The Guitar Legend Who Hated Working With Bob Dylan
While the times were a-changing, the ’80s weren’t as nice to Bob Dylan as the ’60s and ’70s were. The decade started with a middle-aged Dylan who declared he gave up on his peace chants and didn’t back away when a reporter labeled him a fatalist. His career, along with his wish for world peace, had also started fading away as his records didn’t top the charts as much as they used to.
Former Beatles icon George Harrison, however, was on a mission to revitalize his old friend’s career, as he offered Dylan a chance to join him and a few other rockers in the supergroup, the Wilburys; and the rest was history. Bob was back under the excessive spotlight again, recording major commercial successes along with his buddies.
The late ’80s was undoubtedly a better period for Dylan’s career, but he wasn’t the only act to thrive in the era. The name, Guns N’ Roses, had also scored a prominent place in the scene; and numerous artists tried to have a piece of their spotlight, resulting in multiple collaborations.
So, when Dylan got into the studio to work on his then-upcoming album, ‘Under The Red Sky’ in 1990, the word started spreading around that he was looking for a guitarist… And who was better to fill up to spot than the then-new-hotshot, Slash?
By then, the guitar hero had collaborated with numerous icons from Iggy Pop to Motörhead, and those team-ups had proved fruitful. So when Iggy’s producer asked the rocker if he would like to feature in a song Bob was recording, he readily accepted it, although he later admitted he hadn’t been a fan of Dylan’s later career.
Slash recalled the recording sessions and his first impression of Dylan in 1991 while chatting with the Guitar Player Magazine, noting how cold the older rocker was. Still, Bob’s personality didn’t waver the guitarist’s wish to record the best rhythm guitar section and solo he could possibly do, and after a long studio session, he nailed an impressive solo only in one take.
However, while Slash thought it was one of the best riffs he’d ever recorded, Dylan wasn’t as fond of his work and decided to remove it from the track, ‘Wiggle Wiggle.’ The guitarist was obviously furious over that decision, but Bob reasoned his choice by discussing how much it sounded like a GN’R solo and stood by the version of his song.
The rocker also requested that Slash start playing like Django Reinhardt, though the chords the guitarist strummed on didn’t sound anything like Django’s solos. Still, Dylan seemed to be satisfied with his rhythm section and went on to release the track without featuring Slash’s GN’R-like solo but only his rhythm section.
The rocker on collaborations, working with Bob, and how he left out his rocking solo:
“I did one [collaboration] session that I completely regret. Don Was, who produced Iggy [Pop]’s record, goes, ‘Would you be interested in playing on this Bob Dylan project?’ I hadn’t been into Dylan since he did something good years ago. Still, I thought, ‘Why not?’
I came down to the studio and met Bob. He was indifferent as indifferent gets – impossible to work with. On top of that, I did one of my best one-off solos ever, one take – it was killer. When the advance cassettes went out, it was still on there, but he took it off on the official release. He said it sounded too much like Guns & Roses. I was like, ‘What the f*ck was I there for?’
I played acoustic underneath the lead, right? Well, he wanted me to play like Django Reinhardt! But the chords were a typical I-IV-V progression – I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. I ended up doing some strum patterns, and he went, ‘That’s it.’ I’m like, ‘This is not Django Reinhardt.’ The space is still there in the song, so now, when it gets to the guitar solo, all you hear is me strumming these stupid chords. I learned my lesson from that.”
As Dylan’s career faded away in the early ’80s, a guitar hero, Harrison, saved his career. However, when he decided to collaborate with another guitarist to make another chart-topping hit, things didn’t go way the way he would’ve wanted. Their track with Slash went on to take its place among the least appreciated Dylan tracks recorded, and perhaps, Bob shouldn’t have left out the rocker’s GN’R-like sound.