Why ‘Mixed-Up Confusion’ Flopped as Bob Dylan’s First Single
Hit singles aren't usually associated with Bob Dylan. With a couple of exceptions, the Billboard singles chart has never been his home away from home.
A case in point was produced during sessions for his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. He headed right back into Columbia Studios after releasing a self-titled debut album in the spring of 1962. Recording began that October with what would be Dylan's first foray into rock.
Four songs quickly emerged: "Mixed-Up Confusion," "Corrina Corrina," "Rocks and Gravel" and the Arthur Crudup-via-Elvis Presley classic, "That's All Right." The first two ended up as the ill-fated single released on Dec. 14, 1962, to unanimous disinterest. Perhaps it was simply too soon for the newly celebrated hero of the folk world to make the move to his first love, rock 'n' roll.
Supposedly written in a cab on the way to the sessions, "Mixed-Up Confusion" failed to dent the charts and sank without a trace, ultimately making it one of Dylan's most collectible records.
Listen to Bob Dylan's 'Mixed-Up Confusion'
"I'm not sure what I based it on," Dylan says in the liner notes to Biograph. "It didn't do anything, whatever it was supposed to do." He goes on to dismiss the record: "I didn't arrange the session. It wasn't my idea."
"Mixed-Up Confusion" saw its way through 14 takes over three sessions. The problem seemed to be that the assembled band had little experience with rock. In fact, guitarist George Barnes, pianist Dick Wellstood and bassist Gene Ramey were jazz musicians.
For his part, Langhorne applauded Dylan's guitar playing. "He wasn't a virtuoso guitarist, but he had some very creative ideas," he said, adding that Dylan was "doing some very interesting things with guitar." Still, a frustrated Dylan stormed out of the studio during the third session, according to Clinton Heylin's Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions 1960-1994.
So if it wasn't Dylan's idea to "go electric" just yet, whose was it? Producer John Hammond, who "put the whole thing together," Langhorne told Heylin in Behind the Shades, "but his orientation was jazz. So he figured if you put two musicians together, they'll figure out something to play."
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