Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Happy 50th Birthday to Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone

Considered one of the great rock and roll songs of all time (it's #1 according to Rolling Stone magazine),  today is the 50th birthday of the recording of the song.

From Rolling Stone:

It was exactly 50 years ago today that Bob Dylan walked into Studio A at Columbia Records in New York and recorded "Like a Rolling Stone," which we have called the single greatest song of all time. The track was on store shelves just a month later, where it shot to Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 (held back only by the Beatles' "Help!") and influenced an entire new generation of rock stars. "That snare shot sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind," Bruce Springsteen said when he inducted Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. "When I was 15 and I heard 'Like a Rolling Stone,' I heard a guy who had the guts to take on the whole world and who made me feel like I had to too." 
Just one month before before recording "Like a Rolling Stone," Dylan was in Europe wrapping up the solo acoustic tour chronicled in D.A. Pennebaker's documentary Don't Look Back. The electric "Subterranean Homesick Blues" had been out for three months and was all over the radio, but his concerts were completely unplugged affairs and protest songs like "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and "The Times They Are-A Changin'" were still sprinkled into his set list. But somewhere on the tour, he began penning a long, free-form piece of writing he compared to "vomit." [It was] just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred," he said, "directed at some point that was honest." 
Tom Wilson invited Al Kooper to stop by the next day's session simply to watch, but he had far bigger plans. "Taking no chances, I arrived an hour early and well enough ahead of the crowd to establish my cover," he wrote in his 1998 book Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards. "I walked into the studio with my guitar case, unpacked, tuned up, plugged in, and sat there trying my hardest to look like I belonged." Soon enough, Bloomfield walked in and began practicing. "[He] commenced to play some of the most incredible guitar I'd ever heard," Kooper wrote. "And he was just warming up! I was in over my head. I embarrassedly unplugged, packed up, went into the control room, and sat there pretending to be a reporter from Sing Out! magazine." 
With Kooper in the control room, the same group from the previous day launched into "Like a Rolling Stone," though with Paul Griffin moving from organ to piano. Kooper knew so little about the organ that he didn't even know how to turn it on, but he was desperate to play on a Dylan song and when a distracted Wilson didn't give him a firm "no" he walked into the studio, sat down at the instrument and was delighted to see Griffin hadn't turned it off.

Read it all here.

In tribute, here is Al Kooper (who played organ on the original) as he tells the story of the recording:

And here is the version Bob Dylan sang at Newport:

Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone (Live... by toma-uno

And possibly the most famous version - from the 1966 UK Tour:

And here is the original:

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all 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 for your next meal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it
You said you’d never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

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