Lot 53
  • 53

Bob Dylan — Rick Danko

40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • Original working typescript, with manuscript revisions by Dylan and Rick Danko of "This Wheel's on Fire" [West Saugerties, NY, Summer 1967] being the essential lyrics as released on "The Basement Tapes" [1975 official release and various earlier bootlegs, ie "Great White Wonder" 1969]
  • paper, ink
1 page (8 1/2 x 11 in.; 216 x 279 mm). Typing paper comprising the complete song in three stanzas with chorus in pen holograph, with pencil and ink edits to typed stanzas. Very faint creasing and very light marginal staining.


"My sister Bonnie was beautiful, cool and musically precocious, that is, she had great ears. I was in the end of my freshman year at UNC in 1965 when I got a postcard from her  saying she had heard the best band ever.  I didn’t take this assessment lightly. Bonnie had been involved in music from the age of 15 singing backup and recording with a high school band which included Jack Cassidy in DC, our home town.  The “best” band ever was Levon and the Hawks and they were appearing at Tony Mart’s on Somers Point outside Atlantic City. A year later I met Levon at his and Bonnie’s apartment in LA.  They were to be an item until late in 1969 and she spent a lot of time with The Band in Woodstock during those transitional years." (Monty Diamond)


Dylan, Bob. Lyrics 1962-1985. New York, 1985.
Heylin, Clinton. Behind the Shades. New York, 2000.
Heylin, Clinton. Revolution in the Air. Chicago, 2009.
Williamson, Nigel. The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan. London, 2004.

Catalogue Note

A rare collaboration for Dylan on one of the Basement Tapes most well known songs

"You know, that's really the way to do recording—in a peaceful relaxed setting, in somebody's basement, with the windows open and a dog lying on the floor." (Bob Dylan)

The recording sessions at Big Pink that spawned the Basement Tapes were the height of informality and "reefer run amok." The songs that made it onto Garth Hudson's reel-to-reel recorder were most often the result of loose jams either on traditional songs and covers or around the lyrics that Dylan would bring to the Band.

Hudson recalls "doing seven, eight, ten, sometimes 15 songs a day" and that many were truly improvised on the spot. Dylan often used a typewriter at the sessions and the present manuscript certainly has the ink and pencil edits to the typewritten lyrics and final chorus as recorded that would suggest that this is one of those that evolved lyrically in the moment in the Big Pink basement. (There are two hands at work on the changes and writing the famed chorus, the second presumably Danko's who was unusually co-credited with the song).

The speculation that the lyrical content was at least somewhat in reference to the Triumph motorcycle accident that kept him out of the public eye and in upstate New York would seem to fit the chorus in particular in this original version: "Wheel on fire—rolling down the road.... wheel's gonna soon explode" has a slightly more visceral feel than the final lyrics as recorded (present here in edits) of "This wheel shall explode."

But whatever inspiration he took from the tumultuous events of his life, Dylan also returned to using the French Symbolist Rimbaud, the opening line "If your memory serves you well" a very direct allusion to the latter's opening line of A Season in Hell.

The present was retained by Levon Helm's then girlfriend, Bonnie Diamond.

The song went from strength to strength, becoming one of most-covered works from the sessions, with artists ranging from Julie Driscoll, Siouxsie and the Banshees and eventually the theme for the vodka-soaked characters of Absolutely Fabulous.

A true working draft of a Dylan classic