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Bob Dylan, Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, and the 'Under The Red Sky' session


British guitarist Slash is best known as the lead guitarist for the bands Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver.

He was born Saul Hudson on July 23, 1965, a few days after the release of  "Like A Rolling Stone" single, and two days before  Bob Dylan "going electric" at Newport. Almost 25 years later, in April, 1990, Slash overdubbed a guitar solo on the Dylan track "Wiggle Wiggle".

The sessions were produced by Don and David Was of the band Was (Not Was), along with "Jack Frost" - Dylan's first use of the pseudonym he would be known as when producing his own records. Don Was was a hot producer at the time, espeically after the success of Bonnie Raitt's 1989 "comeback" album, Nick Of Time. Was tried to use a similar formula with Dylan on the 1990 album Under A Red Sky.  It was also Was' idea to keep the length of the album under 40 minutes, something he later regretted. 

The results were considered disappointing both critically and commercially, especially after success of 1989's Oh Mercy album, although the album does have its supporters. Al Kooper referred to this as "the hood album", since Dylan dressed for the sessions in a sweatshirt, with his head covered by a hood. According to one source, Dylan would randomly give people he didn't know made-up monikers like "Fred", instead of learning their real names.

(Columbia Records)

Was also brought in many famous "guest stars" for the project, including Stevie Ray Vaughan (who Dylan allegedly did not recognize without his hat) and his brother Jimmie (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds), David Lindley,  Bruce Hornsby and Al Kooper. After Dylan's vocals were done, Was brought in more "stars" to overdub their parts, including David Crosby, George Harrison, Elton John, and Slash. According to Was, the Randy Jackson that played on the album was the one that ended up on American Idol. Wikipedia states that it was the Randy Jackson of the Jackson 5. Coincidently, around this time, Slash was collaborating with Michael Jackson.

Dylan looked "beleaguered" at the sessions, according to Was. While it was difficult to know his exact state of mind at the time, Dylan was probably a bit suspicious of the by-the-numbers production and  all-star musicians used on the album.

While Dylan had been friends with Crosby, Kooper, and Harrison for years, and must have at least known  - or been aware  - of some of the other "name" artists in the studio, he did not seem impressed with the appearance of the new kid, Slash. 

The Guns N' Roses guitarist was invited, probably by Was,  to play on "Wiggle Wiggle", one of the songs on Under The Red Sky that fans speculate was originally written as a nursery rhyme (albeit with much different lyrics). The album was dedicated to "Gabby Goo Goo", a nickname for Dylan's young daughter, Desiree Gabrielle Dennis-Dylan,  although this was not public knowledge at the time. 

Slash was famous for being a hard rock guitarist. Dylan asked Slash to play like the jazz legend, Django Reinhardt.

Of course it is not known what Dylan meant by this remark. The most common interpretations are that Dylan was putting Slash on, or putting him in his place. However, it could be that Dylan was trying to get Slash to play a little differently than he usually did.

In any case, when Slash was asked about it years later, he still seemed baffled by Dylan's remark .

Wiggle Wiggle (Album credits):

Bob Dylan -- Guitar, Vocals
Slash -- Guitar
David Lindley -- Guitar
Jamie Muhoberac -- Organ
Randy Jackson -- Bass
Kenny Aronoff -- Drums

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  • ranchesandrivers 4 years ago

    Bob should have stuck with his gut instincts and kept it simple. Dump all the star studded guests and show Don Was the door. They more or less ruined this record, the sound was murky when it first came out even though the album contained decent songs. Thank God, Bob found a great band that he can record and play live with. Other peoples contributions, be it live or studio doesn't really do much for Dylan. He's best left to his own devices, of course there are exceptions.

  • Greg 4 years ago

    Slash is British. Until this article I never knew. I enjoy your post's on Bob!

  • Bob Fletcher 4 years ago

    I have heard, albeit second hand from someone who subsequently worked with Don Was, that Dylan issued the Django comment after growing bored with Slash spending an inordinate amount of time setting up numerous amps, effect pedals, and a range of guitars. I suspect it was a gentle dig designed to deflate an excitable ego.

  • Charlieford 4 years ago

    I've always loved this record, much more than "Oh Mercy," which gets maudlin and a bit fey. UTRS rocks, it's edgy, dark, satiric, mean, mysterious--the kind of hallucinogenic bile we had last seen on "Highway 61 Revisited," of all things, only now steeped in a grim sardonic brew that really, really rocks. And it rocks. Great record. It's kind of gratifying that most people don't get it, in fact.

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