Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seems Like a Freeze Out: My Life & Bootlegs Part 5

Seems like a Freeze Out came into my life sometime in 1972. As you can see from the photo, it is an early Trade Mark of Quality product that featured good sound and nice packaging. The quality of bootlegs was definitely improving.

At the time, I was living at Floyd’s Hotel in downtown Somerville, MA. By then, I was buying bootleg albums through the mail from some kind of mimeograph list. I can’t exactly remember the particulars. Guess the 38-year-old memory bank has a hole in it. I do know that we was still listening to lot of Dylan and Band as well as lots of Big Joe Turner and rhythm and blues at the hotel during these years.

The album was a memorable event because it was my first listen to outtakes from Blonde on Blonde. Since this 1965-1966 period found Bob at the height of his powers as a songwriter, all real fans were hungry for anything unheard from this time. Although the important tracks on the record were labeled as coming from the “L.A Band sessions in 1965”, it is now known that this is not the case. A careful review of Bob schedule during that time has cast serious doubt on any recording being done in Los Angeles in that time frame.

It has since been determined that four of these tracks were actually recorded in New York between October of 1965 and January of 1966 with the future members of The Band: Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. Bob’s effort to capture the Thin Wild Mercury Sound that would be heard on Blonde on Blonde began in the studio in New York City. Although the sessions did not produce any music that would ultimately end up on Blonde on Blonde (that would come later in the Nashville studio), these tracks do have historic value and they sound great as well.

The most important cut is the early version of Visions of Johanna called Seems like a Freeze Out. Visions of Johanna has always been one of Bob most popular and most analyzed songs. Of the 60’s songbook, it my be his best realized combination of lyrics and music. The poetry of the lines like: "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" had never been seen in a rock song at this time. If you compare this to even the Beatles’ efforts at the same time, you realize why even Lennon and McCartney had good reason to be in awe of Bob’s songwriting.

To hear this early working version of a legendary song made the album worth the price. Often referred to as the Nightingale’s Code version for its variation of the lyrics, the song seems even darker and more desperate than the one that ultimately got on Blonde on Blonde.

Have a listen: Seems Like a Freeze Out

Three other great tracks from the same sessions: She’s Your Lover Now, I Wanna Be Your Lover and Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window make their debut on this disk as well. She’s Your Lover Now is my favorite of these songs. With Dylan’s insistent piano and madcap lyrics combined with Robbie’s guitar, it may not be the Thin Wild Mercury, but it is damn good. It is unfortunate that a fully realized version of this song never was captured on vinyl.

On what became the single version of Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window, Robbie and the boys, who had only met Bob three weeks before, put their distinctive stamp on this classic Dylan Tune. This successful combination of Bob and his future band mates is an early indication of the great music to come.

Listen to Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window here.

The record also contained the alternate version of From a Buick 6, which was on some copies of Highway 61 Revisited. BobCat Numero Uno had one of those copies and I can remember playing it often and loud while drinking teenage cocktails at Road’s End.

The other side of the album contains some acoustic songs from 1963. Interesting stuff, bit I don’t think it got much play at Floyd’s Hotel.

A copy of Seems Like a Freeze Out would probably be hard to find now, although I have seen a few on eBay. These versions of Visions of Johanna, She’s Your Lover Now and Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window can be found on several Dylan bootleg CDs, so you can get them into your iPod that way.