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On This Day 61 Years Ago, Bob Dylan Released His First Single

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1962 was a busy year for Bob Dylan, who at that point was just three years into his music career and making every second count. March saw the release of his self-titled debut album loaded to the brim with folk songs. Fresh off this big career move, Dylan jumped into work on his next album, and along the way, he recorded “Mixed-Up Confusion,” which ended up becoming his very first single – one composed in a taxi.

Dylan’s musical career did not always enjoy a strong start. His eponymous album had a lackluster reception. This didn’t change until Dylan was an established hit; then, the fanfare rolled in. However, Dylan was on the precipice of big change: his debut album was mostly singles but following its release, he transitioned to composing contemporary lyrics for traditional tunes – to great effect, down the road.

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Bob Dylan penned the song that became his first single, “Mixed-Up Confusion,” during a taxi ride

Bob Dylan reportedly wrote Mixed-Up Confusion during a taxi ride / Amazon

When Dylan next set to work on writing music, everything was intended for his ’63 album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, including “Mixed-Up Confusion.” By this point, he’d have seen the mixed response to his debut album and this response’s influence can be heard and felt in “Mixed-Up Confusion.”

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Perhaps those sentiments were still with Dylan when he slipped into a taxi cab and headed for Columbia Studios, with whom he’d recently signed, in New York City. It was in that small space that Dylan felt the lyrics for “Mixed-Up Confusion.”

The rest of its journey wouldn’t be quite as smooth or simple, however.

A mixed-up reception

It was his first single that took a lot to create / Amazon

“Mixed-Up Confusion” features a backing band that includes guitarists Bruce Langhorne and George Barnes, pianist Dick Wellstood, bassist Gene Ramey, and drummer Herb Lovelle. The Dylan single was released in the United States on December 14, 1962, and 61 years later, it’s still a bit of a bundle of contradictions.

Recording had occurred on November 14 and it did not go as smoothly as Dylan’s taxi ride to write the lyrics. American Songwriter reports that it took 14 takes across three sessions to finalize this one single. The outlet attributes this to the backing band’s jazz background when Dylan was aiming for a folk rock sound.

ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE, Bob Dylan, Scarlet Rivera (playing violin, behind him), 2019. © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Also, for how big a career milestone it was for Dylan, “Mixed-Up Confusion” never made it to the charts. However, Dylan did revisit the track, specifically a different version recorded back on November 1, later with overdubbing; this version ended up on 1978’s compilation album Masterpieces.

Although it was a quiet triumph, it still marks an important moment in Dylan’s career, one that would eventually be populated by triumphs like ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Revisit where it all began below!

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