Dylan the sideman: Bromberg, Booker T, Priscilla Jones, David Blue

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

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Aaron: One of the great joys of this series of articles on Dylan’s session work for other artists is in reacquainting myself with some excellent works I’d completely forgotten about!

First up is one such track by David Bromberg called “Sammy’s Song”

This is from his debut album “David Bromberg” released on Columbia Records in 1972. The song is the closing track on the album.

Not only is the track itself tremendous, Bob’s harmonica piece is wonderful and complements the song beautifully. It’s a fantastic album, by the way, including a co-write with George Harrison called “The Holdup”.

Tony: It is a reminder of just how good Bob can be at stepping back.  The song does nothing for me; the subject matter is horrific, and it left me thinking, do I want to listen?  Actually no I don’t.  But of course I have to for this article and it turns out it is not just the subject matter, it is the repeating over and over of the chord sequence of a four bar phrase.  That can work, and Dylan has done it, but I don’t think this guy has it.

And at the end I wonder if Bob’s final harmonica accompaniment is more a sound of despair about how long the song is going on for, rather than for the plaintive and desperate nature of the lyrics.   But that’s not his fault – he didn’t write the song.

Aaron: Moving on to 1973, Bob contributes harmonica to two more tracks.

Booker T & Priscilla Jones “Crippled Creek” was released on the album “Chronicles” and as a single.

The song was written by Donna Weiss, the song writer who also has a claim on Sweet Amerillo.

The second session that year was for Roger McGuinn on his self titled debut solo album. Not only does Bob contribute harmonica he also gets a name check in the lyric, along with John Lennon and Mick Jagger.

Tony: Ms Jones also co-wrote one of my all time favourite songs, “Bette Davis Eyes,” a song to which I have danced so many times – it allows an evolution of dance in multiple directions at once, and very few songs do that.  That is a masterpiece.  But this…  It really doesn’t work for me.

But hell, what do I know?  Booker T and Bob Dylan are involved and they are the masters.

Aaron: Moving on to the final selection today we have David Blue with “Who Love (If Not You Love)” from his 1975 album “Com’n Back For More”.

Tony: Blue was part of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour and appears in Renaldo And Clara (playing a pinball machine, talking about the Greenwich Village scene and Blowing in the Wind.  Apparently at the Fat Black Pussycat, Dylan asked told Blue to strum a chord sequence as Dylan wrote out lyrics for what was quickly to become “Blowin’ in the Wind.” His best known song is “Outlaw Man” which the Eagles released as a single and on the “Desperado” album.

He was also on the cover of Dylan’s The Basement Tapes, wearing a bowler hat crouching down next to Rick Danko alongside the other members of the Band and the circus freaks.

But David Blue is a bit of a mystery – as Rolling Stone says, “Bob Dylan befriended him, Joni Mitchell helped support him, and the Eagles covered one of his songs. So why did success elude the late singer-songwriter?”  They also described him as the sad eyed cowboy of the lowlands.  And tragically he died of a heart attack aged just 41.

Bob Dylan played harmonica on “Who Love (If Not You Love”).

But I would like to sneak in something else in memory of David Blue

The version of this really lovely song that is on the “David Blue” album is much harsher and “produced” (if you see what I mean).  This live recording from a radio studio captures the utter beauty and delicacy of the song.  A moment to treasure of a man who should have been much more widely recognised.  It brings tears…

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  1. Vittorio, David Blue had affairs with plenty of people. Even tried to with me (as did all the musicians “back in the day.”) Drugs got him in the end. That’s what killed the hippie and folk movement … D R U G S. Sad looking back.

  2. Catherine, just so you know, your first post was held for moderation, because you hadn’t posted before, and it is the easiest way I have of stopping the adverts that people post here. Now you’ve posted you’ll be able to have your post visible at once without delay.

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