Down in the Groove

Down in the Groove
Down in the Groove
Studio album by Bob Dylan
Released May 30, 1988
Recorded 1983–1987
Genre Rock
Length 32:10
Label Columbia
Producer unlisted
Bob Dylan chronology
Knocked Out Loaded
Down in the Groove
Oh Mercy

Down in the Groove is singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's 25th studio album, released by Columbia Records in May 1988.

A highly collaborative effort, it was Dylan's second consecutive album to receive almost unanimous negative reviews. Released during a period when his recording career was experiencing a slump, sales were disappointing, reaching only #61 in the US and #32 in the UK.


Recording and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[1]
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau (C+) [3]
Entertainment Weekly (C+) [4]

"Even by Dylan standards, this album has had a strange, difficult birth," wrote Rolling Stone critic David Fricke. "Its release was delayed for more than half a year, and the track listing was altered at least three times. If the musician credits are any indication, the songs that made the final cut come from half a dozen different recording sessions spread out over six years." Like its predecessor, Knocked Out Loaded, Dylan once again used more collaborators than normal.

In a review published in his "Consumer Guide" column, Robert Christgau wrote, "Where Self Portrait was at least weird, splitting the difference between horrible and hilarious, [Dylan is now] forever professional - not a single remake honors or desecrates the original. All he can do to a song is Dylanize it, and thus his Danny Kortchmar band and his Steve Jones-Paul Simonon band are indistinguishable, immersed in that patented and by now meaningless one-take sound." Christgau would later call Down in the Groove a "horrendous product."

In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Fricke noted that "a highly anticipated – if somewhat unlikely – collaboration with Full Force, the top Brooklyn hip-hop posse, turned out to be an old Infidels outtake, 'Death Is Not the End,' newly garnished with some tasty but rather superfluous Full Force vocal harmonies." 'Death Is Not The End' was covered by Nick Cave in 1996.

In 2007, Rolling Stone labeled Down in the Groove as Bob Dylan's worst album.[5]

One song, though, a Grateful Dead collaboration titled "Silvio," did experience some success as a single, and Dylan would regularly feature it in his shows. "Silvio" would also be included on 1994's Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3 and The Essential Bob Dylan.

The summer tour of 1988

Soon after Down in the Groove's release, Dylan embarked on a summer tour of North America, presumably in support of Down in the Groove. The first show was on June 7th, 1988, at Concord Pavilion in Concord, California, and it was a dramatic shift from previous tours. In recent years, Dylan had relied on larger ensembles, often staffed with high-profile artists like Mick Taylor, Ian McLagan, The Grateful Dead, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This time, Dylan organized his concerts around a small, 'garage rock'-type combo, consisting of Dylan, guitarist G.E. Smith (of Saturday Night Live fame), bassist Kenny Aaronson, and drummer Christopher Parker. (There was a notable exception in the early June shows; those concerts featured a second, lead guitarist in Neil Young, whose own career was also in a downturn at the time.)

Song selection also became more adventurous, with setlists from different nights offering little resemblance to one another. The concerts would also alternate between full-band, electric sets and smaller, acoustic sets (with Smith providing Dylan's only accompaniment); it was during the acoustic sets that Dylan incorporated an endless variety of traditional cover songs, a marked departure from previous shows that depended heavily on his own compositions.

The concerts initially received modest attention, but they would soon receive a generous amount of praise. The tour schedule was also surprising for a man of Dylan's age, as Dylan was spending most of his time on the road. Just as one leg of the tour would end, Dylan would schedule another leg soon after, and this would continue for many years to come. As a result, Dylan's shows are now often referred to as the "Never Ending Tour". Though the supporting personnel would undergo a number of changes for years to come, the basic format begun in the summer of 1988 would continue to this day.

Track listing

  1. "Let's Stick Together" (Wilbert Harrison) – 3:09
  2. "When Did You Leave Heaven?" (Walter Bullock, Richard Whiting) – 2:15
  3. "Sally Sue Brown" (Arthur June Alexander, Earl Montgomery, Tom Stafford) – 2:29
  4. "Death Is Not the End" (Bob Dylan) – 5:10
  5. "Had a Dream About You, Baby" (Bob Dylan) – 2:53
  6. "Ugliest Girl in the World" (Bob Dylan, Robert Hunter) – 3:32
  7. "Silvio" (Bob Dylan, Robert Hunter) – 3:05
  8. "Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street)" (Hal Blair, Don Robertson) – 2:56
  9. "Shenandoah" (trad. arr. Bob Dylan) – 3:38
  10. "Rank Strangers to Me" (Albert E. Brumley) – 2:57

Alternate track listing one

Bob Dylan and Columbia Records had three different versions pressed to acetate for release. There are two additional track listings that predate the album's final configuration. Both these alternate configurations were pressed to promotional acetates, but scrapped at the last minute. The first configuration includes two songs later deleted from the album, Slim Harpo's "Got Love If You Want It" (also covered by The Kinks) and the cover "Important Words". This configuration does not have "Had a Dream About You Baby" or the Infidels outtake "Death is Not the End".

  1. "Let's Stick Together"
  2. "When Did You Leave Heaven?"
  3. "Got Love If You Want It"
  4. "Ninety Miles an Hour"
  5. "Sally Sue Brown"
  6. "Ugliest Girl in the World"
  7. "Silvio"
  8. "Important Words"
  9. "Shenandoah"
  10. "Rank Strangers"

Total running time: 30:57

Alternate track listing two

The second album configuration included two songs later cut. Dylan retained "Got Love If You Want It" from the first configuration, deleted "Important Words" and replaced it with the John Hiatt cover "The Usual", which he recorded previously for the Hearts of Fire soundtrack. The Hearts of Fire soundtrack is notable for including three otherwise unreleased songs by Dylan: "The Usual", "Night after Night", and an alternate take of "Had a Dream About You Baby." This version of Down in the Groove was accidentally released on the first vinyl pressings of the album in Argentina.

  1. "Let's Stick Together"
  2. "When Did You Leave Heaven?"
  3. "Got Love If You Want It"
  4. "Ninety Miles an Hour"
  5. "Sally Sue Brown"
  6. "Ugliest Girl in the World"
  7. "Silvio"
  8. "The Usual"
  9. "Shenandoah"
  10. "Rank Strangers"

Total running time: 31:14


The following songs were recorded during the Down in the Goove sessions but omitted from the final album. Most of the tracks are not circulating, nor is anything really known of them. The tracks without writer credits may or may not be original Dylan compositions. “Sidewalks, Fences, and Walls”, the newest track to make it into collector circles, was formerly known only as “Sidewalks”.



  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Down in the Groove at Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  2. ^ Rolling Stone 14 July 1988
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert. Bob Dylan. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  4. ^ EW Dylan catalog review
  5. ^ "Rolling Stone’s 15 Worst Albums By Great Bands". Rolling Stone Magazine. 

External links

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