Tag Archives: Highway 61 Revisited

Rocks In The Attic #528: Bob Dylan – ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965)

rita528This was the first Dylan album I ever bought – I think because out of all of his classic singles, I liked the singalong ‘…Then You!…’ bits in Like A Rolling Stone. It really is a great song – although, like nearly all Dylan songs, I have no idea what it all means. My lyric-blindness prevents me from caring about the words too much, and it’s a blissful kind of ignorance. Perhaps if I knew what the lyrics meant, I’d like the song less, like seeing a card trick standing behind the magician.

I’d probably have listened to a lot more Dylan in my youth, if I’d started with another album – perhaps The Freewheelin’ from 1962. I still find 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited a bit of a heavy trip. Man.

This week it was announced that Bob has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. I’m sure this has made a whole load of highbrow people really angry, and I like the nomination for that establishment outrage, as much as I like it for Bob’s achievement at being awarded something nice.

Rolling Stone magazine says he deserves it – not ‘for making it through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books’, a nice reference to a lyric from this record’s Ballad Of A Thin Man, but for ‘for inventing ways to make songs do what they hadn’t done before’. It’s a long time since Rolling Stone said anything against the grain though so it’s not surprising. Perhaps if this announcement would have come thirty or forty years ago, they might have taken a difference stance. Rolling Stone, like Dylan himself, once was very much the embodiment of the counter-culture. They haven’t exactly become the establishment since; instead the establishment has shifted in the intervening years, to stand behind people like Dylan.

What do I know though? I don’t even understand what he’s saying half the time.

Hit: Like A Rolling Stone

Hidden Gem: Tombstone Blues

Rocks In The Attic #306: Bob Dylan – ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

RITA#306I’m liking Dylan more and more these days. I was listening to Roger McGuinn’s version of It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) on the Easy Rider soundtrack the other day and it just made me want to listen to Dylan’s version – a seven and a half minute highlight from this album, his first of 1965.

I think this was the second Dylan album I ever heard, after Highway 61 Revisited, and it always used to annoy me that production-wise, Maggie’s Farm is so similar sounding to Subterranean Homesick Blues. The instrumentation on both songs is almost identical, to the extent that you can imagine Dylan and his band running from one song into the other while the tape’s still rolling. If the songs bled into one another, I wouldn’t have a problem but the fact that they put a song between them on the album reeks of hopeful misdirection. A similar accompaniment can be heard after the false start on Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, so maybe the backing band only knew one style of playing and were hoping Bob wouldn’t notice.

That’s not to say that Subterranean Homesick Blues isn’t every kind of awesome. One of my favourite Dylan tracks, it’s one of those timeless records – gibberish lyrics wrapped up in a punk spirit, twelve years before the Sex Pistols and the Clash turned up.

Listening to Dylan’s own version of Mr. Tambourine Man always reminds me of a Dylan poster that used to hang in our Sixth Form assembly area. From memory, I think it just had Dylan’s face with ‘Hey Mr. Tambourine Man’ printed below. I don’t know who put it there, or how long it had been there, but I get the impression that it had been there for a while. It’s probably still there now.

Hit: Subterranean Homesick Blues

Hidden Gem: It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)