Monday, May 05, 2008

Like A Rolling Stone

‘Like A Rolling Stone’ is one of Dylan’s most influential songs and in 2004 it was voted “the greatest song of all time” (Rolling Stone Magazine). When asked what he thought of this Dylan said. "This week it is. But, you know, who's to say how long that's gonna last?"

"Like a wild thing, baby." Someone at the conclusion of take 4 – the version of LARS that is released

When it first came out on 24 July, somewhat against the odds, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No.91 and by 2 September it had climbed all the way to No.2 – only kept from the top spot by the Beatles’ ‘Help’. The odds were stacked against it because it was twice as long as the records radio normally liked to play. The day after the single entered the American chart Dylan played it live, for the first time, at the Newport Folk Festival

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

Dylan originally conceived the song in waltz time but later changed it to it’s finished form. His first attempt at recording it was on 15 June at Columbia Studios on 799 Seventh Avenue, between West 52nd Street and West 53rd Street in Manhattan.

According to Al Kooper, Dylan exploded through the studio door with a “bizarre looking guy who was carrying a Fender Stratocaster without a case.” A fact made more bizarre because a storm was raging outside and the guitar was soaking wet. This was Mike Bloomfield, a twenty-one year old native of Chicago, who had been signed to Columbia by the legendary John Hammond, but who ended up joining the Paul Butterfield Blues band in 1963. Kooper, who was six months younger than Bloomfield, had pretty much invited himself to the session. He was also a guitar player but as soon as he heard Bloomfield warming up he realized that he was no match for one of the greatest ever blues guitarists. Bass player, Joe Macho, Jr., drummer Bobby Gregg and organist Paul Griffin were the others session musicians that were to play on the three tracks that Dylan wanted to work on that day – ‘Phantom Engineer’, ‘Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.

“I don't want you to play any B.B. King type leads. None of that standard blues. I want you to play something else.” Dylan at his home while teaching Mike Bloomfield the songs.

After spending some time running through the first two songs, but not achieving the kind of results Dylan wanted, they switched their attention to ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. At first Paul Griffin was seated at the Hammond organ but Dylan decided he wanted him to play what he’d been playing on the piano instead. For Al Kooper this was his opportunity – one that would change his life. “I’ve got a great organ part for the song.” Is how he put it to the producer. “Al”, who Tom Wilson knew well, “you don’t even play the organ.” Before Kooper could argue his case Wilson was distracted and so the twenty-one year old, ‘former guitar player’, simply walked into the studio and sat down at the B.3.

"It seemed to go on and on forever. It was just beautiful ... He showed all of us that it was possible to go a little further." – Paul McCartney

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