Sunday 13 August 2023

Like A Rolling Stone

Trust me #58
Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan

'Play it fucking loud!'

Bob Dylan's instruction to his band The Hawks (later to become the Band) was simple, firm and crystal clear.  And The Band responded. They played Like A Rolling Stone fucking loud and Dylan, seeming to relish the confrontation that generated his instruction, bends and twists his melodies to suit. His voice rises even louder for the chorus, he hollers it with all his heart.

How does it feel?

How does it feel?

Dylan's sense of urgency came on the back of what must be the most (in)famous heckle in musical history. It resulted in a legendary performance of Like A Rolling Stone at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1966 that still causes spines to tingle and jaws to drop all these years down the line.

'Judas' was the cry from someone in the crowd, frustrated and annoyed that Dylan had given up his folk roots to 'go electric'. Dylan split his sets on this tour, opening with an acoustic half before bringing on his band for the second half. It's crazy to look back on this now, but a lot of people didn't want to see or hear him play electric.

Dylan's transformation from acoustic to electric was swifter and easier than The Beatles transformation from Mop Tops to psychedelic studio boffins! But, almost 60-years later, we're still talking about it

And no wonder. This Manchester Free Trade Hall performance documents it perfectly. One simple heckle generates an incredibly powerful response. No wonder music boffins keep writing about it, debating it and glorifying it.

There is actually a small cheer from the crowd following the heckle. Then Dylan responds; I don't believe you, he starts strumming his guitar, turns to his band who gradually start up, Dylan then says You're a liar into his microphone before turning to his band urging them to Play it fucking loud.

Photo by Mark Makin

Mark (from the 4th row) took the only known photos that night

The way Dylan then turns back to the audience and hits his guitar just as the drum kicks in is one of the coolest things you'll ever see. The basic spotlight shining on his curls gives him a Readybrek glow. And then he's off, tumbling into the flowing lyrics of Like A Rolling Stone.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

Through the bums a dime in your prime

Didn't you?

Dylan and The Band deliver an astonishing performance over the next 8-minutes. The urgency and energy are absolutely electrifying. I love when he turns to face a young Robbie Robertson to jam on guitars and then back to his mic and his mouth organ for a furious finale. 

The song finishes to cheers, but remarkably there is still a booooo when they end. Guess you can't please everyone!

1966 Manchester - the glorious performance of Like A Rolling Stone in full

Fan account - Mark Makin - BBC interview with Mark who attended as a 16 year old

No Direction Home - Trailer - Martin Scorsese's incredible documentary of Dylan's early years up until his 1966 tour, taking in the 'electric' storm.

But Bob Dylan has only ever been interested in pleasing one person - himself. And that has led to him releasing (at the time of writing) a remarkable 40 studio albums, 96 singles plus all kinds of volumes of bootlegs and live albums. Not to mention his never ending tour where he reinterprets everything to keep his band and audience on their toes.

Like A Rolling Stone remains Dylan's biggest hit and his most famous song. In fact, it is arguably the most important song in rock/popular music. Countless books, essays and thesis' have been written about this song, debating the characters mentioned, Dylan's mindset and so much more. So I'm not going to go crazy with this blog!

Released in the summer of 1965, Like A Rolling Stone was like a hurricane, the song blew everyone and everything away. A 24-year old Dylan hollering and questioning how does it feel? sounds electrifying now. What must it have sounded and felt like in 1965? 

Well, thanks to the wonder of YouTube you can check it out. Dylan played his first electric concert at The Newport Folk Festival that year. The folkies had already criticised him for abandoning his political acoustic songs that had led to him being labelled the spokesperson for a generation. 

Dylan looks sensational and completely in the zone, dressed in a leather jacket, shirt buttoned up, mouth organ round his neck. The band (the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) jam Like A Rolling Stone into life, there is some lovely jangly guitar and then Dylan finds the groove and they are off. The hammond organ sound is glorious. The sight of Dylan playing and singing his heart out against a dark background, illuminated by a single spotlight and occasional flashes from cameras, is stunning. 

Newport 1965

Dylan wrote the song, "a long piece of vomit, 20 pages long", from frustration. He was allegedly ready to give up singing as he didn't dig anything he was doing. All of a sudden he had something he dug in a big way.

Al Kooper was invited to jam on hammond organ and his improvised riff became a key part of the song. Dylan and his band capture something magical. It did take time, at least 15 takes, but they sure did get there.

Al Kooper's story of recording the song

Just enjoy the Manchester 66 and Newport 65 live videos above and check the original recording below. Do me a favour though. PLAY IT FUCKING LOUD.

Original audio

Like A Rolling Stone is added to my Trust Me playlist on Spotify. You can find a list of all the songs on it to date below, along with links to the blogs.

Search for Everything Flows - Trust Me on Spotify , or CLICK HERE

Previous Trust Me blogs

1. Something On Your Mind by Karen Dalton
1A. Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells
2. I Am, I Said  by Neil Diamond
3. Where's The Playground Susie?   by Glen Campbell
4. If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lighfoot
5. Gimme Some Truth by John Lennon
6. Gone With The Wind Is My Love by Rita and the Tiaras
7. In The Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
8. The Music Box by Ruth Copeland
9. The Ship Song by Nick Cave
10. Sometimes by James
11. I Walk The Earth by King Biscuit Time
12. Didn't Know What I Was In For by Better Oblivion Community Centre
13. When My Boy Walks Down The Street by The Magnetic Fields
14. The Man Don't Give A F**k by Super Furry Animals
15. All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun by Jeff Buckley and Liz Fraser
16. Are You Lookin' by The Tymes
17. A Real Hero by College & Electric Youth
18. Feelings Gone by Callum Easter
19. Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground
20. Did I Say by Teenage Fanclub
21. Don't Look Back by Teenage Fanclub
23. Belfast by Orbital
24. Clouds by The Jayhawks
25. Dreaming Of You by The Coral
26. Everlasting Love by Love Affair
27. Walk Away Renee by The Left Banke
28. Teenage Kicks by The Undertones
29. Shaky Ground by Sneeze
29. Rill Rill by Sleigh Bells
30. I Can Feel Your Love by Felice Taylor
31. The State We're In by The Chemical Brothers w/ Beth Orton
32. Sunshine After The Rain by Ellie Greenwich
33. Losing My Edge by LCD Soundsystem
34. Mondo 77 by Looper
35. Les Fleurs by Minnie Riperton
36. Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats
37. How High by The Charlatans
38. I Can't Let Go by Evie Sands
39. Pop Song 89 by R.E.M.
40. Summertime Clothes by Animal Collective
41. There She Goes by The Las
42. We're Going To Be Friends by White Stripes
43. Autumn Sweater by Yo La Tengo
44. Sister Rena by Lomond Campbell
45. Revolution by The Beatles
46. Lazarus by The Boo Radleys
47. Wrote For Luck by Happy Mondays
48. American Trilogy by The Delgados
49. Loser by Beck 
50. Silent Sigh by Badly Drawn Boy
51. Comedy by Shack
52. Take The Skinheads Bowling by Camper Van Beethoven
53. Freakscene by Dinosaur Jr
54. Thank You For Being You by The Pastels
55. I Think I'm In Love by Spiritualized
56. Chestnut Mare by The Byrds
57. Cannonball by The Breeders

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