Spin #85 : Highway 61 Revisited : Bob Dylan
SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #85
Welcome to our 85th Sunday drop from the R'nR with Rylo collection! This is the second Bob Dylan album that we have chosen as a Sunday Drop (check out Spin#35 here - Bringing It All Back Home Again). This time we have chosen the same year but the follow up album, 'Highway 61 Revisited' to listen to as a family. I remember reading that this album was the album where Dylan went away from his folk acoustic roots and went full-electric. I know that he split the previous album 50/50 but this one was the point of no return. Our son has really become quite the country/blues fan and thought that he would like this one especially. Plus I think it might be one of my dad's favourite albums too.
This is the 342nd album in Bob Dylan's discography....kidding, it's his 6th studio album and we have chosen to spin this one out in the front room. There is a nice breeze coming through the window today and the sun is high in the sky. I think that I mentioned on the other Dylan spin that we desperately need a den or room that could hold all of his studio albums - because there are so many. His music has really grown on me over the years and I appreciate the slowness, lyricism and overall fun he has whilst playing. I have the Audio Technica turntable ready and the Marshall Woburn II speaker turned up to a respectable level in anticipation for 'Highway 61 Revisited'.
Image: Bob Dylan in 1965
ALBUMS OF NOTE (1965): Rubber Soul - The Beatles, Help! - The Beatles, Bringing It All Back Home - Bob Dylan, My Generation - The Who, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul - Otis Redding, Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds, In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett, The Zombies - The Zombies, It Ain't Me Babe - The Turtles, Elvis for Everyone - Elvis Presley
It's time to #dropthestylus on this '60s classic rock album! If you have a copy of this album, make sure you place it on your turntable as you read along.
I remember playing this album at my parents old place, as my Dad and I shot pool upstairs. It isn't typically an album that anyone else in our household liked other than my Dad and I, so it was a record that we had to play when we could. He is the reason why I got into Dylan's music and he has a few Dylan albums. I think albums that you should hear, if you get a chance are 'Blood on the Tracks' and 'Nashville Skyline'. The only problem I had playing any Dylan records was it meant that my Dad would get in the zone and I couldn't beat him at pool, or chess.
The opening song on 'Highway 61 Revisited' is called, 'LIKE A ROLLING STONE' and is probably a song that everyone knows the title of or has heard it at least once in their lifetime. I really need to mention that Bob Dylan records need , no they must come with lyrics. Sadly, they don't or at least none of the records that I've purchased have had a lyrics sheet included with them. Apparently the handwritten original lyrics of this song sold for around two million dollars back in 2014 and I think is still a record purchase. Thankfully his lyrics are available online for free instead and you should read along as you listen to this opening song. Probably his most famous song from his vast catalogue of music and one that wasn't the reason why the band, 'The Rolling Stones' got their name. They actually got it from a Muddy Waters song and not from Dylan's classic song.
Remember when I was talking about my Dad getting into the zone while playing pool? Well he would become some kind of shark when 'TOMBSTONE BLUES' came on. Something about it made him focus more and get into the zen-zone. I mean with lyrics like, "The sun's not yellow, it's chicken", who could beat that. I probably focused on the words a little more than my pool shots and psyched myself out. Thanks Bob Dylan and Dad! This one is probably my favourite because it's one of those rock numbers that could go on forever, if it was played in a live setting. I like this album because it feels like he has journeyed down the highway from his hometown to find himself and now he has returned back home a different man. He has brought with him a rock album that defied all expectations people had of him. The songs tell stories about people he has met along the way or made up people's stories. There is a voyeuristic approach that works on the album and as I listen along, I imagine it as if I'm sharing a car with Dylan on a road trip down the Highway 61. Along the way he shows me some strange characters and points out some interesting places.
'IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY' is a great song title and speaking of crying - our daughter had her school photos this week and it didn't go well. She is at that in-between age and she didn't quite understand exactly what was happening, the poor thing. Hopefully one of the photos comes out good. We got told that our almost 5 year old son was posing like a rockstar. Dylan on this track is having a lot of fun playing and I didn't realise how much influence the electric Dylan era had on Jimi Hendrix around this time. I love the respect between Dylan and Hendrix and still find it so incredibly sad that Hendrix died so young and after such a short career. The opening lyrics and pacing of the third song is just so relaxing on a Sunday surrounded by laughing and happy children - "Well, I ride on a mailtrain, baby. 'Can't buy a thrill. Well, I've been up all night, baby. Leanin' on the windowsill". I'm having a look at the back of the record jacket and notice our daughter now grabbing even more things from her bedroom in order to build a cubby house. Her hair has grown so much and when it isn't tied up, she looks like a little wild woman.
I love how this next song 'FROM A BUICK 6', helped to inspire Stephen King to write his novel, 'From a Buick 8'. I thought you might get thrown off with the MWSP clues and instantly think of 'Christine' instead. I was inspired during the week to branch out and make something for lunch that I'd been craving for a while, a traditional Laksa. Probably because I wasn't satisfied with the ones I could get from the restaurants. I researched until I found one that I thought would be good from Nagi Maehashi (Recipe Tin Eats). She has a lot of recipes online and thought that I would try her recipe. WOW! I have found one that is full of flavour, spice that was enjoyable to eat. It reminded me a lot of the Laksa that my mum made for me when I was growing up. If you've got the time and you enjoy good spice to flavour ratio, give her recipe a go. This song has a lot of southern feeling sounds and I'll have to read the Stephen King book to see what the story grew to be. If you've read the book, please let me know how you found it (without spoilers please).
I feel that the next song would sound really nice in a live setting, no not the infamous Newport festival where Dylan played an electric set for the folk/acoustic audience. Apparently they booed the man and heckled him for branching into a different sound. I don't remember who quoted this about Dylan but he apparently, "electrified one half of his audience, and electrocuted the other". Eventually the crowd applauded the man but some folk fans weren't able to recover from the 'new sound'. Whenever I hear of artists going in a different direction, I think of the episode from 'The Mighty Boosh', where the Psychedelic Monks go on a quest for the new sound. Rudi (played by Julian Barratt) and Spider (played by Noel Fielding) are hilarious on their quest to find the door of Kukundu. Check out the episode if you have no idea what I'm talking about here - click here.
'BALLAD OF A THIN MAN is the last song on Side A and it talks about the journalists in the '60s. I also hear Dylan laughing at a point, as he is singing "You try so hard but you don't understand". He has kept laughter or mistakes in other songs and I think it adds to it, rather than detracts. It feels like Dylan is talking about 'Mr Jones' who is a reporter that sees a lot happening, but doesn't know or doesn't want to report on it. The stylus comes to the dead wax of Side A and lets us know to flip over the LP. What have you thought so far?
I didn't realise on the other side, when the stylus dropped but on Side B it seems to drop into the song slightly, rather than the opening dead wax. This turntable in the front room is the automatic one and it is so slight, but noticeable. 'QUEEN JANE APPROXIMATELY', starts with an upbeat tempo and fine harmonica playing throughout. The bass guitar of Harvey Goldstein or Russ Savakus is quite strong on this one (not quite certain who played on this). I don't think Dylan cared too much what people thought or would think at this stage of his career. He was adjusting to something going on in his life and it was giving him an abundance of creative juices, that would flow out into these albums.
