Friday, May 24, 2013

Maggie's Farm

When Bob Dylan famously "went electric" at the Newport Folk Festival in July of 1965, he debuted his rock and roll self with a barnstorming version of "Maggie's Farm." Recorded and released earlier that year on Bringing It All Back Home with a band, it swings mid- tempo in the new folk-rock idiom that Dylan was very briefly moving through. When he performed it for the first time at Newport with a hard-ass band featuring Mike Bloomfield, and members of the Butterfield Blues Band, he picked up the tempo and delivered it with Bloomfield's incendiary guitar playing at a volume that caught the unsuspecting folk-fest crowd off-guard. The rest is history, as they say, and whether Pete Seeger really tried to cut the power cables with an axe, or the crowd were booing him for betraying some staid idea of what they thought he should be, is still up for debate. The template was set, and his new record, Highway 61 Revisited, set for release a few weeks after this engagement, would unleash the full "thin wild mercury sound," an aesthetic largely derived from the Chess Records electric blues sides of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson.

"Maggie's Farm" mp3
by Bob Dylan, 1965.
available on No Direction Home: The Bootleg Series Vol.7

"Maggie's Farm," like many of Dylan's compositions, has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of artists across many genres, including Solomon Burke (whose version came out concurrently with Dylan's) Flatt and Scruggs, and The Specials, who invoked a different tyrannical Maggie of 1980's England. Also recorded and released in late 1965 is a version by Linda Gayle which I present to you here. I was recently hipped to this version by my friend Phast Phreddie Patterson, a source of many things hip and relatively unknown. I don't know much about her, and no, she's not Linda Gail Lewis of Ferriday Louisiana. Interestingly though, it's produced by Columbia staff producer Bob Johnston, who was Dylan's producer for the latter part of 1965 through 1970, but not on the original version of "Maggie's Farm," which was recorded with Tom Wilson at the helm. Gayle's version is also a scorcher, and starts with a pretty string arrangement before it takes off into garageland with a buzzsaw guitar and vocal delivery reminiscent of Wanda Jackson or a pissed off punk Dolly Parton. I'm not sure words can aptly describe this record. It's a killer and will catch you off guard much the same way the Dylan's audience had their little minds blown wide open at Newport forty eight years ago this summer.

Happy Birthday Bob.

"Maggie's Farm" mp3
by Linda Gayle, 1965.
out of print