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Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

March 28, 2013

Bob_Dylan_-_Highway_61_Revisited[Album 163/1001]

“What’s his appeal?”
– me, as recently as a few years ago

For years I simply didn’t get it.

Could he write songs?  Sure, please just give them to Jimi Hendrix or Guns n’ Roses to perform.

Somewhere, at some point (potentially when I was introduced to Blood on the Tracks), the conversion happened.  The voice that was initially such a deterrent became essential.

Now I’m a believer & perhaps the only thing worse than a big Dylan fan is a born-again fan!

Where does Highway 61 Revisited rank in his catalogue?  Sadly I haven’t explored all 35 (35!) studio albums, not to mention all the live albums, bootlegs and more.  A definitive statement proclaiming this as his finest would be misguided, given the lack of complete information.

What I can say:

Rolling Stone probably got it right, naming Like a Rolling Stone as his best song.  Superb song to begin with, made greater given that this was an era where a 6-minute single was unthinkable.  Mid-60s trailblazing, as per usual.

As a teen, I had a rule where I didn’t want to hear the same song twice in one day, for fear of ‘getting tired of it.’  Every time Desolation Row wrapped up, I was tempted to start all over & often did, teenage rules be darned.

If the mark of a great record is its ability to stay in the rotation, Highway 61 Revisited is exemplary.

Pity the album that would have to follow this one, so that will wrap up Title Track March.

Up next: in honour of people ending their winter hibernation, going out and talking to neighbours, I’ll look at long-winded album titles.  Tentatively called Chatty April, enjoy!

From → 1960s

  1. Ovidiu Boar permalink

    “Could he write songs? Sure, please just give them to Jimi Hendrix or Guns n’ Roses to perform.” I think this line sums up the anti-Dylan mentality perfectly. I’m ashamed to admit that I did share it for quite a while. Now I can openly say – with the risk of sounding ignorant – that I kind of pity the people who still do.

    It was ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ who did it for me, a song that is in its own league and that I’m still not quite tired of.

    Great review.

  2. Much appreciated – fittingly (considering the name of your blog) I think Tangled up in Blue was a big part of my conversion to being a fan of Dylan the performer!

  3. I think I got Dylan for why people got Dylan, but I only recently understood why I like Dylan. His humour. How playful he is with his words. How non-committal to most of his assertions. It would be a stretch to call him a punk (isn’t punk anti-wordiness and 6 minute tracks?) but for someone who is considered to be a serious artist, he sure has perfected the art of appearing as though he doesn’t take himself seriously.

    I used to listen to the first 5 or 6 albums a lot, but the words didn’t excite or engage me as such. Lennon said he liked the sound of Dylan’s albums more than the words. I, too, liked his delivery of his own songs (more than more polished covers) than what he was actually saying. Now, I can sit with something like “It’s Alright Ma (I’m only bleeding)” for days. But, like yourself, I don’t think I can go through a Dylan phase. That would be like a never-ending supply of extremely delicious cereal that cancels out your taste buds after a while.

    Also, I judge how much I love something by how many times I play/read/watch it. I’ve had “Like A Rolling Stone” on loop before, and I never got tired of it!

    • Considering one punk album I heard recently had 14 songs in 15 minutes, a Dylan 6- minute track would represent 40% of such a punk album!
      When I asked a friend about ranking Dylan songs, he memorably said, “Like a Rolling Stone #1, everything else tied for #2!”

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