Bob Dylan

From a Buick 6

Song Review by

Bob Dylan imagines himself as some kind of outlaw paying tribute to his gangster moll on this raucous, up-tempo blues number. The track is played almost recklessly by Dylan and his band of blues aficionados, including Al Kooper on the organ and Mike Bloomfield on guitar. The hard-driving approach and raving vocals assured listeners that Dylan was diving head-on into the electrified folk and rock & roll that would remain his focus for years. Like many "contemporary" blues songs, "From a Buick 6" is based in part on an older tune, the Sleepy John Estes chestnut from 1930, "Milk Cow Blues." This, by the way, is a different version, if not a different song altogether, from the blues of the same name attributed to Kokomo Arnold in 1934. That latter variation was also covered by Dylan together with Johnny Cash -- available on The Genuine Bootleg Series (1996) -- as well as by countless others, Elvis Presley included. One more connection: Bloomfield also appeared on a 1964 Estes record called Broke and Hungry.

While "From a Buick 6" takes its pounding rhythm, changes, and even a line or two from Estes, it is really more similar in approach -- tempo and attack -- to the Kinks' menacing version of the Arnold variant of "Milk Cow Blues" from Kink Kontroversy (1965) than it is to either of the old country blues recordings. Dylan, a diminutive white Jewish kid from Minnesota, seems to be having fun swaggering like Big Bill Broonzy or Muddy Waters as he howls out such classic lines as "She keeps this four-ten all loaded with lead" and "I need a steam shovel mama to keep away the dead/I need a dump truck baby to unload my head/She brings me everything and more and just like I said/Well, if I fall down dyin' you know she's bound to put a blanket on my bed." Dylan swings the lyrics and seems spurred by the relentless rocking of his well-assembled backing band; the spotlight is all his, however -- great backbeat and bass line notwithstanding. One thing that many of the white students of the blues seemed to forget after the mid-'60s was the visceral power of the blues in its raw form; blues guitarists, in particular, started gaining praise for their polish and flash. Dylan, while obviously contemporary, sounds more like a direct descendent of the older blues guys, going his own way. It was as if the electric Fender equipment were placed into the hands of the elders back in the '20s and '30s. One suspects that they would have played the tune with a similar ebullient abandon.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Highway 61 Revisited 1965 Columbia / Legacy 3:19
No Image 1994 spank
No Image 2001 Sony Music Distribution 3:19
Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde on Blonde 2002 Sony Music Distribution
Bob Dylan [Limited Edition Hybrid SACD Set] 2003 Legacy 3:19
The Collection: Another Side of Bob Dylan/Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited 2009 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:19
Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde on Blonde 2009 Columbia / Sony Music 3:19
The Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Sony Music 3:10
The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 2013 Columbia Records / Sony Music 3:15
Jon Savage's 1965: Year the 60s Ignited
Various Artists
Ace 3:05