In 1966 Bob Dylan was in a serious Motorcycle accident & during his off time began to ponder what direction he wanted to take in his musical career. He was weary from touring so much & had to work out a tenuous relationship with his manager Albert Grossman. So he packed up with members of Ronnie Hawkins band, The Hawks, which later became the Band & moved to Woodstock, NY.
Dylan, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson & Richard Manuel moved into the house nicknamed Big Pink with Robbie Robertson living a few miles away with his girlfriend. After a while they started some informal recording in the basement (The Red Room). It started with cover songs according to Robbie Robertson,
“With the covers Bob was educating us a little, the whole folkie thing was still very questionable to us—it wasn’t the train we came in on . . . He’d come up with something like ‘Royal Canal,’ and you’d say, ‘This is so beautiful! The expression!’ . . . he remembered too much, remembered too many songs too well. He’d come over to Big Pink, or wherever we were, and pull out some old song—and he’d prepped for this. He’d practiced this, and then come out here, to show us.”
After a while, though, Dylan began writing some new songs & those became the basis of what was to become the Basement Tapes. In May 1967, Dylan gave his first interview in roughly a year. He told Michael Iachetta that
“What I’ve been doing mostly is seeing only a few close friends, reading little ’bout the outside world, poring over books by people you never heard of, thinking about where I’m going, and why am I running, and am I mixed up too much, and what am I knowing, and what am I giving and what am I taking. And mainly what I’ve been doing is working on getting better and making better music, which is what my life is all about.”
Some of his best work was recorded in those few months but they were never released until Columbia released a crudely mono mixed double record in 1975. Unlike Dylan’s previous work there was a distinct country feel to these recordings. He practically speaks many of them, but the musicianship is unflinchingly brilliant.
Bob Dylan & the Band – The Basement Tapes – Zip