Monday, November 28, 2016

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
(1973, Columbia Records)


(Thanksgiving leftovers, minus turkey, plus Apple Pie!)

I know I last said I'd be back in time for a quick review before Thanksgiving, but something got in the way; THANKSGIVING. Turns out, working in the food industry and being a part-time record reviewer during the week of Thanksgiving is a fairly impossible task. Clocked 60 hours in the food biz... nearly 0 in music consumption. Yikes!  Now that you're all fed, and I hope you had a jolly time, let's step back into Dinner with Dylan, and give thanks to Outlaw Zimmy for all the bountiful gifts he's bestowed upon us. 

For tonight's dinner, I've smashed together a bunch of delicious, off color, slop onto my plate and called it a night. The food mash you see in front of you was lovingly cooked by my parents for a Thanksgiving feast I was unable to attend this past Thursday. Today, I was rewarded by dropping home for a visit, and tupperwares full of misfit side dishes followed me home. Brioche stuffing? It's in there. Mashed potatoes? Somewhere in there. How 'bout mushrooms, cauliflower, orange cranberry relish, and a single sweet potato? Check, check, check, ANNNND check! A slice of home made apple pie ties this all together. A glass of Shiraz (not pictured) is off the the side, ready to go straight to my head. So, now that I've summed up the hearty travesty you see before you, let's welcome back Outlaw/Cowboy Zimmy to the recorded world. 

Welcome to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Zimmy's 12th studio album. Now, a little background. If y'all like instrumentals, well then has Dylan got an album for you. Why so many instrumentals? Because this is a good ol' fashioned soundtrack to the Sam Peckinpah film... wait for it... Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Screenwriter, Rudy Wurlitzer, besides having an intriguing name, approached Dylan about writing music for the movie. Dylan being out of work for 3 years to be a boring dad in Woodstock, NY decided no comeback like a soundtrack album. Say what you will... this Dylan knows how to push the boundaries of being difficult.

Also to note, Bob Dylan made his acting debut in the film, as the character Alias. "Name's Alias... Alias, anything you please." Ok, that's a cool line.

(Bob Dylan acting.)

The record just happens to be mostly incidental music played by Bob Dylan and his group of session players (with the original sessions taking place in Mexico City, before 99% of it was finished in Burbank, CA). How does one even listen to, and break this down, as a whole? The playing is not particularly impressive, but it's not bad by any stretch. The songs (for the most part) are far from standouts, but they're decent enough to have on in the background. Sounds like it could righteously accompany a film, which in this case it does well!!! So, I'll just put this one on and let it ride, like Bob Dylan on a horse rented from the lots of MGM Studios.

("Buy the ticket, take the ride"- Bob Dylan's advice to uncooperative horses)


Main Theme (Billy)Oh, well this is nice. Some guitar strums out of the right speakers that make me wanna reflect on life. On the left, we have a touching little lead guitar, also causing me to reflect on life. Is that a little tambourine holding it down? Scrumptious indeed! Why yes it is, all of that!!! Dylan, you've thought of everything now. No wait. Now you've thought of everything, because a electric bass started doing some western walking half way through. I can almost see the credits of my life scrawling across the my proverbial life screen, and I want to ride a horse while being all drunk on bathtub whiskey.

Being that this opening is 6 minutes long, I'm resisting the urge to scoop half the plate of this Thanksgiving leftover extravaganza down my gullet. This song is like an unstoppable grease fire; sometimes it's best to let these things burn out. Ride on Dylan.

(It could be speculated that Dylan removed the words to "Main Theme (Billy)" because he originally wrote them about a billy goat, an animal he used to sing like).

Cantina Theme (Workin' For the Law)If you're into "themes," get ready for another rootin' tootin' go-round of songs entitled "theme" on this "comeback" LP. And if you're in need of bongos, well have I got a sleepy, dusty little tune for you. This one packs some more "attitude," but by George, let it stop. Woof! Oh Nay, as the horses say. But in human talk, I really mean OH NO!

