I don’t write about it much, because it was most intense in that period from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, and I wasn’t a writer then. But I had a serious obsession with Bob Dylan in those days. I read and re-read the biography by Anthony Scaduto in ‘72 ... heck, I even read Tarantula and pretended to “get” it. We saw him for the first time in 1974 with The Band, and again in 1978 (without The Band ... ah, Street Legal, if nothing else you put a temporary stop on my Dylan obsession). I remember when the TV special Hard Rain was telecast (filmed at the end of the Rolling Thunder Revue), some person whose name I have long forgotten addressed the mostly negative reviews by claiming those critics were missing the point ... that the next day, all sorts of young while males would start wearing scarves on their head, emulating their idol.
And yes, the next time I showed up at work, I had on a head scarf.
Blood on the Tracks meant a lot to me, because it was the one great album of the early years of our marriage. I thought Planet Waves was that album, until Blood came along and showed just how far such an album could go.
And I’ve mentioned before that Bringing It All Back Home was one of the first albums I ever bought.
But towering above all of this was “Like a Rolling Stone”. I used to think of it as our generation’s National Anthem, and I probably don’t say that any longer because I don’t say that kind of thing any longer.
And it’s all over the Internet today, because it’s the 50th anniversary of the day “Like a Rolling Stone” was recorded.
Alongside all of the words being written, there are many photographs of the recording session. And for some reason, that’s where it hit closest to home for me. The pictures offer concrete proof that a group of people recorded that song.
Because when I look at the pix, I realize I find it hard to believe the session happened. It’s more that “Like a Rolling Stone” just fell from the sky.
Andy Greene at Rolling Stone called it a “venomous song”, and I’m not saying he’s wrong ... you can find a lot of people agreeing with that sentiment. Me, I think if you want an example of Venomous Dylan, check out his next single, “Positively 4th Street” (“You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend”). Or, what the heck, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.
Here’s the thing ... when I hear “4th Street”, I hear Dylan just crushing the object of his dismissal. And yes, there is some of that in “Like a Rolling Stone”. But the way the chorus line “HOW DOES IT FEEEEEEL?” is like a sing-along has always led me to believe Dylan included himself among the complete unknowns. This is why I thought of the song as a national anthem: it was the story of all of us. (“Positively 4th Street” could never fulfill that function.)