The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Highly Appreciated


The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan  is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on May 27, 1963 by Columbia Records.  Whereas his debut album Bob Dylan had contained only two original songs, eleven of the thirteen songs on the album are Dylan’s original compositions.  The album opens with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which became an anthem of the 1960s, and an international hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary soon after the release of Freewheelin’ .  Dylan’s lyrics embraced stories taken from the headlines about civil rights, and he articulated anxieties about the fear of nuclear warfare.  Balancing this political material were love songs, sometimes bitter and accusatory, and material that features surreal humor.  In 2002, Freewheelin’ was one of the first 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.  (More from Wikipedia)
Two of his songs (Ron Franklin writes all of his own material) basically quote Bob Dylan.  One is the death-obsessed Do Not Wait Till I’m Laid ’Neath the Claythis song is reminiscent of early Dylan songs like “Fixin’ to Die” and “In My Time of Dyin’” on his first album, Bob Dylan, and the fantastic “Let Me Die in My Footsteps” that was intended for inclusion on his second, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (the song was finally released officially on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991).   
(January 2012)
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The main reason I got the John Birch Society Blues album is due to the history of Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.  Early pressings of the album included “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” and three other wonderful songs that I got to know on bootleg albums as I bought them:  “Gambling Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand”, “Rocks and Gravels” and “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”.  The fact that the latter song is omitted was even mentioned on the album’s liner notes.  When the John Birch Society song became controversial, Columbia Records pulled back the albums and reissued them with the familiar song set that we know today.  Those first few albums with the alternate songs are worth a fortune today:  A 1998 record pricing catalogue that I have called Records values them at $10,000 to $15,000 in mono and $15,000 to $20,000 in stereo (though the catalogue recommends actually playing the album before ponying up that kind of cash). 
(April 2012)
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I did find this brief mention of the song on the Wikipedia article on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan:  “Unlike the other material which Dylan recorded between 1961 and 1964, ‘Mixed Up Confusion’ attempted a rockabilly sound.  Cameron Crowe described it as ‘a fascinating look at a folk artist with his mind wandering towards Elvis Presley and Sun Records.’” 


Legend has it that Bob Dylan wrote Mixed Up Confusion on the way to the recording session, and the single was recorded on November 14, 1962 with an electric band:  three guitars (including Dylan’s), bass, drums, and a lively piano.  Mixed Up Confusion was omitted from both versions of his second, much more successful album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan; interestingly, the “B” side was “Corrina, Corrina”, the only song on the album that Bob Dylan didn’t write (another was co-written). 


(June 2013/2)


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On the other hand, Bob Dylan’s next album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was a big hit, and largely because Peter, Paul and Mary had a #2 hit with Blowin’ in the Wind that was released just three weeks after Freewheelin’ – Albert Grossmanwho was managing both Dylan and PP&M in that time period, brought them the song, and they immediately recorded and released it. 


A bit of serendipity occurred when Bob Dylan and Joan Baez appeared together at the 1963 Monterey Folk Festival singing a duet of a newly written song, “With God on Our Side” (which would appear on Dylan’s next album, The Times They Are A-Changin’).  The Festival was in the same month as the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.  Wikipedia states:  “Baez was at the pinnacle of her fame, having appeared on the cover of Time magazine the previous November.  The performance not only gave Dylan and his songs a new prominence, it also marked the beginning of a romantic relationship between Baez and Dylan, the start of what Dylan biographer [Howard] Sounes termed ‘one of the most celebrated love affairs of the decade’.” 


(March 2015)


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The best known of these talking blues songs can be found on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Talkin’ World War III Blues (1963).  The singer is telling his psychiatrist about the dreams he has been having about the aftermath of a nuclear war; Wikipedia quotes one of the verses:  “Well, I rung the fallout shelter bell / And I leaned my head and I gave a yell / ‘Give me a string bean, I’m a hungry man!’ / A shotgun fired and away I ran / I don’t blame him too much, though . . . he didn’t know me”.
Toward the end of the song, the psychiatrist interrupts him to say:  “Hey I’ve been havin’ the same old dreams / But mine was a little different you see / I dreamt that the only person left after the war was me / I didn’t see you around.”  The song ends with:  “I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.”
(September 2016)
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The first cut, “Mixed Up Confusion” was my introduction to Bob Dylan’s very first 45, as I have written about previously.  With Dylan backed by an electric band, the song dates from November 1962 and was released on December 14, 1962 – 6 months before Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan came out, and fully 2½ years before the electric Dylan hit with full force on “Like a Rolling Stone” – but it was almost immediately pulled from the market and is now a great rarity.  The flip side of this single, and the only song that I recognized on John Birch Society Blues was “Corrina, Corrina”; an alternative take of the song was included on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but I had heard the song previously before I heard it there, by somebody somewhere.  Wikipedia lists so many recorded versions of “Corrina, Corrina” that I have no idea which one it was; probably it was the Ray Peterson recording of “Corrina, Corrina” in 1960 that made it to #9 on Billboard Hot 100
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Some of the very early pressings of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan that are now extremely rare included four sterling Bob Dylan songs that were later left off the album:  “Rocks and Gravels”, “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”, “Gambling Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand” and “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”.  Two of these four songs, under the names “Ride Willie Ride” and “John Birch Society Blues” are included on John Birch Society Blues.  The latter song is an hilarious but quite harsh take on the anti-communist group called the John Birch Society that has nice things to say about Adolf Hitler and neo-Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell.  One verse goes:  “Well, I investigated all the books in the library / Ninety percent of them have gotta be thrown away / I investigated all the people that I knowed / Ninety-eight percent of them have gotta go / The other two percent are fellow Birchers / Just like me.” 
Ride Willie Ride is an entertaining if outlandish tale of the adventures of a superman gambler who is eventually shot dead while holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights – the “dead man’s hand” made famous when Wild Bill Hickok was killed while holding those cards. 
(September 2017)
Last edited: March 22, 2021