This plate I've made myself, by the way, is mostly a mountain of carbs. Hey, you never know when you're gonna have to run a marathon the next day. Tomorrow, I could wake up, lace up my Nike's and go on one of those Forrest Gump type running tours.

(watch for me tomorrow night on the 6 o'clock news, working off my Thanksgiving leftovers)

Billy 1Oh yeah, there's my Bobby, doing another "Billy." He's dusted off an old harmonica on this and summoned the Gods. It's said that when Bob Dylan blew into this harmonica on this recording, the ghost of Billy the Kid came back from his resting tomb and offered Dylan unparalleled success if he sold him his soul at the crossroad. Bob Dylan was like "Get outta here man, I'm a happily married man with kids and wrecked motorcycle. Scram." Thus concludes the greatest made-up rock story never told. Another thing we get from this one is Dylan's first vocal appearance on the record. Sounds good for a guy in his 30's, pushing irrelevance in 1873... I mean, 1973.

(Some people believe the song "Billy 1" is about this number 1 Billy in the hearts of baby boomers, it could be speculated)

Bunkhouse Theme3 It becomes clear around "Bunkhouse Theme," that when it came time to start naming these songs, Dylan wasn't messing around. "Theme" is great to place in any song title, especially when you have a theme to dwell upon. "Hey should I put the word 'Billy' or 'Theme' in this song title?" must have been a question his wife Sara got sick of answering every morning at breakfast.  This is a pleasant little guitar duet at just over 2 minutes long. Really brings me back to my bunkhouse days, as I'm sure it does for all of us living in the 21st century.

This plate is finished, and I'm moving on to the apple pie. Such a scrumptious smattering of greasy festivities with a heavy dose of root vegetable flavor. Thanksgiving is TOPS!

(If you look closely at any of these people pictured in this 19th century bunkhouse, you can pretend you see Bob Dylan). 

River Theme2 Where does he keep coming up with these song titles? It is said that Dylan is the David Copperfield of the Thesaurus. But far from it here folks. After 3 years of no recorded material, I guess Outlaw Zimmy was just like "Throw the word 'theme' at the end of everything, dammit. I'm a tired Zimmy, I am. [zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz]" (the following is Dylan falling asleep int he control room while talking to a producer who, himself, already fell asleep behind the mixing board). As theme's go, "River Theme" is flat out boring, even if it is only 1.5 minutes in length. This is a straight drool worthy duel acoustic and bass track full of incidental "la la la la's." Breaking ground, this is not.

(River Phoenix, despite being a boy with an unusual name, played "River Theme" everywhere he went, it may be said)

Turkey Chase2 Perfect title in time for a post Thanksgiving binge. Perhaps you were all doing the Turkey Chase the past week. Ohhh, there's a fiddle in the kitchen with Dina, and there's a banjo going off down by the crick. This is real toothless, hillbilly stuff played by Bob Dylan and the boys (possibly cowboys with no teeth and gold records).  I could see how someone would chase a turkey to this song. I honestly don't know if I would randomly chase a turkey because that seems cruel to do to an unsuspecting turkey who does not have the same wherewithal as us humans. Maybe if it stole my watch or something. OR, if someone yelled, "Hey my turkey just got away and is about to run into traffic!" I would chase after a turkey to this song, I guess. I would be a hero, honored in the local paper. In other news, this is perfectly suited for spittin' used chaw into a spittoon.

