Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cuts for Cooky: Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone"

It was ten pages long. It wasn't called anything, just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end it wasn't hatred, it was telling someone something they didn't know, telling them they were lucky. Revenge, that's a better word. I had never thought of it as a song, until one day I was at the piano, and on the paper it was singing, 'How does it feel?' in a slow motion pace, in the utmost of slow motion.

Brutal honesty and raw emotion overflow here. Mix with one of the greatest rolling riffs, "the great white blues hope," Mike Bloomfield, a very young (21!) Al Kooper, the delivery of a hall of famer, and you get this cut.

I was very young when I got Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, but this song stood out even amongst all his other great ones. Jimi covered it, and when I looked on Jimi's Smash Hits and saw who'd penned All Along the Watchtower I felt validated about my instincts. [Interestingly, Jimi's cover of Like a Rolling Stone isn't as good, but his cover of All Along the Watchtower is the definitive standard, even by Dylan's admission. More on that song in another post.]

At six minutes, it had an episodic quality, and the narrative made me feel like I'd voyeuristically peeked into something very personal in Dylan's life. (For me, looking back [Ha. Don't Look Back.] makes me see how something so personal was, paradoxically, epic feeling because of the music...? Hmmm, gotta think about that one a bit more.) It was probably one of the first times I'd realized that highly personal interpretations of reality were the ones to look for.

I'm not a Springsteen fan, but on the Wiki for LaRS, he says:

The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind.

Now, over forty years later, this song has lost nothing.

The Musicians:
Mike Bloomfield - guitar
Al Kooper - organ
Paul Griffin - piano
Joe Macho, Jr. - bass
Bobby Gregg - drums.

Produced by Tom Wilson

June 15–16, 1965, Studio A, Columbia Records, New York City.

Dylan invited Bloomfield to participate, and Wilson chose the other musicians. Gregg and Griffin had previously worked with Dylan and Wilson on Bringing It All Back Home.[19] Kooper, 21 years old at that time, was not originally supposed to play at all, but was a guest of Tom Wilson.[20] However, as Wilson was not present at the time, Kooper sat down with his guitar with the other musicians. By the time Wilson returned, Kooper, who had been intimidated by Bloomfield's guitar playing, was away in the control room. Wilson moved Griffin from Hammond organ to piano. Kooper then went to Wilson, saying that he had a good part for the organ. Wilson belittled Kooper's organ abilities but, as Kooper later said, "He just sort of scoffed at me....He didn't say 'no'—so I went out there." Wilson, surprised to see Kooper at the organ, nevertheless allowed him to play on the track. Upon hearing a playback of the song, Dylan, despite Wilson's protestations that Kooper was "not an organ player," insisted that Kooper's organ be turned up in the mix

Read the rest on the Wiki for LaRS - it really is interesting, such as how the Columbia marketing department hated it. Stupid suits.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody has ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
A complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To have you on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're all drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?