A Tambourine As Big As A Wagon Wheel

Who's that lady?
Who's that lady?

Back in 1965, a guitarist named Bruce Langhorn came to one of Bob Dylan’s recording sessions with a tambourine “as big as a wagon wheel.”

I don’t know if he was feeling eponymous that day, but anyway, he was given the nickname Mr. Tambourine Man.

Langhorn was a heck of a guitarist, still is for all I know, and he inspired Dylan to write a song on which Langhorn himself provides the “floating droplets of electric guitar which are the only accompaniment to Dylan’s own voice and rhythm guitar.”

The quote is from Classic Bob Dylan 1962-69: My Back Pages by Andy Gill. The book goes song by song through Dylan’s first albums, which rocked the world, and explains who played on them and where some of the songs came from.

This is a great read for me because I know many of those songs by heart and they definitely shaped everything I came to think about everything.

“Darkness at the break of noon / Shadows even the silver spoon / The handmade blade, the child’s balloon / Eclipses both the sun and moon…”

I’m always amused when people purport to understand these Dylan songs. Why Dylan says he himself didn’t understand them. The only people who understood them were Vernon and Ian and me, and now that Ian’s gone, that leaves only me and Vernon.

We listened to Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde for hours on end on a beat-up record player in a house in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, playing pool on a table so warped that all the balls lined themselves up along the banks and you could just shovel them in.

Vernon and Ian and I knew exactly what Dylan was talking about, even if he didn’t himself. But this book adds all kinds of interesting information that I never knew before. Like that lady on the album cover. The legend was that it was Dylan in drag (the face, particularly the jaw, looks a lot like his). Turns out it’s Sally Grossman, the wife of his manager. Now you know.