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Song Swarm – Like A Rolling Stone

There are people who would like Bob Dylan’s songs more if only they were sung by somebody else. I have some empathy with that view (as I do with the opposing perspective), so it is a little strange that I would choose for a song swarm one song on which I really enjoy young Robert’s singing.

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“Like A Rolling Stone”, recorded in June 1965 and released a month later, is a landmark record in pop music. At a time when singles were considered long-winded if they exceeded the three-minute mark, it clocked it in at 6:13 and yet reached #2 on the US charts (a decade before “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

It also signposted the Dylan-goes-electric controversy. The1966  live recording from Manchester included in this swarm is that of an audience member yelling “Judas”, to which Dylan responds: “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar”, then instructing the band to “play it fuckin’ loud”. By Dylan’s own admission, it was the song that prevented him from quitting recording; it was a song he himself could dig.

The story of the song’s recording session in New York has been documented in rich detail by Greil Marcus (read it HERE).

“Like A Rolling Stone” inspired the young guitarist Jimi Hendrix to take up singing (presumably on the “if he can, so can I” principle), and he included the song in his repertoire. His version at Monterey in 1967, his breakthrough performance, is included here.

The song jumped genres with remarkable ease, from psychedelic (Rotary Connection) to garage rock (The Remains) to ska (The Wailers) to bluegrass (Flatt & Scruggs) to spoken poetry (Sebastian Cabot) to easy listening (Hugo Montenegro) to soul (Major Harris, Maxine Weldon – both brilliant).

Most of these 33 versions work well; a few serve as curiosities. Top of these is the home recording from John Lennon’s 31st birthday party in a hotel room in Syracuse, New York. John and his friends have a sing-along, with “Like A Rolling Stone” featuring in the medley. We don’t know exactly who among the guests were singing along, but the guests included Ringo Starr, Phil Spector, Eric Clapton,  Jim Keltner, Phil Ochs and beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Two foreign language versions are included: an Italian take from 1966 by Gianni Pettenati, and one by Wolfgang Ambros, performed in the local dialect of Vienna.

Though I haven’t bothered to include the original — if you don’t already have it, you really don’t need this collection — Dylan himself features three times with live versions: the 1966 “fuckin’ loud” Manchester version, 1974 with The Band, and one from 1979’ Live At Budokan album. If that doesn’t still the hunger, then there is always the live take from the Isle Of Wright gig you can find on the Self Portrait album of 1970.

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Bob Dylan (Judas version, 1966); The Four Seasons (1965), The Turtles (1965); The Soup Greens (1965); Cher (1966), The Young Rascals (1966), The Wailers (1966), Gianni Pettenati e The Juniors  (as “Come una pietra che rotola”, 1966), The Remains (1966), Sebastian Cabot (1967), Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967), Rotary Connection (1967), Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (1968), Phil Flowers & the Flower Shop (1969), Buddy Greco (1969), Major Harris (1969), Maxine Weldon (1970), Hugo Montenegro Orchestra (1970), Hardin & York (1971), The Undisputed Truth (1971), John Lennon & Friends (home-recording with Dig It, Twist And Shout, La Bamba, Louie Louie, 1971), Johnny Winter (1973), Bob Dylan & The Band (1974), Wolfgang Ambros (as “Allan wia a Stan”, 1978), Bob Dylan (1979), Johnny Thunders (1984), Judy Collins (1993), Mick Ronson with David Bowie (1994), The Rolling Stones (1995), Phil Lesh (2000), Drive-By Truckers (2005), The Kentucky Headhunters (2005), Green Day (2009)

GET IT

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  1. paul
    June 20th, 2013 at 12:00 | #1

    Thank you for the download – stunning as usual. It’s a highlight of my week

  2. halfhearteddude
    June 20th, 2013 at 15:34 | #2

    PW = amdwhah

  3. June 20th, 2013 at 20:30 | #3

    Thanks! I’m putting together a list with Dylan songs covered by soul and funk artists. And Phil Flowers’ cover of Like a Rolling Stone is one of my favorites!
    http://soulmusicsongs.tumblr.com/tagged/Dylan-Got-Soul

  4. Kirke
    June 20th, 2013 at 23:37 | #4

    Another fine compilation. I played the whole thing this afternoon, and then switched iTunes to shuffle mode. Next song played? Bachmann/Cummings version from “Jukebox”. Those Apple guys are scary smart!

  5. June 22nd, 2013 at 09:47 | #5

    How about Spirt, Barb Jung, Wailin’ Souls, World Party, Beth Scalet, David Gilmore as a few extras…to begin with.
    Excellent article
    Rgds Brian

  6. June 24th, 2013 at 13:46 | #6

    Wow! Great choice of song for this always well-researched series. Apart from Dylan, I’ve got 24 versions of the song, but only 8 from above. Thanks especially for the Italian version, which the band Articolo 31 combined with a version by the Mystery Tramps for an interesting interpretation that appears on the Masked & Anonymous soundtrack. Robyn Hitchcock also does a good version on his double album of Dylan covers called Robyn Sings. And there’s a great album of covers of different artists by Susheela Raman called 33 1/3 and her take of Like a Rolling Stone is worth a listen. Cheers!

  7. geoviki
    June 28th, 2013 at 05:31 | #7

    An excellent song and some great choices, dude!

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