by Tony Attwood
You might also like to see Mixed up Confusion: Bob Dylan and Gnosticism
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“Mixed up confusion” comes from the what seems to have been a one off set of recording sessions in October and November 1962 . It is a most curious diversion musically, since as far as can be judged from the data available, in the weeks before this adventure Dylan had been writing and recording such pieces as
… four songs each of which had its own strong tale to tell – which is not something that can be said about Mixed Up. This song is more a statement about Bob not being totally right with things.
Indeed for a moment Dylan appeared to be wandering off and exploring several new trains of thought, for his immediate subsequent compositions included “I’d hate to be you on that dreadful day” (an early venture into telling us sinners what is going to happen to us when the Almighty has had enough of our misbehaviour), “Paths of Victory“, “Train a travelin”, “Walking down the line” and “Cuban Missile Crisis”and “Playboys and Playgirls” before coming up with Oxford Town.
“Dreadful day” itself was thus an interesting period of diversification of the message; a message to which Bob returned full on with “When the ship comes in” which shows that there was a whole level of experimentation going on. And thus it is perhaps not totally surprising that before all this we had “Mixed up confusion” which was released as a single (with Corina Corina on the B side) in December 1962, and subsequently appeared on Masterpieces and Biograph.
The sessions in which “Mixed up” was recorded also included the aforementioned Corrina Corrina which of course turned up on Freewheelin, and Rocks and Gravel, plus a working through of Elvis Presley’s first single, “That’s all right”.
Certainly “Mixed up confusion” has all the hallmarks of something dashed off fairly quickly (one story speaks of it being written in the taxi on the way to the studio) and Dylan later said that doing the song wasn’t his idea at all, although Heylin says Dylan is being a little less than complete in his version of the story.
Whether it was Dylan’s notion to try some electric music at this time, or producer John Hammond’s we can’t resolve but one way of another the track was recorded and released.
We have two versions of it; this is the version that was not on Biograph
The lyrics are fairly clearly Dylanesque, and could have been used in a blues if he had had a mind to do that
I got mixed up confusion
Man, it’s a-killin’ me
Well, there’s too many people
And they’re all too hard to please
Well, my hat’s in my hand
Babe, I’m walkin’ down the line
An’ I’m lookin’ for a woman
Whose head’s mixed up like mine
Well, my head’s full of questions
My temp’rature’s risin’ fast
Well, I’m lookin’ for some answers
But I don’t know who to ask
But I’m walkin’ and wonderin’
And my poor feet don’t ever stop
Seein’ my reflection
I’m hung over, hung down, hung up!
There almost an attempt here to use the oddball comedy of “I shall be free” in a rock n roll format. It doesn’t work here because it doesn’t go far enough, but it wouldn’t be long before Bob rectified that.
Here’s the single version, which also appeared on the albums…
It’s a bit of an oddity, but it has its place in the history of Bob Dylan’s compositions and gives us a view of how ideas can come along, not quite be ready and need to be rested just for a while before reaching fruition.
What else is on the site
1: Over 450 reviews of Dylan songs. There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.
2: The Chronology. We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums. The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site. We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year. The index to the chronologies is here.
3: Bob Dylan’s themes. We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions. There is an index here.
4: The Discussion Group We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
5: Bob Dylan’s creativity. We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further. The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.
And please do note The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.