I don't know if people are getting angrier when they are behind the wheel but we had a few idiots this weekend. One goose tried to do a u-turn on a 90km road without slowing down or getting wide enough in front of us. He then decided to reverse almost into our lane as he didn't make the turn. Luckily I pre-empted his dumbness and was ready to avoid a collision. Then there was an old bloke, obviously wanting to die in order to get home quicker. We had a Yaris in front of us coming up to a merge and the old guy behind sped up, put his hands up at us and yelled. I pointed at the car in front and he put his finger up at us. So I kindly returned serve like we were playing a game of tennis. I think he realised his stupidity, attacking a safe driver with a family who let in a Yaris instead of driving through that car. He was too gutless to even look at us as he drove around us, probably because he felt as small as an ant. Plus as he merged on we noticed that he almost caused a collision. I really don't enjoy driving on the weekends anymore and I feel it's because people are more and more impatient and impulsive. 'HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED' has a whistle throughout that is quite loud if you had headphones on. Don't blame me if it stuns you as you have now been warned. The album title song that references the highway between his birth town in Minnesota and the southern states could be taken as Dylan returning home, as I mentioned earlier. The more that I listen to this album, I find myself wanting to listen to more of his records. I just can't believe how expensive everything is at the moment and can't justify the spend. Our next big purchase is a replacement car and maybe saving up for a few records for Christmas time.
Have you heard about the motorcycle crash that changed Dylan's life? He was working non-stop and fearing burn out during the mid-60's. I don't know if the accident was because he was exhausted and lost concentration or a perfectly orchestrated story that never was, in order to get some much deserved rest and to hit reset on the button of life. What do you guys think? Can you find many stories or photographs to prove that the motorcycle accident actually occurred? 'JUST LIKE TOM THUMB'S BLUES' is such a soothing style of electric/folk music (that will surely piss some people off). I like the lyrics of, "She speaks good English and she invites you up into her room. And you're so kind and careful not to go to her too soon. And she takes your voice and leaves you howling at the moon". I found a book online that looked interesting. It has a yellow cover and includes all of his lyrics and stories behind the lyrics for his entire career, up until the album 'Rough & Rowdy Ways".
'DESOLATION ROW' is the final song on Side B and also the longest track on the album at eleven minutes. This song is such a showcase of his poetry prowess and I challenge you to read along with the lyrics on this one and not enjoy it. I think listening to this song puts a lot of things into perspective, especially with all of the bleak things going on in the world these past few years. I feel a sadness coming through with Dylan's vocals and think that it's a fitting song to finish the album on. I know a lot of you probably won't listen to this album or even read this blog - but make sure you take the time to find some rest and relaxation in life. If you let the little things consume you, the big things will kill you. Remember to breathe and hug your loved ones. The final lyrics of this album make you realise that you have been apart of the narrative, one of the people looking out onto Desolation Row from one of the houses. "Yes, I received your letter yesterday, about the time the doorknob broke.
When you asked me how I was doing, was that some kind of joke. All these people that you mention, yes, I know them, they're quite lame. I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name. Right now, I can't read too good, don't send me no more letters no. Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row".
I hope that you enjoyed listening along or just reading our latest Sunday Spin with us. I love writing about the albums that I grew up with and the albums our children are growing up with, on a weekly basis. Give us a like on our social pages or comment below. If you are wanting to support us here at R'nR with Rylo, just direct message us and chat all things music. If you are doing it tough at the moment, please reach out and vent or talk through your problems as I'm a pretty good listener. Let us know your absolute favourite Bob Dylan album and why. I've got a couple of holes in the Dylan collection and always looking to be persuaded to add more down the track.
“I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me" - Bob Dylan
Until our next Spin, be Kind to Yaris drivers who don't get let in by cranky old w@$kers and be Kind to your Wax!
SPEED PLAYED AT
33 1/3 RPM
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME (1965)
BLONDE ON BLONDE (1966)
BLOOD ON THE TRACKS (1975)
TOMBSTONE BLUES OR DESOLATION ROW
RATING OUT OF 5
WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE
1 X BLACK LP IN A POLY/PAPER SLEEVE, WORDS AND PHOTOS ON BACK OF JACKET
"The sun's not yellow, it's chicken" ~ Tombstone Blues - Side A
LP / SIDE
LIKE A ROLLING STONE
IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY
FROM A BUICK 6
BALLAD OF A THIN MAN
QUEEN JANE APPROXIMATELY
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED
JUST LIKE TOM THUMB'S BLUES
Bob Dylan when he went Electric