Although I was familiar with the songs of Bob Dylan (via a nice little ‘best of’ tape), the first album I ever bought was Time Out of Mind. I bought it in Blackpool, if I remember correctly (along with The Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon). I’d only really flirted with other stuff – Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks and such. I’m not exactly sure why, but I was completely happy with the albums I had. I had absolutely no desire to delve deeper than that … and, well, it wasn’t until my younger brother threw a load of other stuff my way a good few years ago that I really found myself digging that bit deeper.
Anyhoo, on Wednesday I came home from work to find one o’ them nice ‘Sorry, you were out’ slips. My brother had text me earlier and said “I threw a record in the mail”. A record! What could it be!? So, on Thursday evening I took that slip along to the local Delivery Office and exchanged it for my record. I took it home and opened it and found this wonderful slice of awesomeness in there – Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. I’d actually forgotten all about this. Y’see, my brother had told me a few weeks ago that he had a spare copy of this and that he’d send it to me. Given that it’s one of those albums I get lost in, I was completely surprised that I’d forgotten that part of our conversation. The other part was that it was the mono version. I hadn’t heard the mono version, so I was pretty excited and ‘thanks’ just doesn’t cover it.
So yeah, I’ve got Highway 61 Revisited in the collection now. A mono version … and I’m delighted, too. As an album it’s perfect. How it starts and how it ends. The in-between fleshing it all out. Dylan’s raucous, poetic, yet cynical and perfectly chaotic apocalyptic carnival record. Sequenced perfectly, too.
No matter how familiar you are with Like A Rolling Stone you can never be over familiar and I was fairly excited about dropping the needle. As always, the vinyl brings something new … this time it’s not just the ‘warm tones’, but the first experience of the mono mix (which isn’t just a fold-down, but a specific mix). The pace picking up for Tombstone Blues. Side A ends with one of my favourite Dylan song – Ballad of a Thin Man. Probably the sole reason I have no desire to keep up with the Jones’.
There’s a million better writers that will offer a blow-by-blow and dissection of this record and they’ll likely offer way more on the last three songs than I can. But that run … man, it’s incredible. The title track has always been one that fascinates me – excites me even! Is it the sound of the apocalypse? A carnival? Some chaotic rambling through a dusty ghost town … and then, just when it leaves us thinking our hero (or anti-hero) is a goner out there among the sun bleached rocks, we learn in Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues that he’s sorta-okay and he comes staggering from the ordeal in Mexico. Phew. I can’t express just how much I dig Desolation Row. It’s an incredible song. In many ways the companion to Like A Rolling Stone.
No direction home? What does it matter …