First released as the closing track on Dylan’s 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, the song lasts 11 minutes and 22 seconds, occupying the entire side four of the double album. Dylan has revealed that the song was written about his future wife, Sara Lownds.
Columbia Music Row Studios
16 February 1966
The 8th Blonde On Blonde session, produced by Bob Johnston.
- Bob Dylan – vocals, harmonica
- Hargus “Pig” Robbins – piano
- Al Kooper – organ
- Charlie McCoy – guitar
- Wayne Moss – guitar
- Joe South – bass
- Kenny Buttrey – drums
On February 15, the session began at 6 p.m., but Dylan simply sat in the studio working on his lyrics, while the musicians played cards, napped, and chatted. Finally, at 4 a.m., Dylan called the musicians in and outlined the structure of the song. Dylan counted off and the musicians fell in, as he attempted his epic composition, “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”. Drummer Kenny Buttrey recalled, “If you notice that record, that thing after like the second chorus starts building and building like crazy, and everybody’s just peaking it up ’cause we thought, Man, this is it…This is gonna be the last chorus and we’ve gotta put everything into it we can. And he played another harmonica solo and went back down to another verse and the dynamics had to drop back down to a verse kind of feel…After about ten minutes of this thing we’re cracking up at each other, at what we were doing. I mean, we peaked five minutes ago. Where do we go from here?” The finished song clocked in at 11 minutes, 23 seconds, and would occupy the entire fourth side of the album.
Four takes of the song were recorded, three of which were complete. The recording session was released in its entirety on the 18-disc Collector’s Edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966 in 2015, with the first take of the song also appearing on the 6-disc version of that album.
Renaldo & Clara version
Denver Hotel version
A Hotel Room in Denver, Colorado – March 12, 1966.
Studio outtake – February 16, 1966
Joan Baez cover version
From the album “Any Day Now” (1968)