Columbia RecordsIt’s easy to pick more than one Bob Dylan album and argue it’s a classic, but few would deny Dylan’s 1966 release, Blonde on Blonde, meets the test. Dylan’s seventh studio album was released fifty years ago Monday, May 16.

Recorded mostly in Nashville, TN, for Columbia Records, the two-disc Blonde on Blonde produced a pair of top-20 singles: “I Want You” and “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.” Two other tracks, “Johanna” and “Just Like a Woman,” became fan and album rock radio favorites, with the latter breaking the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The album itself made the Billboard 200 top ten, and also was a top-ten album in the U.K. By August, 1967, Blonde on Blonde had been certified gold.

There is some disagreement over Blonde on Blonde’s actual release date. Though most accept May 16, 1966 as the date of record, some argue it wasn’t available until late July. It made its debut on the Billboard albums chart in July, and the Recording Industry Association of America lists its release date as July 1, 1966.

In the five decades since its initial release, Blonde on Blonde is consistently ranked as one of Dylan’s finest works, approaching if not quite matching his previous release, 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited. Last year, Dylan released The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966, which included an 18-disc, limited release Collector’s Edition, said to include all of the takes of every song recorded during the Blonde on Blonde studio sessions from October 1965 to March 1966. That includes the early, aborted New York recording sessions, from which only one song — “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” — made it onto Blonde on Blonde.

As of September, 2003, Blonde on Blonde is ranked double platinum by the RIAA for U.S. sales in excess of two million copies.

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