17 Years Ago: The Wallflowers’ ‘Bringing Down the Horse’ Album Released
No one really talks about the Wallflowers’ first album. And when they do talk about it, they talk about how Jakob Dylan could never be as good as his dad, so why does he even bother trying? The group’s self-titled 1992 debut is filled with songs that ripped on and ripped up Dylan Sr., as Junior attempted to build his own rep his own way. But things didn’t turn out like he planned. Because all people talked about was how Jakob Dylan could never be as good as his dad.
So when the Wallflowers got around to making a follow-up record four years later, Dylan scrapped all but one of the band’s original members, wrote a set of songs that leaned toward heartland/classic rock and hired a producer, T Bone Burnett, well-versed in the music. And ‘Bringing Down the Horse’ became a hit. It became such a hit that Dylan’s pedigree was moot. He even had younger fans asking, “Who’s Bob Dylan?”
But it all comes down to the songs. And Dylan wrote a solid bunch this time around, including ‘One Headlight,’ ‘6th Avenue Heartache,’ ‘Three Marlenas’ and ‘The Difference.’ He also became a better and more confident singer. Plus, the new band knew their way around Hammond B3s and other instruments that gave the songs a rustic worldliness that was nowhere to be found on the debut record. Guests like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, the Jayhawks’ Gary Louris and Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz (who sings harmony on ‘6th Avenue Heartache’) help out.
‘Bringing Down the Horse’ reached No. 4, eventually selling 4 million copies. All but one of its four singles reached the Top 40. And ‘One Headlight’ topped both the rock and modern-rock charts. But it didn’t last. By the time the Wallflowers got around to releasing their third album in 2000, music fans had moved on, and ‘(Breach)’ stalled outside the Top 10. But for a brief moment in the ‘90s, when almost anything was possible, Dylan Jr. was more popular than Dylan Sr. And he had the hits to prove it.