Revisiting the story behind Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone' on its anniversary

music news 16/06/2022

On this day in 1965, Bob Dylan recorded the timeless classic ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ at Columbia Records.

Dylan and a group of musicians (Paul Griffin, Joe Macho Jr, Bobby Gregg, and Bruce Langhorne) recorded the track 15 times on June 16 1965, with the fourth take being the one that was released as a single.

The song was recorded in many different styles throughout those 15 recordings, with the tempo and instruments being changed often.

Many believe the song is written as an expression of resentment and disappointment towards a figure in Dylan's life - Miss Lonely.  

'Miss Lonely' once had it all - "Once upon a time you dressed so fine" - but now has nothing - "Now you don't talk so loud/Now you don't seem so proud".

Dylan wrote an early version of the song after returning from a UK tour unhappy with his public perception. He told Playboy magazine in 1966 that he was considering quitting music before writing and releasing the song.

"I guess I was going to quit singing. I was very drained, and the way things were going, it was a very draggy situation," he said.

But 'Like a Rolling Stone changed it all ... it was something that I could dig.

Despite only reaching number two on the U.S Billboard Hot 100, the track is considered one of the greatest and most influential songs of all time, by critics and fellow musicians alike.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number one on their ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ lists in 2004 and 2010 - it came in at number four in their 2021 list. 

Bruce Springsteen, during his speech inducting Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said this of the song:

“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’d kicked open the door to your mind, ” he told the audience.

The way that Elvis freed your body, Dylan freed your mind, and showed us that because the music was physical did not mean it was anti-intellect.

Paul Williams, one of the first-ever rock music critics, said that the song is responsible for elevating Dylan from a folk celebrity to an iconic artist that transcended music.

“Dylan had been famous, had been the centre of attention, for a long time. But now, the ante was being upped again. He’d become a pop star as well as a folk star… and was even more than the Beatles, a public symbol of the vast cultural, political, generational changes taking place in the United States and Europe.”

An interactive music video for the song was released in 2013. Users can flip through multiple channels that imitate TV shows, with all characters mouthing along to the lyrics.