- Nashville Skyline
Nashville Skyline Studio album by Bob Dylan Released April 9, 1969 Recorded February 12–21, 1969 Genre Country, country rock Length 27:14 Label Columbia Producer Bob Johnston Bob Dylan chronology John Wesley Harding
Singles from Nashville Skyline
- "I Threw It All Away"
Released: May 1969
- "Lay Lady Lay"
Released: July 1969
- "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You"
Released: October 1969
Professional ratings Review scores Source Rating Allmusic  Robert Christgau (Favorable) Rolling Stone 
The album marked a dramatic departure for Dylan, previously known for his groundbreaking, poetic folk music and rock and roll. Nashville Skyline, building on a rustic style he experimented with on John Wesley Harding, displayed a complete immersion into country music. Along with the more basic themes, simple songwriting structures, and charming domestic feel, it introduced audiences to a radically new singing voice from Dylan — a soft, affected country croon.
The result received mostly positive reaction from critics, and was a commercial success. Reaching number 3 in the US, the album also scored Dylan his fourth UK number 1 album.
As he would later write, by 1969, Dylan was growing more frustrated by his lack of privacy. Relocating his family failed to deter fans from intruding on his property and he became increasingly wary of how other residents viewed him. "The neighbors hated us", Dylan recalled. "To them, it must've seemed like I was something out of a carnival show."
To his chagrin, the press continued to promote him as the spokesman of his generation. "I wasn't the toastmaster of any generation", Dylan wrote, "and that notion needed to be pulled up by its roots."
In February 1969, Dylan returned to Nashville to begin work on Nashville Skyline. It had been over a year since his last album, John Wesley Harding, was released, and it had been fifteen months since he produced that album, the last time he was in a recording studio. Many of the Nashville area studio musicians appearing on this album later became the core of Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry.
Dylan held sessions at Columbia's Studio A, scheduling the first on February 12, but there is no record of any work from that first session. A second session held the following day produced master takes of "To Be Alone With You", "I Threw It All Away", and "One More Night." Dylan also made several attempts at "Lay Lady Lay"; as with "I Threw It All Away", "Lay Lady Lay" was written in 1968, one of the few songs written by Dylan that year.
The songs on Nashville Skyline were very relaxed with modest ambitions, something reflected in the studio work ethic. "We just take a song, I play it and everyone else just sort of fills in behind it", Dylan recalls. "At the same time you're doing that, there's someone in the control booth who's turning all those dials to where the proper sound is coming in."
Dylan was also singing with a soft, smooth, country-tinged croon, and many listeners were startled by this 'new' voice. Dylan attributed it to a break from cigarettes, but a number of friends and family members were able to draw a connection between his 'new' voice and the one he used while performing at the Ten O' Clock Scholar in Minneapolis and the Purple Onion pizza parlor in Saint Paul, during the winter and spring of 1960.
Master takes for "Peggy Day", "Tell Me That It Isn't True", "Country Pie" and "Lay Lady Lay" were completed on February 14. During the two-day break that followed, Dylan penned another song, "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You."
When sessions resumed on February 17, "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" was the primary focus, and a master take was selected from a total of eleven takes. An instrumental, titled "Nashville Skyline Rag", was also recorded at the beginning of the session, and it was later included on the album.
Sometime during that session, country legend Johnny Cash stopped by to visit. A friend and label-mate of Dylan's as well as an early supporter of his music, Cash had been recording next door with his own band. The two wound up recording a series of duets, covering Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" :watch as well as Cash's own "I Still Miss Someone." None of these were deemed usable, but Cash returned the following day to record more duets.
The session on February 18 was devoted exclusively to duet covers with Cash. "One Too Many Mornings" and "I Still Miss Someone" were revisited, and rejected, yet again. "Matchbox", "That's All Right Mama", "Mystery Train", "Big River", "I Walk the Line", and "Guess Things Happen That Way", all made famous by celebrated Sun recordings performed by Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Cash himself, were all attempted on February 18, but none of these were deemed usable. Covers of Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel #1" and "#5", Cash's "Ring of Fire" (written by his wife, June Carter and Merle Kilgore), "You Are My Sunshine", "Good Old Mountain Dew", the traditional ballad "Careless Love", the traditional hymn "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", "Five feet high and rising", and "Wanted Man" (a song written by Dylan specifically for Cash) were also attempted, and all were rejected. There was little enthusiasm for any of these tracks, but one duet of Dylan's, "Girl from the North Country" (which originally appeared on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan), was ultimately sequenced as the album's opener.
