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NOD TO THE GODS: Bob Dylan, ‘Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat’
October 6, 2013
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Each and every Sunday night when the clock hits eight, The Strombo Show celebrates the spirit of radio over on CBC Radio 2. It's music for music lovers by music lovers. To kick off the program, we always tip our hats to the legends, the noisemakers and the ground-breakers in a segment that we like to call: Nod to the Gods.

Three tracks into 'Blonde On Blonde', a Chicago blues-style groove shows up as Bob Dylan affectionately ridicules a female fashion victim with 'Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat'. Its opening blues solo is performed by Dylan himself, with The Hawk playing rhythm in one of their first collaborations from January 1966.

Melodically and lyrically, the track resembles the blues sound of Texas-guitarist Lightnin’ Hopkins, most evidently on his song ‘Automobile Blues’.

Dylan and The Hawks went into the Columbia recording studios in New York City to lay down the tracks for his 'Blonde On Blonde' record. This song was attempted on both January 25 (two takes) and January 27 (six takes), but there was no satisfactory recording made and Dylan became frustrated.

At the time, only 'One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)' was succesfully laid down and Dylan relocated to Nashville. According to the books, it was Valentine's Day 1966 when Dylan called in a slew of musicians: Charlie McCoy (gutiar, bass), Kenny Buttrey (drums), Wayne Moss (guitar), Joseph A. Souter Jr. (guitar, bass), Al Kooper (organ), Hargus Robbins (piano) and Jerry Kennedy (guitar) to attempt the song a dozen more times. Again, Dylan was unsatisfied and hit the road for some shows with The Hawks and returned in March, finding this version of the song in the early hours with Kenny Buttrey, Henry Strzelecki and Robbie Robertson on guitar.

Robertson was in the red chair a few years back to discuss his family heritage, his departure from The Band and his latest album. And he'll be back in the red chair again soon: watch for that interview in the coming weeks.

Dylan shot a film, under the direction of D.A. Pennebaker, of his "electric years" with The Hawks in the documentary 'Eat The Document' that was originally commisioned by ABC Television. When shooting was completed for the film, Dylan's motorcycle accident in July 1966 delayed the editing process. When he felt ready, Dylan edit the film itself and ABC rejected it as incomprehensible for a mainstream audience.

It has never been released on home video and is rarely screened in theatres, although bits of it were included in Martin Scorcese's 2005 documentary, 'No Direction Home'. But you can watch the documentary below. It includes a limousine ride with John Lennon, with both musicians appearing strung out.

For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or relisten, all of the episodes are archived on our Radio page.

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