Like a Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan

Song Review by James Gerard

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.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Highway 61 Revisited 1965 Columbia / Legacy 6:13
Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits 1967 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 6:12
Self Portrait 1970 Columbia 5:18
More American Graffiti [1979] 1979
Various Artists
MCA 6:06
Biograph 1985 Columbia 6:09
The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 1991 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 1:36
Classic Rock Box: WNEW-FM 25th Anniversary Box 1992
Various Artists
PolyGram 6:08
Greatest Hits [UK] 1995 Sony Music Distribution 6:09
The Genuine Bootleg Series, Take 2 1996
Masterpieces 1998 Columbia 5:14
Pop Music: The Golden Era 1951-1975 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 6:08
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 6:08
The Essential Bob Dylan 2000 Columbia 6:11
Music of the Millennium, Vol. 2 [Universal] 2000
Various Artists
Universal International 6:06
The Very Best of Bob Dylan [2000] 2000 Sony Music Distribution 6:08
The Q 5 Star Reviews, Vol. 1 2001 Sony Music Distribution 6:13
Gimix 2001 Modular Recordings
Q Anthems 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:07
Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde on Blonde 2002 Sony Music Distribution
Music of the Millennium, Vol. 3 2002
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
The Very Best of MTV Unplugged, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Warner Music / MTV / Unplugged / Warner 8:29
Bob Dylan [Limited Edition Hybrid SACD Set] 2003 Legacy 6:13
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1-3 2003 Legacy / Columbia 6:12
Iden & Tity 2004 Sony Music Distribution 6:09
Heroes [Sony] 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 6:07
The Best of Bob Dylan [Sony/BMG 2005] 2005 Sony Music Distribution 6:10
Lucky You 2006
Original Soundtrack
Columbia 6:10
Radio 2 Top 2000 2006
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:08
Four Decades of Folk Rock 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 6:08
Dylan 2007 Legacy 6:09
Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan '60s 2008 Legacy / Playlist 6:09
The Collection: Another Side of Bob Dylan/Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited 2009 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 6:13
Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde on Blonde 2009 Columbia / Sony Music 6:13
The Best of the Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Legacy 5:59
The Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Sony Music 6:02
Music & Photos 2013 Columbia 6:09
Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 2013 Columbia / Sony Legacy 0:00
The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 2013 Columbia Records / Sony Music 9:09
Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan 2014 Legacy / Sony Legacy 6:09
The Legendary Broadcasts: 1985 - 1993 Bob Dylan Archive 6:02
Time Life Presents the 60s
Various Artists
Time Life 6:09