With primary recording complete, three more overdub sessions were held on February 19, 20, and 21. After these sessions were completed, acetate pressings were made for a preliminary sequence to Nashville Skyline. Originally a nine-track, twenty-three minute program, Dylan ultimately kept this sequence intact with one significant amendment, adding "Girl from the North Country" as the opening cut.
Unlike other country-rock excursions, like The Byrds' landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Nashville Skyline was rooted far more in modern country than in rural folk music. By 1969, the country music establishment was following popular trends, moving away from its roots and closer to mainstream pop. Nashville Skyline was a reflection of this, complete with a number of clichés associated with the genre.
The album begins with a new version of "Girl from the North Country", Dylan's duet with Johnny Cash. A close friend of Dylan's since their meeting at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, Cash also wrote the Grammy-winning album notes for the album. One verse ("Many times I've often prayed/In the darkness of my night") is also deleted in this performance.
"Peggy Day", "Country Pie", and "Nashville Skyline Rag" are perhaps the humblest recordings on Nashville Skyline. Upbeat and uptempo, lyrically they have little ambition ("Nashville Skyline Rag" is actually an instrumental), but the recordings center on the performances, not the words. This became more apparent many years later when Dylan used "Country Pie" as a live, improvisational showcase in the early 2000s.
"'Tell Me That It Isn't True' is the voice of a suspicious man who promises himself he'll take his woman's word for her fidelity, all the time denying the 'rumors all over town' that she's 'been seen with some other man,'" writes NPR's Tim Riley. "Dylan gives it a forced sincerity of someone who can't help deceiving himself, and the song catches a quiet terror."
"Lay Lady Lay" turned out to be one of Dylan's biggest pop hits, reaching #7 in the US, and giving him his biggest single in three years. "Lay Lady Lay" was originally written for the film Midnight Cowboy, but Dylan did not deliver it in time for it to be included in the score. He was initially reluctant to authorize the single's release, but eventually approved at the insistence of Columbia president Clive Davis.
"Sometimes... I go to the artist and say, 'What do you hear on the drums?' Because sometimes when people write songs they can hear it completed, they hear everything they think's gonna be on it", says drummer Ken Buttrey. "I went over to Dylan and said, 'I'm having a little trouble thinking of something to play. Do you have any ideas on ['Lay Lady Lay']?'... He said, 'Bongos'... I immediately disregarded that, I couldn't hear bongos in this thing at all... So I walked into the control room and said, 'Bob [Johnston], what do you hear as regards [to] drums on this thing?'... [He] said, 'Cowbells.'... Kris Kristofferson was working at Columbia Studios at the time as a janitor and he had just emptied my ashtray at the drums and I said, 'Kris, do me a favor, here, hold these two things... hold these bongos in one hand and the cowbells in the other,' and I swung this mike over to the cowbells and the bongos... I had no pattern or anything worked out. I just told Kris, 'This is one of those spite deals. I'm gonna show 'em how bad their ideas're gonna sound.'... We started playing the tune and I was just doodling around on these bongos and the cowbells and it was kinda working out pretty cool... Come chorus time I'd go to the set of drums. Next time you hear that [cut], listen how far off-mike the drums sound. There were no mikes on the drums, it was just leakage... But it worked out pretty good... To this day it's one of the best drum patterns I ever came up with."
"I Threw It All Away" was another hit single for Nashville Skyline. Riley describes it as "a glimmer of honesty from a person who has taken love for granted, squandered its rewards, and lived to sing about it." ("Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand/And rivers that ran through ev'ry day/I must have been mad/I never knew what I had/Until I threw it all away.")
"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" is "perhaps the best song of the sessions", writes Clinton Heylin, "a fine cousin to John Wesley Harding's 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.'" Both songs closed their respective albums on a relaxed, romantic note with a hint of sexual longing. Dylan actually wrote "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" in February 1969 at a Ramada Inn on one of the motel's notepads. The third and final single from Nashville Skyline, like the previous two singles, it would also be a hit.
Outtakes and trivia
Producer Bob Johnston reportedly left a collection of master recordings from the Nashville Skyline sessions in a Nashville storage facility, and the tapes ended up in private hands after being auctioned off for nonpayment of rent.
