BOB DYLAN GOES ELECTRIC & SOME DON’T LIKE IT
By Alan Chrisman
Bob Dylan made his commercial electric breakthrough with his song, “Like A Rolling Stone”, which was released on July 20, ’65. Dylan finally had his first Top Ten hit with “Like A Rolling Stone”. Despite its 6 minute length , the song became Dylan’s most commercially successful release, remaining in the US charts for 12 weeks, where it reached number 2 behind The Beatles Help ( although he had recorded his previous album, Bring It Back Home, as half acoustic and half electric just a few months before). “Subterranean Homesick Blues, also electric, from the Back Home album had just barely made the Top 40 Billboard Chart peaking at number 39. Dylan had been popular on college campuses with his acoustic folk-protest songs, but he craved the mainstream acceptance that the Beatles had and they craved the more artistic respect that he had. “I just kept it to myself that I really dug them,” Dylan told biographer Anthony Scaduto (per Rolling Stone). “Everybody else thought they were just for the teeny boppers . Upon hearing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, Dylan said later, “They were doing things nobody was doing,” “Their chords were outrageous. It was obvious to me they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction that music had to go. It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before. ” So they both directly influenced each other and reached out to each others’ audiences. The Beatles started paying more attention to their lyrics after hearing Dylan’s songs. John Lennon’s writing, especially with songs such as “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “I’m a Loser”, started becoming more reflective and personal. The Beatles also would soon release their folk-rock influenced album, Rubber Soul,
by the end of ’65, with songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “Nowhere Man”. Meanwhile, Dylan had been affected by them, “In my head, the Beatles were it.” His next album, Highway 61 Revisited also released in’65, would be all electric.
Five days, after releasing the single, “Like a Rolling Stone”, Dylan would play the Newport Festival on July 25, and half the audience, the folk purists, would boo him for going electric and leaving behind his political folk-protest past.
Dylan would continue to be booed by some folk- purists in ’66 when he played with the electric mainly Canadian, The Band, at the Royal Albert Hall, London
And even almost a year later, when Dylan toured England in ’66 with the electric, The Band, he was still being booed for playing rock-influenced music. A heckler at Manchester Free Trade Hall shouted “Judas” at Bob Dylan for having the audacity to play an electric set . Dylan replied, “I don’t believe you . . . You’re a liar,” then told his band to “Play it f***in’ loud” as they launched into Like a Rolling Stone. And like the Beatles, it had changed the direction of music.
In 1974, I saw Dylan and The Band (who are mainly Canadian) perform “ Rolling Stone” In Montreal, as everyone got up and sang along. Rolling Stone Magazine ranks, “ Like a Rolling Stone” as the greatest song of all time.
From Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, ”Like A Rolling Stone”: