Episode 71
“One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later).”
Blonde on Blonde.
Recorded October 14, 2018. 

Context (4:15)

Recorded in Studio A in New York City on January 25, 1966 in 19 takes. It’s the only Blonde on Blonde song not recorded in Nashville and led to some confusion as to who’s playing on the song. Sean Wilentz wades in:

One writer’s listing for all of this day’s sessions credits Michael Bloomfield on guitar and William E. Lee on bass; another listing omits Paul Griffin (who played on “American Pie”). The playing and talk on the session tape, though, show conclusively that Rick Danko was the bassist on “One of Us Must Know,” that Robbie Robertson played guitar, and that Griffin was, indeed, the pianist. After all these years, Bobby Gregg, Paul Griffin, and Rick Danko, whose names have never appeared in the album’s liner notes either on LP or on CD, deserve their share of credit for playing on Blonde on Blonde.

This song was released as a single but didn’t chart in the US and convinced Dylan to give up the practice, although he’d have a few over the years. This song has been performed 60 times from May 19, 1976 in Wichita, Kansas (though it’s been claimed he played this in White Plains in the winter of ’66) to August 13, 1997 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He started playing it during the Rolling Thunder Revue a decade after writing is to test Larry Sloman’s contention that he’d rather listen to Dylan sing this song than get a blowjob.

The Cutting Edge (9:15)

He recorded “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” five days after 19 takes of “She’s Your Lover Now.” We’ve had a few companion songs this year: “Dreamin’ of You” with “Standing in the Doorway” and “Boots of Spanish Leather” with “Girl from the North Country.” Add “She’s Your Lover Now” to the list.

Listening to the entire session is a treat. The evolution of this song is day and night from its waltzy beginning to where it ended up. Even by the second take people are questioning the tempo, probably channeling some of “She’s Your Lover Now.” It’s take 6 where things change: that chorus came to the fore. By take 15, they’re almost there. It’s here, when they’re so close, that it pays off to focus not on Dylan but on Paul Griffin on piano and Bobby Gregg on drums.

In addition to finding the song, some of the banter along the way is incredible: “Can you do that Robbie? I just don’t mean that? Can you do anything there, but not that?” “I do want it, but not so specific.” “I think we gotta do it quieter, and then we gotta raise it.” Probably our favorite is someone asking,”How come we never play the same chords?” “I don’t know,” Bob replies.

Song Itself (20:00)

This one was hard to disassociate from The Cutting Edge but I don’t think that hurts it. Al Kooper’s organ is the soup the entire song bathes in, Paul Griffin is just incredible – “half Gershwin, half gospel, all heart” a critic would write – and, according to Al Kooper, “The piano playing on “One of Us Must Know” is quite magnificent. It influenced me enormously as a pianist. It’s probably Paul Griffin’s finest moment.”

As for the song itself, Daniel thinks this belongs in the Dylan vocal hall of fame. That Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko are on the song is coincidental (because Band Month) but really make this special. Kelly hasn’t heard “She’s Your Lover Now” but it and “One of Us Must Know” are all about reconciling with the past, maybe even apologizing for it, but solidly seeing the reasons why things happened the way they did.

“One of Us Must Know” is an intimate love song, in every sense of the word. It is great because it mingles with Dylan’s other masterpieces. Naturally, “Boots of Spanish Leather” came up (Kelly wanted this to be a Suze song, and maybe it is, if it wasn’t a Sara song) as well as viewing this as a less-nasty “Like a Rolling Stone.” The narrator could be the same guy from “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” or point us toward “Idiot Wind.” Any way you slice it, “One of Us Must Know” is a classic and will be talked about again.

Playlist and Housekeeping (33:30)

Welcome back to the playlist: Bomb the Music Industry!, Cadallaca, Cory Branan, The Smiths, Old Crow Medicine Show

Welcome to the playlist: Sohio, Elliott Smith, Joan Osborne, Dillinger Escape Plan, Slowdive, MSTR ROGERS, Natalie Prass, Shangri-La’s (though they’re on a Supplemental), L.A. Salami, The Grass Roots, Fastball

Recommendations (36:00)

We’re in the middle of Band Month so beyond the Band, Kelly listened to Björk all week.

Daniel and Kelly listened to a lot of Bad Cop, Bad Cop because they’re amazing. They also got together with friends and played a game called Quiplash, which improves upon the Cards Against Humanity model, especially if you’ve been playing that game for years. Also: HBO’s Real Sports.

Endings (44:00)

There’s 439 songs left! We’re so close! Kelly guessed #321. “Ye Shall Be Changed.” Nope. It’s #81. “Isis” off 1976’s Desire!

Published by Daniel

Occasional writer, persistent nomad; restless, moving, changing. Currently in Portland, Oregon.

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