Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bob Dylan – "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965)

Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud

Al Kooper was the multitalented musical genius behind the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album.  But he also discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd (producing and performing on “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird”), produced the delightfully outré debut album of the Tubes, and played on albums by the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, B. B. King, and many others.

Kooper was just an unknown 21-year-old when Bob Dylan showed up at the Columbia Records studio in New York City in 1965 to record “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Al Kooper and Bob Dylan
He had been invited to the recording session as a guest of producer Tom Wilson, but he hoped to persuade Wilson to let him play guitar.  But unbeknownest to Kooper, Dylan had invited the great blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield to attend the session as well.  Kooper knew that Bloomfield was a far superior guitarist, so he instead asked Wilson to let him play a Hammond B-3 organ on the track.  Wilson at first refused Kooper’s request, but Kooper wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Kooper’s famous organ riff is the key musical element of “Like a Rolling Stone.”  But what makes just about everyone agree that the song one of the best singles of all time – Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #1 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list – were the lyrics.

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What’s the most important element of a great single?  Is it the words?  The music? The arrangement/production/performance?

I think the words are the least important of those three elements.   So while no one would deny Dylan was a great lyricist – he even won the Nobel Prize for Literature a couple of years ago (which was a mistake) – a lot of his records are musically pretty pedestrian.   

Like the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen, Dylan recorded some truly great songs.  But I think there’s a lot of dross relative to the amount of musical gold they produced.

(“Wow,” you might be thinking right now.  “This guy just dismissed three of the most revered recording artists of all time.  Who the hell is he?”)  

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Click here to watch a very entertaining music video for “Like a Rolling Stone.”  The video is interactive, allowing you to surf 16 simulated television channels – each of which features a television personality lip-syncing the lyrics.  The channels you can flip through include a cooking show, “The Price Is Right,” a home-shopping show, “Pawn Stars,” a tennis match, a cartoon, a “History Channel” documentary, and BBC News.

You’ll see two buttons on the left side of the screen as you watch the video.  Don’t be afraid to click on them to change channels.

You can click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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