Friday, July 24, 2015

50 years ago: Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” charted

Like a Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)


Released: July 20, 1965


First Charted: July 24, 1965


Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 2, HR, 1 CL, 4 UK, 2 CN, 7 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK, 0.2 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 36.84 video, 215.89 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

It was only Bob Dylan’s second appearance on the Billboard Hot 100. His maiden hit on the chart was “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, just a few months earlier. This one, however, would be his biggest hit. Music critic Toby Creswell said it “was so different, so sophisticated, that it shaped the future of rock & roll.” CR

“No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time.” RS500 Regarding Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance of this song, Joni Mitchell said, “The American folk song has grown up.” NPR Folk music fans had seen their genre as carrying intellectual import while rock-n-roll was “adolescent trash.” TB This song, however, proved that lyrical prowess need not be an impediment to commercial success BBC and suddenly rock was not just teen music, but an art form on par with any other. TB

Dylan wrote this not initially as a song, but, by varying accounts, “as a prose poem,” WI “extended piece of verse,” RS500 or a short story about a society girl who loses her status, BBC possibly even Andy Warhol protégé Edie Sedgwick. SF It was, he says, “just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred.” RS500

The “mighty, stream-of-consciousness, rock ballad” JA owes a debt to Al Kooper, for the signature “garage-gospel organ.” RS500 The usual guitarist snuck into Columbia Studios for the chance to play with Dylan, but when Mike Bloomfield arrived with his guitar, Kooper knew he couldn’t compete so he took up a position behind the Hammond organ, which he hadn’t played before. CR Dylan liked what he heard and even had it turned up in the mix, despite the opening being an 1/8 note behind everyone else. SF

Guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix liked what he heard as well – regarding Dylan’s voice, that is. Reportedly, Dylan’s unconventional vocals, “nasal and nasty, raw as barbed wire,” MA served as an inspiration to the legendary musician to see himself as more than just a guitarist. SF


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Bob Dylan
  • DMDB page for parent album Highway 61 Revisited
  • BBC BBC Radio 2 (2004). “Sold on Song Top 100
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 533-4.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 119.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 9.
  • NPR National Public Radio web site (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF Songfacts.com
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 79.
  • WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Page 90.

First posted 7/24/2011; last updated 4/13/2021.

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