55 Years Ago: Bob Dylan Releases His First Single, ‘Mixed-Up Confusion’
Hit singles are not usually associated with Bob Dylan. With a couple of exceptions, the Billboard singles chart has never been his home away from home. After releasing his debut album in the spring of 1962, Dylan headed back into Columbia Studios to record material for his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Recording began in October 1962 with what was Dylan's first foray into rock and roll territory.
Four songs were worked up at these initial sessions: "Mixed-Up Confusion," "Corina Corina," "Rocks and Gravel" and the Arthur Crudup-via-Elvis Presley classic, "That's All Right." The first two of which would end 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 and 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. "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 saying "I didn't arrange the session. It wasn't my idea." The song saw its way through 14 takes over three sessions. According to Clinton Heylin's book Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions 1960-1994, Dylan stormed out of the studio during the third session.
So if it wasn't Dylan's idea to "go electric" just yet, whose was it? "[Producer] John Hammond put the whole thing together," session guitarist Bruce 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." Langhorne also applauded Dylan's guitar playing, saying "He wasn't a virtuoso guitarist, but he had some very creative ideas" adding that he was "doing so very interesting things with guitar."