Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
|"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"|
|Single by Bob Dylan|
|from the album Blonde on Blonde|
|B-side||"Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine"|
|Recorded||March 10, 1966|
2:20 (single edit)
|Bob Dylan singles chronology|
"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" is a song by Bob Dylan, from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. Like many other Dylan songs of the 1965-1966 period, the song features a surreal, playful lyric set to an electric blues accompaniment.
Dylan's lyrics affectionately ridicule a female "fashion victim" who wears a leopard skin pillbox hat. The pillbox hat was a popular, highly fashionable ladies' hat in the United States in the early to mid-1960s, and was most famously worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Dylan satirically crosses this accessory's high-fashion image with leopard-skin material, perceived as considerably more downmarket and vulgar. The song was also written and released long after pillbox hats had been at the height of fashion.
The song has been speculated by some journalists and Dylan biographers to have been inspired by Edie Sedgwick, an actress/model known for her association with Andy Warhol. Sedgwick is also often suspected as being an inspiration for other Dylan songs of the time as well, particularly some from Blonde on Blonde.
The song melodically and lyrically resembles Lightnin' Hopkins "Automobile Blues", with Dylan's opening line of "Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat," echoing Hopkins' "I saw you riding 'round in your brand new automobile," and the repeated line of "...brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat," melodically descending in the same manner of the Hopkins refrain "...in your brand new fast car". The Dylan reference to "the garage door" in the final verse of "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" may also be an allusion to the automobile of Hopkins' song.
Dylan began to include "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" in his live concerts with The Hawks in late 1965, and the song was one of the first compositions attempted by Dylan & the Hawks when in January 1966 they went into Columbia recording studios in New York City to record material for the Blonde On Blonde album. The song was attempted on both January 25 (2 takes) and January 27 (4 takes), but no recording was deemed satisfactory. One of the takes from January 25 was released in 2005 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack.
Frustrated with the lack of progress made with the Hawks in the New York sessions (only one song, "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)", had been successfully realized), Dylan relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in February 1966, where the evening of the first day of recording (February 14) was devoted to "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat". Present at the session were Charlie McCoy (guitar/bass), Kenny Buttrey (drums), Wayne Moss (guitar), Joseph A. Souter Jr. (guitar/bass), Al Kooper (organ), Hargus Robbins (piano) and Jerry Kennedy (guitar). Although earlier in the day Dylan and the band had achieved satisfactory, album-destined takes of "Fourth Time Around" and "Visions of Johanna", none of the 13 takes of "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" recorded on February 14 were to Dylan's satisfaction. Dylan soon left Nashville to play some concerts with the Hawks, though he returned in March for a second set of sessions. A satisfactory take of "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" was finally achieved in the early hours of March 10, 1966 by Dylan along with Kenny Buttrey, Henry Strzelecki on bass, and the Hawks' Robbie Robertson on lead guitar (though Dylan himself plays lead guitar on the song's opening 12 bars).
The recording sessions were released in their entirety on the 18-disc Collector's Edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966 on November 6, 2015, with highlights from the February 14, 1966 outtakes appearing on the 6-disc and 2-disc versions of that album.
- John Cougar Mellencamp performed a live version of the song which appears on the 1993 Dylan tribute album The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.
- Robyn Hitchcock covered the song on his 2002 Dylan tribute album Robyn Sings.
- Beck released a cover on the 2009 charity album War Child Presents Heroes, and also performed the song during the closing credits of the 81st Academy Awards.
- Raphael Saadiq covered the song on the charity compilation album Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International in 2012.
- Although not a cover, the alternative hip hop trio Death Grips referenced it in the song "You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For It's Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat," the first track on their album Government Plates.
- Bjorner, Olof (2001). "Ain't Goin' Nowhere". Retrieved 2011-04-13.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 40 - Ballad in Plain D: Bob Dylan.  : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- Chico, Beverly (2013). Hats and Headwear around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 378–79. ISBN 9781610690638.
- Gill, Andy (2013). Bob Dylan: The Stories Behind the Songs 1962-1969. Carlton Books. pp. 144–45. ISBN 9781847327598.
- Heylin, Clinton (2009). Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973. Chicago Review Press. pp. 287–90. ISBN 9781569762684.
- Hamilton, Ed (2010). Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws in New York's Rebel Mecca. Da Capo Press. p. 289. ISBN 9780306820007.
- Cresap, Kelly M. (2004). Pop Trickster Fool: Warhol Performs Naivete. University of Illinois Press. p. 183. ISBN 9780252071812.
- "Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s" By Mike Marqusee, p. 191
- "Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12". Retrieved 2015-11-29.