Revisiting rare 1975 audio of Bob Dylan and Bette Midler in the studio together
Back in October 1975, the mercurial Bob Dylan teamed up with Bette Midler on the duet cover version of ‘Buckets of Rain’.
A recording of their studio time was uncovered through a series of bootleg tapes as part of Bob Dylan New York Sessions 1974-1975. “It opens with some upgrades of the original Blood On The Tracks sessions from September 1974, and progresses chronologically through some early Desire sessions, winding up to the main event: almost half an hour of never-heard October 1975 session outtakes of the recording of Bette Midler’s cover of ‘Buckets Of Rain’ with Dylan, which would show up on her Songs For The New Depression album the following January,” one bootlegger said of the audio clip.
Blood On The Tracks arrived as the fifteenth studio album by Dylan, released in 1975 and marking the return to Columbia Records after linking up with Asylum Records for his two albums prior to this moment. Widely considered to be one of Dylan’s most complete projects, the album included fan favourites such as ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, ‘Buckets of Rain’, Shelter from the Storm’ and many more.
Dylan has famously discussed how opening up his mind to numerous sources of inspiration helped forge the record, spending sever weeks in New York attending art classes with the painter Norman Raeben, for example. “[Raeben] taught me how to see,” Dylan said on reflection. “In a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt .. when I started doing it, the first album I made was Blood on the Tracks.
“Everybody agrees that was pretty different, and what’s different about it is there’s a code in the lyrics, and also there’s no sense of time,” he added.
Feeling supremely confident in his material, Dylan arrived into the studio in buoyant mood. Working at the A & R Recording Studios in New York City, the musician developed a “spontaneous” approach to recording which often see him rolling into different songs with ease if it were a medley. One other act of spontaneity would arrive with Bette Midler joining Dylan in the booth.
With Moogy Klingman backing them up on the piano, Midler seems a little hesitant at first, saying, “I can’t sing “I ain’t no monkey” before Dylan manages to gently persuade her to take part.