The making of the masterpiece that is Blood on the Tracks is as tangled a tale as any in Dylan’s long recording career.
A version of the album was completed over four days in the studio in New York – the pace of Dylan’s impatient creativity confounding the hastily assembled band that had been recruited to flesh out his darkly reflective songs.
Guitarist Eric Weissberg later recalled: ‘I got the distinct feeling Bob wasn’t concentrating – that he wasn’t interested in perfect takes.
He’d been drinking a lot of wine – he was a little sloppy – but he insisted on moving forward – getting on to the next song without correcting obvious mistakes’.
For the second day’s session only one of the six musicians was retained – while two others were drafted in.
The finished album was scheduled for late December release.
A record cover was printed – an advertising campaign finalised and test pressings dispatched to selected radio stations.
A dissatisfied Dylan spent Christmas with his brother David Zimmerman – his closest confidant.
On hearing the finished record David told him that it would fail commercially because the songs were too stark and stripped back to appeal to a mass audience.
Rattled – Dylan derailed his triumphant return by insisting at the last minute that the album be withdrawn from the schedules.
Five of the 10 songs were then re-recorded in Sound 80 studio in Minneapolis over two days in the week after Christmas with a hastily assembled group of local musicians.
The reworked album was rush-released on 20 January 1975.
Out of these messy and fraught circumstances a masterpiece somehow emerged.