A photograph of Dylan seated in a blue jacket with a person standing behind him holding a camera

2020 Album Draft- Round 7 Pick 8- Hanspostcard selects Bob Dylan- Highway 61 Revisited.

Notes on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited-

  • The first Bob Dylan album I ever owned was his first Greatest Hits album which came out in the mid-60’s- the first studio album I bought was this one- Highway 61 Revisited. I had learned of Bob via The Beatles-and started gobbling up all the Dylan albums that were out to that point- 1978.
  • Two days ago Badfinger20 selected Dylan’s 5th album- Bringing It All Back Home, I am piggy backing on that pick- in selecting Highway 61 Revisited. A strong case could be made that the greatest three album run ever was Dylan’s- Bringing It All Back Home/ Highway 61 Revisited/ Blonde On Blonde. The incredible thing is- Bringing It All Back Home was released on March 22, 1965, Highway 61 Revisited-August 30, 1965- a shade over 5 months later- and Blonde On Blonde- June 20, 1966. 15 month period of time-3 landmark albums. I have long believed that the 1965-66 period was the greatest years in rock and roll history- Dylan and The Beatles- with their finest works contributed heavily to those being ‘the glory years.”
  • I love the album cover of Bob with his Triumph motorcycle t-shirt and Ray- Ban sunglasses in his hand. The photographer Daniel Kramer decades later commented on Dylan’s expression-“He’s hostile, or it’s a hostile moodiness. He’s almost challenging me or you or whoever’s looking at it: ‘What are you gonna do about it, buster?”- Dylan’s album covers in the 60’s were all great-not a bad one in the bunch- After that the albums covers became hit-and-miss in my opinion.
  • Highway 61 -was a reference to the famous U.S. highway which runs from Minnesota to New Orleans and passing through Duluth, Minnesota- where Bob was born. It is also the famous “blues’ highway where another Bob- Robert Johnson according to legend ‘sold his soul to the devil” to gain his great guitar playing ability.
  • This album was Bob’s first all rock album- Bringing It All Back Home was half-rock/half acoustic- with Highway 61 Revisited was blues rock with Bob employing stellar rock musicians. He went into 1965 thought of as a folk artist- he left 1965 as a rock artist. On Highway 61 Revisited Mike Bloomfield was on electric guitar, one of the greatest session musicians ever- Al Kooper was on organ, Bobby Gregg on drums, Charlie McCoy on guitar.
  • “Like A Rolling Stone” opens the album- I consider “Like A Rolling Stone” not only the greatest album opener ever- but the greatest song in rock and roll history. Rolling Stone agrees-they listed it as #1 in their 500 Greatest Songs Ever list. From the opening drum snare crack by Bobby Gregg onward- this single which peaked at #2 Bob’s biggest hit {kept out of #1 by The Beatles “Help!”} clocked in at an incredible for the time- 6 minutes and 13 seconds. Columbia wasn’t going to release it as a single due to its length-would any radio stations play it? At the time singles were 2-3 minutes in length. It took Bob a couple days to get “Like A Rolling Stone” right- it wasn’t until he turned it into a rock song- with session guitarist Al Kooper organ riff that the song really clicked. The lyrics were also revolutionary at the time- songs were either happy poppy love songs or songs of feeling sad- “Like A Rolling Stone” is an attack. “Once upon a time you dressed so fine”- and how many times in my life have I done my Bob Dylan “How does it feel?” imitation? A book could be written about “Like A Rolling Stone”- in fact one has been- the noted rock critic/writer Greil Marcus has written an excellent book on the song “Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads.” Note- the song has been rumored to be about Andy Warhol star from The Factory- Edie Sedgwick.
  • “Like A Rolling Stone” was produced by longtime producer Tom Wilson- the rest of the album was produced by Bob Johnston. The nine-songs on the album five on side one and four on side 2- are in the order they were recorded- “Like A Rolling Stone” was recorded June 16th- the final song “Desolation Row” on August 4th. Bob Johnston the producer in his career not only produced Bob classics Blonde On Blonde and John Wesley Harding- but produced Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel among others- not a bad resume.
  • Highway 61 Revisited peaked at #3 on the US Album chart and #4 in the UK album chart. On Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time it was listed as #4.
  • In a review in Uncut’s The Ultimate Music Guide to Bob Dylan- in grading the songs the late critic Andy Gill gave 5 of the 9 songs 5 stars and the other 4- 4 stars. There is not a weak song on the album- they are all fantastic. I have focused on “Like A Rolling Stone” but the closer “Desolation Row”- which is 11:21 minutes long- is a song which makes me think of The Jonestown Massacre of 1978. It is a long song which never at least to me seems long. A great album closer {On -Blonde On Blonde” the closer would even be longer- “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”- which was the entire 4th side- 11:22.} “Desolation Row” to me sounds like the soundtrack to the end of the world.
  • When we started this draft- there was no question in my mind that somewhere along the way I would have to take a Dylan album- after all- he is my second favorite artist- behind The Beatles.
  • “Ballad Of A Thin Man’ is song I wish to feature in this review- another song of Dylan’s that many people have interpreted in different ways- and an often quoted song- John Lennon would sing in “Yer Blues”- ‘like Dylan’s Mr. Jones.” – the Counting Crows would sing about “Mr. Jones and Me” – “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is another nasty song- there are those who think it is about a journalist, critic Andy Gill felt it was about ‘outing a homosexual” Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael felt the song was about racism.
  • Dylan would never rock as hard again as he did on this album- and the album is also full of lines that I have used over the last 40 years.”When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose:, ” You know something’s happening but you don’t know what it is”, “the sun’s not yellow it’s chicken”, “How does it feeeeeeel?” ‘Is there a hole for me to get sick in”, “I wanna be your lover baby, I don’t wanna be your boss”. “If your looking to get silly you better go back from where you came”, “Every body said they’d stand behind me when the game got rough.” “when you asked me how I was doing was that some kind of joke”, “You will not die its not poison”
  • The line-up for Highway 61 Revisited-

Like A Rolling Stone

Tombstone Blues

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 Blues

Desolation Row


  1. Are the Bob fans trying to challenge the Beatles in this event? LOL. Definitely has to be one of his stronger works both in writing and performance. I think it’s hard to over-estimate the importance of “Like a Rolling Stone” in how it altered radio’s perceptions of what was playable, particularly because of its length. A fine review, Hans!

  2. Great review and pick Hans. It’s hard to pick between these three albums but…this one has Like A Rolling Stone! Not to mention Desolation Row…it is like It’s Alright Ma to me…I find something new every time I listen to it.

  3. First class write-up on one of Zimmy’s best. I love “Like a Rolling Stone.” There are lines in it that are transformative and haunting. Nothing cryptic in that one. In “The Ballad of a Thin Man” I can definitely see the gay outing suggestion in it, but not seeing the racism spin on it. Like Max, it’s difficult to choose between the trifecta of perfecta. I like the historical context you put the album in. Great addition to the desert island line-up, Hans!

  4. There is a similar line I like from ‘Sittin’ On The Dock of The Bay’. I first heard Dylan when our teacher was driving us to France. He played it all night. Whilst I appreciate he is a talented songwriter, I don’t particularly dig his music, but he seem to have been behind much of the most meaningful music of at least the last fifty plus years.

  5. One of the best albums ever ! Look at how it starts out, grabbing attention immediately :
    God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God said, “No” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want, Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’, you better run”
    Well, Abe said, “Where d’you want this killin’ done?”
    God said, “Out on Highway 61”

    c’mon, how great is that !

Comments are closed.