Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”

Forty-five years ago this week Bob Dylan recorded Like a Rolling Stone, one of the most significant and beautiful Rock and Roll songs ever written. Several factors make this song so important.
Initially, Like a Rolling Stone did not make Columbia Records’ approval. Columbia believed it was too long (6:34) to be a commercial success. Corporate heads thought, no one would listen/buy a 6:34 minute song during an era when the Beatles were pounding out 2:30 minute hits… and making millions. Still, the future classic found its way onto Dylan’s Highway 61 album anyway.
Like A Rolling Stone was ground breaking in both its lyrics and raw electric sound. It was not a love song, like most other songs of the time and the track did not have a polished sound.
The song also marked a turning point in the career of Bob Dylan as well. “Dylan called the creation of the song a breakthrough, explaining that it changed his perception of where he was going in his career” (wikipedia).
Dylan first wrote Like A Rolling Stone as a poem. While being interviewed years later he said the words screamed out at him for music, so he obliged, but the musical accompaniment never overwhelms the poetry.
Dylan first performed Like A Rolling Stone live at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965. When Dylan, the consummate “folk singer”, pulled out an electric guitar and cranked out Like A Rolling Stone the audience was shocked, some loyal fans even booed.
In 2004 “Rolling Stone Magazine” named Like A Rolling Stone the best Rock and Roll song of all time.

Below is my favorite verse…

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all came 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 shoulders a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where its at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

3 Responses to Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”

  1. Steve says:

    I think it was in the film “No Direction Home,” that Al Kooper mentioned that he was asked to play organ on the song at the last minute, probably at Newport, but he didn’t really know it, and that was the reason he was about a beat behind the music throughout, but that everyone thought he’d done it on purpose because it sounded great.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For what ever reason, I have thought that the lyric,”At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used” was a reference to Kerouac.

    Just a hunch.