Published June 11, 2004
So when he entered the studio again at the end of the year, he had a lot to live up to. Dylan rose to the challenge and the subsequent album, Blonde on Blonde, is universally hailed as one of the best in rock history. The sessions stretched to six months as compared to Highway 61´s six days. But in the process, genius was unleashed. In fact, so much of it seemed to be channelled into the studio that for a while, everyone seemed to have become infused. His band (The Band), previously an above average Canadian bar band, went on to record their own great albums in the following years, Music From Big Pink and The Band. The explosion of genius that took place at CBS studios was so great that even the janitor made a masterpiece.
The janitors´ name was Kris Kristofferson. He had been a Rhodes scholar at Oxford before becoming a helicopter pilot in the army. He turned down a job teaching English literature at West Point in order to move to Nashville to become a songwriter. There he got a job in a studio, emptying ashtrays and vacuuming floors at night, hoping to find someone to release his songs. When Dylan was up all night writing songs on very expensive studio time, the janitor didn´t dare approach him. Dylan was then the hottest thing in pop and even had a police escort to keep fans away. It wasn´t until 1969, when Johnny Cash recorded the Kristofferson song Sunday Morning Coming Down that the ball started rolling. Legend has it that Kristofferson landed on his lawn in a helicopter with a bottle in one hand and a tape in the other.
The following year, Bobby Neuwirth from Janis Joplins´ band attended a Kris concert and was impressed. He told Janis about him and introduced the two, who proceeded to have an affair. Another master songwriter, Leonard Cohen, said once that he met Janis on an elevator and she asked him whether he was Kris Kristofferson. He told her he was, and the two of them had an affair as well, immortalised in the Cohen song Chelsea Hotel No. 2. Joplin´s affair with Kristofferson was also fruitful; she recorded his song Me and Bobby McGee and had a number one hit with it, albeit posthumously.
Kristofferson´s first album, Songs of Kristofferson, came out in 1970. He´s since gone on to write many more songs, but it is his first album that remains his definitive statement. Even if you´ve never heard of Kristofferson before, you´ve probably heard most of the songs here somewhere. Kristofferson was one of the first people to realise the similarity between the traditional country/western outlaw hero and the new hippie counterculture hero, and he combines these elements on the album. The first song, Blame it on the Stones takes the side of the longhairs, and he goes even further in The Law is for Protection of the People, equating the crucifixion of Christ with hippie bashing in the American South.
Dylan would never again make masterpieces as easily as he did with Blonde on Blonde. But he´s still playing, on his socalled his Neverending Tour. Kristofferson is still playing too. He´ll be here, in Laugardalshöllin on the 14th of June. I wonder whether he needs a janitor.