One of the most self-righteous and eloquent indictments ever committed to wax, Like a Rolling Stone filters Bob Dylan¹s indignation for pseudo-bohemian sixties¹ scenesters through his legendary wit. If Dylan¹s first incarnation was as a protest singer, Like a Rolling Stone signals the era of Dylan as court jester/verbal assassin.
Ironically, the former darling protest singer finds himself fighting a war of his own, defending his move to electric instrumentation from the attacks of a verbally violent horde of pacifists. And so it is with a single rifle-crack of the snare that Like a Rolling Stone kicks off Dylan¹s first completely electric album, 1965¹s Highway 61 Revisited. Michael Bloomfield¹s raw scale-climbing guitar is accented at every turn by (guitarist turned pianist turned organist) Al Kooper¹s triumphant and meta-influential Hammond organ riff. Together they create a circus-like jubilance, a sound that is later perfected in Dylan¹s classic double album Blonde on Blonde. Bloomfield and friends, though decidedly Œelectric¹, are able to retain Dylan¹s trademark hypnotic groove; a subtle element that propels his best and wordiest acoustic songs. The end result is a 6-minute-plus single that flourishes on notoriously time-conscious commercial radio.
Dylan says Like a Rolling Stone is distilled from a 24-page short story he wrote about a society girl turned lonely street urchin. Yet as in one theory of dream analysis, where every character is an aspect of oneself, it could just as easily be argued that there is some self-referential songwriting going on here, too. Ultimately, this band rollicks through the song with such focus and fury, and Dylan wails with such conviction, that the end result transcends logic and theory - and inspires a half-century¹s worth of musicians, writers and artists.