I spied the Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde “Deluxe Edition” song book in a local music store where I’d get guitar strings and picks.
Regretfully, I never convinced my garage bandmates at that time to include a Dylan song or two in our repertoire. Instead, I learned a few of them for practice and to entertain myself. Eventually, I learned enough of them to entertain my college housemates and an occasional campus coffeehouse audience. Over time, I’ve entertained some of those same housemates, their spouses and friends whenever we’ve gotten a chance to reunite for special occasions. Long ago, I’d allegedly perform for about anyone at the drop of a hat. Those days are becoming fewer and further apart. When it does happen, you can be sure I include a hefty portion of Dylan songs, some by request. If you find yourself in the audience on one of those rare occasions, please don’t request “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” unless I have my Blonde on Blonde “Deluxe Edition” song book handy and you’re ready to settle in for the night.
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims
And your matchbook songs and your gypsy hymns
Who among them would try to impress you?
Bob Dylan – “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”