With the release of The Wallflowers’ second album, Bringing Down the Horse, on Interscope Records, May 21, 1996, band leader Jakob Dylan transformed overnight from the scion of one of rock’s living legends to a presence in his own right (or write, as the case may be, as the chief songwriter). The album went quadruple-platinum, selling more than four million copies, and produced four multi-format hits in “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” “Three Marlenas” and “The Difference,” earning a total of five Grammy nominations and two Grammy Awards (for “One Headlight”) over two years.
To help mark the album’s 20th anniversary next month, Universal Music Enterprises is reissuing the album for the first time on vinyl in a two-LP set on May 13th.
Featuring Jakob Dylan on vocals and rhythm guitar (as well as writing all the songs), Michael Ward on lead guitar, Rami Jafee on Hammond B3 organ, backing vocals, keyboards and piano and Greg Richling on bass, Bringing Down the Horse, the band’s first for new label Interscope, represented a major advance over the band’s self-titled 1992 debut, which was released on Virgin. The recording, which took place largely at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, featuring banjos, dobros and pedal steel guitars and such guest musicians as Jon Brion (lead guitar on “One Headlight”), Mike Campbell (slide guitar on “6th Avenue Heartache”), Matt Chamberlin (who played drums on the entire album), Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz (background vocals on “6th Avenue Heartache”), Leo LeBlanc (pedal steel guitar), Michael Penn (background vocals on “Angel On My Bike”), Sam Phillips (background vocals on “One Headlight” and “Laughing Out Loud”), Gary Louris, Stephen Bruton and David Rawlings.
Dylan’s songs, written over the course of five years, reflected his frustration at trying to succeed on his own terms in the music business. “Every song, fortunately, or unfortunately, is about that feeling of defeat and struggle to overcome that,” he said at the time.
The release of Bringing Down the Horse changed all that. The album eventually peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Heatseekers chart. The first single, “6th Avenue Heartache,” went to #8 at Modern Rock Tracks, #10 at Mainstream Rock Tracks, #25 at Top 40 Mainstream, #26 at Adult Top 40 and #33 at Hot 100 Airplay. “One Headlight” scored a triple play, going #1 at Mainstream and Modern Rock Tracks as well as Adult Top 40, #2 at Top 40 Mainstream and a year later, #7 at Hot 100 Recurrent Airplay. “Three Marlenas” peaked at #17 at Modern Rock Tracks and #21 at Mainstream Rock Tracks, while “The Difference” went to #3 at Mainstream Rock Tracks, #5 at Modern Rock Tracks, #14 at Adult Top 40 and #19 at Top 40 Mainstream.
The album garnered five Grammy nominations and two wins over two years, including Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song nominations for “6th Avenue Heartache” in 1997, followed by two Grammy Awards in the same categories for “One Headlight” as well as one nomination in the latter for “The Difference” in 1998.
Reviews at the time were adulatory. No Depression said: “What’s consistent throughout is the remarkable quality of the songs, and the punch with which the performances were captured. Indeed, if every band put out a record this good their second time out, there’d be no need for the term ‘sophomore slump.’ ” AllMusic raved: “The music here is assured and contemporary, with just enough of the past showing through to catch one’s eye… a fine effort indeed.”
Looking back on the album in 2012, Dylan told American Songwriter: “Yes, I think it has stood up well. I hear those songs and I’m surprised too. I think T Bone said to me at the time that it was a hyper-modern folk record. And he was kind of right. I do remember being aware that we were using a lot of these organic instruments… At that point we were catching everybody, including the songs, at their peak. It was a perfect storm of characters that really made it all happen. I think we did capture lightning in a bottle. We could feel something special was happening at the time.”
- One Headlight
- 6th Avenue Heartache
- Three Marlenas
- The Difference
- Invisible City
- Laughing Out Loud
- God Don’t Make Lonely Girls
- Angel on My Bike
- I Wish I Felt Nothing