Bob Dylan's Sixth Album
July 7, 2019 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Bob Dylan released two albums in 1965, The second was recorded June-August, and released Aug 30. Just the opening song alone changed the trajectory of American popular music. Highway 61 Revisited (Wikipedia page with links to individual songs for background and reception): Side One: Like A Rolling Stone (so much vitriol, so perfectly expressed); Tombstone Blues (an existential cry, if nothing else); It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (even Dylan gets the blues); From A Buick 6; Ballad Of A Thin Man (Something is happening and you don't know what it is...)

Side Two: Queen Jane Approximately (Queen Jane just might be a man), Highway 61 Revisited (that's a very busy highway, apparently), Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (Juarez at Easter time), Desolation Row (in which Dylan aims his lyrics at the stars, draws back his bow, and fires just as hard as he can)
posted by hippybear (22 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
God, Like A Rolling Stone is so rock solid from start to finish. His “How does it feel?” combined with that organ just hits my soul every time.
posted by gc at 7:43 AM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Not to take attention away from the genius of the album but it has to be noted that Nina Simone's version of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" is the most moving and haunting Dylan cover of all time. She manages to inhabit the character, and her voice turns it into a harrowing tale of addiction and its attendant mental confusion.
posted by HunterFelt at 7:46 AM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

"What struck me was that he had become one - or had become identical with his breath. Dylan had become a column of air, so to speak, at certain moments, where his total physical and mental focus was this single breath coming out of his body. He had found a way in public to be almost like a shaman, with all of his intelligence and consciousness focused on his breath".

Allen Ginsberg from Martin Scorcese's doc, No Direction Home.
posted by philip-random at 7:57 AM on July 7, 2019

Dan Erlewine inspects Mike Bloomfield’s Telecaster, as heard on the record.
posted by thelonius at 8:06 AM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

God, Like A Rolling Stone is so rock solid from start to finish.

The first time I really listened to that song, I just about died when he got to "You used to ride a chrome horse with your diplomat/Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat". What a couplet!
posted by thelonius at 8:09 AM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Anyone else out there following Dylan's current series of official bootlegs? There's 14 volumes so far, comprising everything from lost live recordings to collections of demos, orphan songs, and alternative versions of whole albums like Self Portrait & Blood on the Tracks.

Even in their most truncated form (comprising one or two CDs each rather than a ridiculously massive box set), they form a fascinating alternative history of his career. These are just the sweepings from Dylan's cutting room floor, yet still streets ahead of what almost any other artist can do. What an astonishing talent he is.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:03 AM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

I love this album. I love how the whole things begins with that drum snap, like a gunshot. You immediately know something is about to go down.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:06 AM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Al Kooper story of how he ended up on Like A Rolling Stone never fails to bring a smile to my face.

When Tom Wilson realized that Kooper was noodling around on the organ during recording time, he ran in to chase Kooper out and apologized to Dylan, saying "He doesn't even know _how to play_ the organ." Dylan was unmoved, and told him, "How about you let me decide who knows how to play?"
posted by delfin at 9:15 AM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

The record that changed my whole life. I barely remember what I listened to before it, it all became irrelevant when I discovered 61 and everything started over again from there.
posted by iamthefly at 10:13 AM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

God, Like A Rolling Stone is so rock solid from start to finish.

The funny thing is, as delfin mentions, the organ is ... far from perfect. But yet it manages to work so well as a whole.
posted by Candleman at 10:28 AM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

No link to the interactive lip-sync version of Like a Rolling Stone that came out a few years ago?
posted by octothorpe at 10:31 AM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by thelonius at 10:57 AM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hoping you do Nashville Skyline!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:28 AM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Imagine my glee a few months ago when I found a mono original label copy of this, in almost near mint condition, at my favorite local record store for only $20. Did I mention it had 1A stampers? (For non-nerds that would be a very early pressing.) Yes I have a little obsession with reading the matrix info in the run-out grooves of Dylan and Byrds Columbia LPs (please don't judge me!). I will treasure this LP for forever, it's like holding a little slice of history.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 3:51 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

So why did Dylan go electric? I've got this theory...

In 1962 Dylan records and releases his first album, the eponymous Bob Dylan. One of the songs he chooses to include is the traditional House of the Rising Sun.

Fast forward to autumn 1964. Dylan is driving down the highway and the radio starts playing The Animals' electric version.

Valentine Hilton's guitar. Eric Burdon's gravelly voice. Alan Price's Hammond (?) organ.

Dylan pulls over to really listen to that song playing on the radio. By the time it has ended, he knows where his future lies, musically.

Get a band! Go electric!

That's my theory, anyway.

Fun fact: in the Donovan scene in the 1965 documentary, the guy with the thick English accent, the one attached to a bottle of beer, the one who cracks open a bottle of beer with a piano is... Alan Price, the Animals' organist.

I rest my case.

The rest is history.
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:58 PM on July 7, 2019

Also, I think he was getting bored playing solo.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:04 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Dylan played a bunch of rock n roll in his youth. He wanted to be Little Richard before he wanted to be Woody Guthrie. The folk music was kind of a detour.

Also, the Byrds made hits of his songs by electrifying them. Hard to resist.
posted by argybarg at 11:06 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

God, the summer before I moved off to college, I went through a big Dylan phase, starting with buying Blood on the Tracks and jumping back to Hwy 61, Bringing it All Back Home, and Blonde on Blonde. Those albums were basically all I listened to for at least six months. Which seems about right for a testy baby punk kid in the South.

"Rolling Stone" still rips
posted by Maaik at 11:28 PM on July 7, 2019

Also, the Byrds made hits of his songs by electrifying them. Hard to resist.

True, true.

Byrd's first hit: Mr. Tambourine Man (spring 1965).

Animals: House of the Rising Sun (late summer of 1964).
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:58 PM on July 7, 2019

Why the obsession with Dylan's decision to go electric? Do you think knowing why will change his music or how you relate to it? The question is narcissism on the part of the listener, because the answer is unknowable by anyone but Dylan himself.
And even if he were to say why the answer would be incomplete. When he talks about the inspiration for some of the lyrics, like the tambourine in Mr. Tambourine Man, the lyric transcends any mundane explanation.
Take the gift he offers. Listen to the song one more time. He'll to take you on a magic swirling ship and you would be a fool not to follow.
posted by Metacircular at 12:38 AM on July 8, 2019

Forgive me. I was introduced to Dylan in 1964. Saw the acoustic Dylan in 1965. The electric in '66. We have some lived history together. Thanks for your comment. You go your way. I'll go mine.
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:46 AM on July 8, 2019

Like everyone to whom Dylan's music has meant nearly everything for what seems like forever, it's hard for me to find the words. I feel like he's a jerk, but man, he's my jerk. There's no pinning him down. He's the consistent chameleon and he lies like a dog in interviews and tells the truth on stage. Tangled Up in Blue, my god. Idiot Wind. Masters of War. Rolling Stone. Thin Man.
posted by Occula at 9:10 AM on July 8, 2019

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