Rolling Stones songs: Like a Rolling Stone (live)
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
You used to ride on chrome horse with your diplomat/ Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat…
Written by: Bob Dylan
Recorded: Live at Brixton Academy, London, England, July 19 1995
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
An iconic Bob Dylan song, “Like A Rolling Stone” is the story of a debutante who becomes a loner when she falls out of high society. It’s a crushing blow, but there is an upside: when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. Another advantage to being on your own: when you’re invisible, you have no secrets to reveal.
The title is not a reference to The Rolling Stones. It is taken from the proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Dylan got the idea from the 1949 Hank Williams song “Lost Highway,” which contains the line, “I’m a rolling stone, all alone and lost.”
Thanks to The Rolling Stones, many associate the phrase with a life of glamour, always on the move, but Williams’ song is about a hobo paying the price for his life of sin. Dylan also used the phrase to indicate loneliness and despair: his rolling stone is “without a home, like a complete unknown.”
“Like A Rolling Stone” is Dylan’s most popular song and his first big hit, although having a hit song was low on his list of priorities.
It was the only single from his sixth album, Highway 61 Revisited, released in 1965 when he was buzzworthy – especially in the New York City music scene – but hardly a sensation. The song got significant airplay and many connected with it, sending them on an enlightening journey through his back catalog. Dylan became one of the most respected and analyzed songwriters of his time, with “Like A Rolling Stone” often the gateway.
The Rolling Stones didn’t take their name from this song, but rather the 1950 Muddy Waters track “Rollin’ Stone.” The magazine Rolling Stone was named after this song, with a degree of separation: Ralph Gleason wrote a piece for The American Scholar about the influence of music on young people called “Like a Rolling Stone,” which he titled after the song. When he founded the magazine with Jann Wenner in 1967, they decided to name it after his story. Wenner muddied the waters a bit when he wrote in the debut issue: “Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy’s song. ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was the title of Bob Dylan’s first rock and roll record.”
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
When Bob Dylan recorded “Like a Rolling Stone” in June 1965, he
transgressed an unspoken rule. It was the first time that a song issued as a
single was more than six minutes in duration. More importantly, it
represented a shock to the public’s aesthetic sensibilities. With its organ
intro by Al Kooper, an almost hypnotic succession of chords, and the
vengeful refrain (How does it feel…), the opening track of Dylan’s Highway
61 Revisited has passed into rock legend and inspired countless numbers of
musicians, from Jimi Hendrix to Johnny Winter, to John Cougar
Mellencamp to Green Day. The Stones have always admired this song,
playing it privately many times—for example, while warming up before
going onstage. Uncomfortable about the direct reference to the name of
their group, even though they had not taken their name from this song but
rather from “Rollin’ Stone” by Muddy Waters, they had never dared
perform it in public before this occasion at the Brixton Academy on July
19, 1995. Talking about Stripped in an interview by Jann Wenner for
Rolling Stone magazine (December 14, 1995), Mick Jagger said, “And we
got a few unusual tracks going on, which is always good for a live record—
not original songs but reworked. I think ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was unusual
to do. We’ve never done a Dylan song.”
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