Like a Rolling Stone (1965) – Bob Dylan

We’re in for a treat because the next three song trips will be by Bob Dylan because it so happens his three songs come in alphabetical order in the Music Library Project. Anyone than can guess correctly the next two songs following today’s song win themselves a grand ‘virtual’ pat on the back from your’s truly. Today’s featured track needs no introduction since it is widely believed to be the greatest rock song in the history of contemporary music. In 2004 Rolling Stone named Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone the greatest song of all time.

Where does one start here?
I’m going to go with Max at PowerPop who wrote in his article:

A snare drum shot starts this song that helped shape the sixties‘ and ‘when Bob sings “How Does it Feel?” you can feel the venom.’

The folklore surrounding this track boggles the mind:

  • Radio stations refusing to play it because it runs at 6:13 (as many stations refused to play songs much longer than 3 minutes). Even Columbia Records was unhappy with both the song’s length at over six minutes and its heavy electric sound and were hesitant to release it. 
  • The ‘Judas‘ shout in the1966 Live version and it being the pivotal track representing Dylan going electric and God forbid that a band back him up. Dylan’s rebuke to being shouted as ‘Judas’ at the Manchester Free Trade Hall 1966 concert was ‘I Don’t believe you. You’re a liar‘ then he told the Hawks in no uncertain terms ‘Play it fucking loud!’ They launch into Like A Rolling Stone. The rest is history. Music forever changed.

Critics have described Like a Rolling Stone as revolutionary in its combination of musical elements, the youthful, cynical sound of Dylan’s voice, and the directness of the question How does it feel? It completed the transformation of Dylan’s image from folk singer to rock star and is considered one of the most influential compositions in postwar popular music.

Wikipedia see citation below

Some may argue Subterranean Homesick Blues; the first ever rap song was the real kicker, but his colossal game-changing material of this era manifested a new music playing field. If songwriters or musicians weren’t listening to his music, then they fell behind.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People call, say “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all a-kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal

How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be without a home?
Like a complete unknown?
Like a rolling stone?

In 1966, Dylan described its genesis to journalist Jules Siegel:

It was ten pages long. It wasn’t called anything, just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end it wasn’t hatred, it was telling someone something they didn’t know, telling them they were lucky. Revenge, that’s a better word. I had never thought of it as a song, until one day I was at the piano, and on the paper it was singing, “How does it feel?” in a slow motion pace, in the utmost of slow motion following something.

During a difficult two-day preproduction, Dylan struggled to find the essence of the song, which was demoed without success…A breakthrough was made when it was tried in a rock music format, and rookie session musician Al Kooper improvised the Hammond B2 organ riff for which the track is known.

1. Like a Rolling Stone – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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2 comments on “Like a Rolling Stone (1965) – Bob Dylan
  1. While I greatly admire his songwriting, I’ve never been much of a fan of Bob Dylan’s singing. However, I LOVE “Like a Rolling Stone”, where his vocals are perfectly suited to the lyrics. It’s such a spectacular song.

    • Hi Jeff. I think your opinion of his singing is what turns off many. I got past it early on when I recognised and admired the inflections, intonations and timbre of his voice to deliver a song. But I understand he is not to everyone’s liking. I have probably more than 50 songs by him which I prefer to hearing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (including a song I’m currently writing about ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’), but I understand its resonance and why it is so well regarded.

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