Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
Many people thought Dylan was out of ideas. He hasn’t released a full album between New Morning and Pat Garrett, which was mostly instrumental, but had released some singles and also recorded studio versions of a few Basement Tapes songs for inclusion on Greatest Hits II. Perhaps the best of his new singles, “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” suggested that though Dylan might have another masterpiece in him people should expect to wait awhile. Dylan got this gig through Kris Kristofferson’s manager. Kristofferson played Billy the Kid and his manager had booked Dylan’s appearance at the Isle of Wight in 1969. Dylan was inspired by the experience, though he seems to have found director Sam Peckinpah, hot off The Wild Bunch, to be something of a madman.
Best song: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – A standard.
Worst song: River Theme – The instrumentation is generally weak, especially compared to some of the awesome playing on other songs, and the background singers are so high in the mix they cover up what little good instrumental bits there are.
Best outtake: Wild Track – This acapella spoken word track is cool because it includes the phrase “second-coming coffee.” This is sometimes called “Climax Tobacco,” the words that end it.
Notable live rendition – There are four versions of Billy on the soundtrack, each with their varying charms. Los Lobos combined these for “Billy” on the I’m Not There sountrack in 2007. It is amazing. Dylan, a close friend of Lobo David Hidalgo, opened up his 2009 tour with the concert debut of “Billy,” and I believe thus far the only performance.
Rhymes: veranda/hacienda/send ya; senorita/greet ya/lead ya (1-2 from “Billy 1”); glances/chances/advances; finale/alley/valley (2-3 from “Billy 4”); number/slumber/thunder (“Billy 7”)
Images: “shadows of the mesa” (“Billy 1”); “bounty hunters dancing;” “mirrors inside the minds of crazy faces;” “gypsy queens will play your grand finale” (2-4 from “Billy 4”); “long black cloud” (“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”)
Axioms: “They don’t like you to be so free.” (“Billy 1”); “sleep with one eye open;” “there’s always one more notch and four more aces” (2-3 from “Billy 4”); “Hide your sorrow spending the time that you borrow” (“Billy 7”); “It’s getting’ dark, too dark to see” (“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”)