Notice the difference between the guitar playing on Dylan’s previous album, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61. Bruce Langhorne plays some nice fills on the electric side of the album, but his playing is no match for Bloomfield’s take charge licks on Highway 61. Although it may not be the guitar of the “Thin Wild Mercury Sound” Bob was searching for, it certainly was an important stop on the way to Robbie Robertson and that sound.
Raised in Chicago, Mike was exposed to the blues scene of the South Side at a very young age. He earned the respect of the established players because of his obvious and enormous talent. After his work with Butterfield and Dylan, he formed a band called the Electric Flag. They played at Monterey Pop Festival and released one pretty good album, A Long Time Comin’. In 1968, he teamed up with old friend Al Kooper for the Super Session albums. Although popular at the time, they seem a little dated and uneven to me now.
After that, Bloomfield continued to do session work and made a couple of solo albums. He lived in San Francisco and played at local clubs. Unfortunately, his heroin habit soon became a big factor. On February 15, 1981, he was found dead of an overdose in a parked car. A brilliant career cut short.
Well before Clapton became “God”. Mike Bloomfield was the best in the land. It is a shame that he gets so little recognition today. If you are not familiar with his music, add some to you playlist. Essential Mike Bloomfield:
1. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
2. East-West, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
3. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan (1965)
4. A Long Time Comin’, The Electric Flag (1968)
5. Super Session, Bloomfield, Kooper and Stills (1968)
6. The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (1968)
7. Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield; The Lost Concert Tapes (1968)