Dylan and Cash recorded an entire album's worth of duets of country standards during the Nashville Skyline sessions, which remains unreleased. An unauthorized selection from those duets circulates among Dylan collectors and has been commercially bootlegged. It is sometimes described as an unreleased LP, but there is no hard evidence of its exact source.
At the beginning of "Girl from the North Country," Bob Dylan can be heard chewing gum, as shown on a film clip of that recording.
At the beginning of "To Be Alone with You" Bob Dylan asks "Is it rolling, Bob?", talking to the producer Bob Johnston.
Nashville Skyline was finished and scheduled for release in May 1969, but at the end of April, Dylan returned to Columbia's Studio A in Nashville for three more recording sessions. These sessions, held on April 24, 26th, and May 3, were dedicated to country standards with one exception, a new composition titled "Living The Blues." Dylan was apparently planning his next album.
"Bob asked my opinion of the album's concept early on", recalls Clive Davis. "My objections wouldn't necessarily have stopped the album, but I knew he'd been having some difficulty coming up with his own material...so I encouraged him."
By the time Nashville Skyline was recorded, the political climate in the United States had grown more turbulent and polarized. In 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy (a leading candidate for the presidency) were both assassinated. Riots had broken out in several major cities, including a major one surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois and a number of racially-motivated riots spurred by King's assassination. A new President, Richard Nixon, was sworn into office in January 1969, but the U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia, particularly the Vietnam War, would continue for several more years. Protests over a wide range of political topics became more frequent. Dylan had been a leading cultural figure, noted for his political and social commentary throughout the 1960s. Even as he moved away from topical songs, he never lost his cultural status. However, as Clinton Heylin would write about Nashville Skyline, "if Dylan was concerned about retaining a hold on the rock constituency, making albums with Johnny Cash in Nashville was tantamount to abdication in many eyes."
Helped by a promotional appearance on The Johnny Cash Show on June 7, Nashville Skyline went on to become one of Dylan's best-selling albums. Three singles were pulled from the album, all of which received significant airplay on AM radio.
Despite the dramatic, commercial shift in direction, the press also gave Nashville Skyline a warm reception. A critic for Newsweek wrote of "the great charm... and the ways Dylan, both as composer and performer, has found to exploit subtle differences on a deliberately limited emotional and verbal scale." In his review for Rolling Stone, Paul Nelson wrote, "Nashville Skyline achieves the artistically impossible: a deep, humane, and interesting statement about being happy. It could well be ... his best album." However, years later in a review for Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, Nelson would retract his opinion, writing "I was misinformed. That's why no one should pay any attention to critics, especially the artist."
Few critics expressed immediate disappointment, but of those who did, Ed Ochs of Billboard wrote, "the satisfied man speaks in clichés, and blushes as if every day were Valentine's Day", while Tim Souster of the BBC's The Listener magazine wrote, "One can't help feeling something is missing. Isn't this idyllic country landscape [simply] too good to be true?"
As Nashville Skyline continued to enjoy strong sales, Dylan planned his first concert performance since the Woody Guthrie memorial in January 1968. English promoters had approached Dylan about appearing at the Isle of Wight Festival at Woodside Bay in Isle of Wight, England. Before agreeing to the arrangements, Dylan made a surprise public performance on July 14, 1969. At the Mississippi River Festival held at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois, Dylan joined The Band for a brief four-song set, including Woody Guthrie's "Ain't Got No Home", Leadbelly's "In The Pines", and Little Richard's "Slippin' and Slidin'."
Later, on August 31, 1969, Dylan would appear with The Band at the Isle of Wight Festival, performing a one-hour, seventeen-song setlist dominated by Dylan's compositions; only two songs from Nashville Skyline, "I Threw It All Away" and "Lay Lady Lay", were performed.
Roughly 200,000 fans attended Isle of Wight, and though audience reaction was strong enough to elicit a two-song encore, Dylan was dissatisfied with the whole performance. Dylan had hired Elliot Mazer to record his set, hoping to release an official live album. Instead, Dylan scrapped those plans, but not before sending the tapes to Nashville, where Bob Johnston began to remix the recordings.
Dylan had told Rolling Stone in late June that he would resume touring in the fall, but after the experience at Isle of Wight, those plans never materialized. There would be a few more sporadic performances before Dylan would finally resume touring in January 1974, four and a half years after the Isle of Wight festival.
