This Wheel's on Fire

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This article is about the Bob Dylan song. For the Levon Helm book, see This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of The Band.
"This Wheel's on Fire"
Song by Bob Dylan & The Band from the album The Basement Tapes
Released June 26, 1975
Recorded 1967
Genre Rock
Length 3:49
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan, Rick Danko
Producer(s) Bob Dylan & The Band

"This Wheel's on Fire" is a song written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko.[1] It was originally recorded by Dylan and The Band during their 1967 sessions, portions of which (including this song) comprised the 1975 album, The Basement Tapes.[2] The Band's own version appeared on their 1968 album, Music from Big Pink.[3] Live versions by The Band appear on their 1972 live double album Rock of Ages,[4] as well as the more complete four-CD-DVD version of that concert, Live at the Academy of Music 1971,[5] and the 2002 Box Set of The Last Waltz[6] (the song did not make it into the movie or the original soundtrack album[7]).

Danko recounted how the song was written: "We would come together every day and work and Dylan would come over. He gave me the typewritten lyrics to 'This Wheel's On Fire'. At that time I was teaching myself to play the piano.... Some music I had written on the piano the day before just seemed to fit with Dylan's lyrics. I worked on the phrasing and the melody. Then Dylan and I wrote the chorus together."[8]

Danko continued to perform the song in concert during his solo career and recorded a new studio version, with Garth Hudson on accordion, for his posthumously released 2000 album Times Like These.[9] Hudson also recorded a new studio version, with Neil Young on lead vocal and The Sadies as back-up band for his 2010 all-Canadian compilation, Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of The Band[10] (re-released in 2012 as Chest Fever: A Canadian Tribute to The Band[11]).

Levon Helm, who sang harmony with Danko on The Band's version and who used the title of the song for his memoir of his time with The Band, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of The Band, performed the song live with The Levon Helm Band (later known as The Midnight Ramble Band). The Levon Helm Band performed the song after his passing at the Love for Levon benefit concert and tribute held on October 3, 2012, that version appearing on the 2013 CD-DVD set Love For Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn.[12] The Midnight Ramble Band continued to perform the song during its live shows at least through 2016, opening with it at the The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary Celebration at Lincoln Center Out of Doors on August 6, 2016.[13]

Dylan performed the song regularly during his live tours from 1996 through 2012.[14]

Covers[edit]

"This Wheel's on Fire"
Siouxsie This wheels on Fire.jpg
Single by Siouxsie and the Banshees
from the album Through the Looking Glass
B-side "Shooting Sun", "Sleepwalking (On the High Wire)", "She Cracked"
Released January 5, 1987
Format 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1986
Genre Alternative rock
Label Polydor
Writer(s) Bob Dylan, Rick Danko
Producer(s) Siouxsie and the Banshees
Mike Hedges
Siouxsie and the Banshees singles chronology
"Candyman"
(1986)
"This Wheel's on Fire"
(1987)
"The Passenger"
(1987)

In 1968, a version by Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger and The Trinity became a hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at #5 on the UK Singles Chart (see 1968 in music).[15] With its use of distortion, phasing, the evocative imagery of the song's title and the group's flamboyant dress, this version is closely associated with the psychedelic era in British music. The arrangement featured prominent use of both Hammond organ and mellotron. Driscoll recorded the song again in the early 1990s with Adrian Edmondson as the theme to the BBC comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, whose main characters are throwbacks to that era. Australian singer Kylie released a cover of the track as the official theme song for 2016's Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

The Byrds released a recording of "This Wheel's on Fire" on their 1969 album, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, and live versions of the song are also included on The Byrds' Live at the Fillmore - February 1969 album and the expanded CD reissue of their (Untitled) album.[16][17][18] In 1987, the song was covered by the British rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees for their all-covers album, Through the Looking Glass. Released as the first single from that album, Siouxsie and the Banshees' version climbed to #14 on the UK singles chart. The band did not know the song had been composed by Dylan before recording it: they covered it because they liked Driscoll's version.[19]

Australian pop, rock group, Flake, had a top 20 hit on the Go-Set National Top 60 with their rendition in July 1970, which remained in the charts for 22 weeks.[20][21]

Other artists who have released their own versions of the song include: Hamilton Camp, Phil Lesh, Golden Earring, Elvis Costello, The Hollies, Ian and Sylvia, Les Fradkin, Leslie West, Serena Ryder, Charlie Winston, June Tabor, Guster and Rat Scabies.[22]

Personnel on The Band version[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Williams, Paul. (1990). Bob Dylan: Performing Artist – Book One 1960 – 1973. Xanadu Publications Ltd. pp. 232–233. ISBN 1-85480-044-2. 
  2. ^ "The Basement Tapes review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  3. ^ "Music From Big Pink review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  4. ^ "Rock of Ages". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  5. ^ "Live at the Academy of Music 1971". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  6. ^ "The Last Waltz Box Set". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  7. ^ "The Last Waltz Box". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  8. ^ Hoskyns, Barney and The Band. (1993). Across the Great Divide: The Band and America. Hyperion. p. 142. ISBN 1-56282-836-3. 
  9. ^ "Times Like These". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  10. ^ "Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of The Band". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  11. ^ "Chest Fever: A Canadian Tribute to The Band". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  12. ^ "Love For Levon (2xBlu-Ray + 2xCD)". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  13. ^ "The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary Celebration". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  14. ^ "The Official Bob Dylan Site, "This Wheel's On Fire" Page". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  15. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 261. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8. 
  16. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 546–547. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  17. ^ "Live At The Fillmore – February 1969 review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  18. ^ "Untitled/Unissued review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  19. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 809. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8. 
  20. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Flake'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 1 September 2004. 
  21. ^ Nimmervoll, Ed (5 December 1970). "National Top 60". Go-Set. Waverley Press. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  22. ^ "This Wheel's on Fire – Cover versions". Allmusic. Archived from the original on March 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  23. ^ Garth Hudson's Diamond Jubilation

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]