(One day I hope for a headline as honorable as this, but with a turkey theme)

(It's said this song inspired Sylvester Stallone to not only write all 7 Rocky movies in one night, but to chase live poultry for handouts in Philadelphia)

Knockin' on Heaven's Door4 You might know this song as the song that turned Guns N Roses from multi-millionaires into multi-multi-billionaires, for they covered it in 1987 and classic rock radio won't let us forget. Also, Eric Clapton covered it too, because he knew George Harrison might one day kill him for stealing his wife, and Clapton would be knockin' on heavens door with Harrison's boot in the back of his skull. Unfortunately, Harrison died first and Clapton continued on being a full-time bag of crap.  Or an "Old Sock" of crap, I guess would be more fitting for him. Blech. Anyway, here, in its original form, Dylan finally drops some classic quality to sink your dentures into. The song breathes beautifully, Dylan's reverb slathered vocals give this such a haunting quality. Everything about this song is pretty understated for such an impactful song. The backups can raise a goosebump or two. All at two and a half minutes.

(Billy Corgan is not a member of Guns N Roses, but is credited by Congress as the most famous Billy since "The Kid," and another "full-time bag of crap")

Final Theme3  Well I finished my pie too, and it was scrumptious as well. Flaky crust, a little cinnamon and nutmeg in with the apples. They still retain their crunch after being a few days old. In fact, if you've got some leftover pie in the fridge from this past week, get up off your keister and treat yourself. Don't let it go to waste!!! Save yourself!!!

Back to the song:
Ahhh shit, well forget the two and a half minutes of joy that "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" brought us. Settle in, because these next two really add up and make this a worthy record worth purchasing (in terms of length). Here, a nice little flute like solo provides the whole melodic line in place of where it'd be appropriate to hear an actual Bob Dylan sing his way through. But flutes are cool too. Just ask Ian Anderson.  This is a fitting "final theme" I guess, but I'd hate for this to play at my funeral. Everyone would be like, "THIS is the song he picked? I never knew him to be much for flute rock!" And then I'd come back and haunt everyone who thought this with a flute just to give them the heebie-jeebies.

(Ian Anderson, a flute, and his eye... for reference only)

(me in the future haunting people with a flute)

Billy 4 If "Billy 4" doesn't do it for you, then you always got "Billy 7." Or you can go back to "Billy 1." You can hop from Billy to Billy. Hell, get promiscuous with your Billies. Also, I guess the other Billies weren't available, numerically. You got Billies everywhere, as played by Bobby, and none too shabby. This Billy's got vocals at least, strong one's too. It was at this point, Bob was like "Ahh shit, I gotta give these critics something, I guess." Unfortunately it was too late, and everyone thought this album was a waste of time. Admittedly, it mostly is and the LP sleeve makes a great top for a graduation cap.

(One year after this, another Billy, who once drank furniture polish, would try to jump on the "Billy the Kid" bandwagon. The '70s were a lucrative time to be Billy the Kid, who had died some 90 years earlier).

Billy 7This is prickly folk country number. Cowboy Bob delivers a baritone performance, sounding a little weathered and dusty in the throat. In regards to this LP, I declare this the "Best of the Billies"  A compact, effective little closer with equal parts showmanship and bravado. Also, the playing on this is all over the place and sort of lo-fi. It sort of peters out and fades away, like no player has a goddamn clue on when to stop. Beautiful.

Well, my advice to to skip this soundtrack album and just watch the film instead. Haven't seen it in years, but it's pretty great. Also, check out director Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia while you still got your hand in the popcorn bucket.

NEXT WEEK.... I slog through, perhaps, the most pointless album of Dylan's career. An LP Dylan didn't even want to release, a true Dylan contractual obligation LP with zero original Dylan input. What Dylan album am I talkin' 'bout Dylan fans? Why 1973's always forgotten Dylan, of course; an LP so forgotten even when Dylan hears it he's like.....
"It ain't me babe... Is it?"


  1. Gotta admit, in spite of KoHD, this one is pretty forgettable. Not that it's bad - Dylan never made a bad studio album IMO (although he certainly made one or two bad live albums) - it's very pleasant to listen to in the right mood. But it's even blander than your Thanksgiving dinner. :-)

  2. hi, any possibility of having dinner with infidels?
    I hope you are well, and thank you for your work.