THE DAY BOB DYLAN WENT ELECTRIC
By Alan Chrisman
On this day, July 20, two earth-changing events happened: Man landed on the moon in 1969 and Bob Dylan went electric in 1965, when his song, “Like A Rolling Stone” was released on this day. Dylan had been influenced by The Beatles and Dylan by them. 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. 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 in the direction of where music had to go. 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.
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. But “Like a Rolling Stone” had become his most successful hit and it reached #2, right behind The Beatles’ “Help.” And like the Beatles, it 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”: