Thursday, July 26, 2007

How Does It Feel?

Not only is “Like A Rolling Stone” the best song that Bob Dylan wrote (something that He Himself admitted in 1965), it may very well be the greatest song in rock history.
Released this week day in 1965, the song spent twelve weeks on the singles chart and reached a peak position of #2. Certainly, there are more songs that sold more copies and reached a higher position than “Like A Rolling Stone,” but none of that matters when considering how important this song was. Prior to it, the lyrics to most songs were of passing interest, but suddenly, after “Like A Rolling Stone” was released, even pop bands started to pay attention to the shit they were singing about. And what Dylan was singing about seemed to be addressing generations preparing to step into the arena of adulthood. “How does it feel?/To be on your own?” is a question that even my own children will eventually face, both literally and metaphorically, perhaps around the same time that Bob himself penned that immortal line (24).
Even the music itself was unlike anything created until that point. The opening, reverberated snare crack seemed to be signaling something new arriving. As keyboardist Al Kooper recalled, "There was no sheet music, it was totally by ear. And it was totally disorganized, totally punk. It just happened." The late Michael Bloomfield also spoke similarly of the sessions: "He said, 'I don't want you to play any of that B.B. King shit, none of that fucking blues. "I want you to play something else."
Not only did “Like A Rolling Stone” turn out to be something else, it turned out to be unlike anything else that rock music has seen since.
Anyone who would like to suggest how shitty a vocalist Dylan is needs to listen to this song. There’s so much more to a vocalist than how comforting, pitch-perfect, or appealing it may be, there’s the phrasing, the emotion, and the honesty to consider as well. In all accounts, Dylan sounds positively transformed with every “feeeeel,” with each “get…used to it” and on that immortal “no secrets to conceal” you believe every fucking syllable and you understand that not even Frank Sinatra could sing it any better.
Below is a great live clip of “Like A Rolling Stone” filmed the same year Highway 61 Revisited was released.


Jake said...

This is one of those songs (like many Dylan songs, and all great art) that keeps getting better, and you get them more and more over the years. The latest line that strikes me is this one:

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it

I'm sure the first 100 times I heard this song I thought that part was just gibberish. But it's not.

Maybe if I hadn't spent my entire four years of private college "higher" education getting loaded, it wouldn't have taken me so long...

Todd Totale said...

Totally. I've yet to get tired of it because, like you mentioned, I'm always discovering new things about it. I love how Kooper's organ is just a half step off because he's learning the song as it's being recorded.