This is part of our series reviewing the art work on Dylan’s albums. There is a full index to the series here.
by Patrick Roefflaer
- Released: October 27, 1992
- Photographer: Jimmy Wachtel
- Art-director: Dawn Patrol, LA
For his first entirely solo, acoustic album since 1964, Bob Dylan asks Jimmy Wachtel to shoot the photograph. This is a bit of an odd choice. In the Seventies Wachtel had designed album covers for big artists such as Joe Walsh, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar, Buckingham Nicks … but as the music business changed in the Eighties, Wachtel decided he wanted a career switch and started to design movie posters. “It’s a vertical version of the same graphic design I had been doing for square album covers”, he explained in 2014 to Jimmy Steinfeldt. “… and it went very well. I started doing it by myself, and then I started a company which eventually died. But then I continued my original company Dawn Patrol, which I had started when I did record covers. This time I started hiring people, and it became a real company with a lot of overhead.”
That’s why, when he got the call from Dylan, he didn’t even have a camera anymore. “So I borrowed a camera”, Wachtel told Zach Schonfeld in 2019, “which I didn’t know how to work. And I went out to his house up above Malibu.”
In addition, “He wasn’t dressed very well,” Wachtel laughs. “So I gave him my shirt to wear. It looked a little jazzier. I just said, ‘Keep that shirt.’ He liked it. I liked it too, but whatever.”
In some of the outtakes of the shoot, Bob can be seen with his long-time friend, Debbie Gold, who’s credited as producer on the album. They seem to be having lots of fun.
Wachtel has issues with the borrowed equipment. “I shot one roll and then changed the film – this was prior to digital – and I couldn’t get the film out of the camera. […] I hadn’t used this camera before.
At that point, Dylan said: ‘Maybe we should get another photographer.’
I soon got the film loaded and the shoot turned out great. But I have to say I was a little nervous there for a minute.”
A few days later Wachtel drives back to Dylan’s place in Malibu, where the singer chooses a portrait from the pile: one in profile, unshaven and looking thoughtful to something up high on the left side. “That’s the one he liked. He liked the attitude. I designed the package, sent it to him, he approved it, and that was it,” the photographer says.
Wachtel chooses not to cut the photo as a square, but fills the space on either side of the portrait with a blue border, which seems to be illuminated from below. He also provides black collars at the bottom and above the photo, in which the name of the singer and the title of the record are saved. The lettering is filled with the same blue to white color scheme.
The whole thing comes across as a bit cheap, like a cover of budget CD with out of copyright material of an old blues singer, but perhaps that might be exactly what Dylan was looking for.
On the back there’s another picture of Dylan – the photographer uncredited. The singer is onstage, holding a Yamaha L6.
In case you’re wondering: Wachtel never got the shirt back. “I’m sure he could afford his own shirt. But I just thought, ‘I’ll give Bob Dylan a gift.’”
Oh and yes: Jimmy is is the older brother of guitarist Robert ‘Waddy’ Wachtel.