Dylan was not alone in his disappointment with Isle of Wight, and he would experience that harsh criticism when a selection of those performances appeared on his next album. The stage had already been set with the three Nashville sessions in late April and early May, as Dylan was about to face the worst reviews of his career.
All songs written by Bob Dylan.
- "Girl from the North Country" (with Johnny Cash) – 3:41
- "Nashville Skyline Rag" – 3:12
- "To Be Alone with You" – 2:07
- "I Threw It All Away" – 2:23
- "Peggy Day" – 2:01
- "Lay Lady Lay" – 3:18
- "One More Night" – 2:23
- "Tell Me That It Isn't True" – 2:41
- "Country Pie" – 1:37
- "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" – 3:23
- Bob Dylan – Guitar, Harmonica, Keyboards, Vocals
- Johnny Cash – vocals, Performer
- Pete Drake – Pedal steel guitar
- Fred Carter, Jr.: Guitar
- Kenneth A. Buttrey – drums
- Charlie Daniels – Bass guitar, Guitar
- Bob Wilson – Organ, Piano
- Charlie McCoy – Guitar, Harmonica
- Norman Blake – Guitar, Dobro
- Charlie Bragg – Engineer
- Neil Wilburn – Engineer
- Marshall Grant – bass on "Girl from North Country"
- Bob Wootton – electric guitar on "Girl from North Country"
- W.S. Holland – drums on "Girl from North Country"
Year Chart Position 1969 Billboard 200 3 1969 UK Top 75 1 Preceded by
On the Threshold of a Dream by The Moody Blues
UK Albums Chart number-one album
24 May 1969 – 21 June 1969
His Orchestra, His Chorus, His Singers, His Sound by Ray Conniff
Year Single Chart Position 1969 "I Threw it All Away" Billboard 200 85 1969 "I Threw it All Away" UK Top 100 30 1969 "Lay Lady Lay" Billboard 200 7 1969 "Lay Lady Lay" UK Top 75 5 1969 "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" Billboard 200 50 1969 "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" UK Top 75 — "—" denotes that the single did not chart.
- ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/r6423
- ^ http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/bk-aow/dylan.php
- ^ http://rateyourmusic.com/collection/RollingStoneAlbumGuide/strm_a/bob+dylan/1
- ^ Dylan and Cash unreleased recording session
- ^ Quoted in Heylin, Clinton (2003). Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited, p. 303. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-052569-X.
- ^ Heylin (2003), p. 301.
- ^ Quoted in Heylin (2003), p. 302.
- ^ a b Quoted in Heylin (2003), p. 303.
- ^ "Chart Stats – Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline". chartstats.com. http://www.chartstats.com/release.php?release=36734. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
Bob Dylan Studio albumsBob Dylan · The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan · The Times They Are a-Changin' · Another Side of Bob Dylan · Bringing It All Back Home · Highway 61 Revisited · Blonde on Blonde · John Wesley Harding · Nashville Skyline · Self Portrait · New Morning · Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid · Dylan · Planet Waves · Blood on the Tracks · The Basement Tapes · Desire · Street-Legal · Slow Train Coming · Saved · Shot of Love · Infidels · Empire Burlesque · Knocked Out Loaded · Down in the Groove · Oh Mercy · Under the Red Sky · Good as I Been to You · World Gone Wrong · Time Out of Mind · Love and Theft · Modern Times · Together Through Life · Christmas in the Heart Live albumsBefore the Flood · Hard Rain · Bob Dylan at Budokan · Real Live · Dylan & the Dead · The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration · MTV Unplugged · Live 1961–2000: Thirty-Nine Years of Great Concert Performances · Live at the Gaslight 1962 · Live at Carnegie Hall 1963 · In Concert – Brandeis University 1963 Compilations The Bootleg SeriesVolumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 · Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert · Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue · Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall · Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack · Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 · Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964 Concerts and tours Never Ending Tour Films Writings Books about DylanThe Bob Dylan Encyclopedia · Bob Dylan, Performing Artist · Invisible Republic · The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan Related articlesAlbums · American folk music revival · Awards · Bob Dylan bootleg recordings · List of Basement Tapes songs · The Bootleg Series · Discography · List of artists who have covered Bob Dylan songs · Related topics · Songs recorded by Bob Dylan · Songs written by Bob Dylan · Great White Wonder · The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams · The Masked Marauders · Theme Time Radio Hour · The Best of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour · Traveling Wilburys
- "I Threw It All Away"
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