This is essential because it’s blues-rooted rock and poetry. It’s all electric apart from the 11 minute acoustic Desolation Row. Biblical, literary and real characters combine with allegorical poetry accompanied by US south-western and Nashville-style guitar.
The album picks up the blues tradition of road songs, with the actual 1700 mile highway linking his own childhood and youth significances with American cultural history. Like A Rolling Stone was revolutionary for its electric guitar licks, organ chords and Dylan’s unique vocals. It is variously about revenge on the phoney, and compassion.
The title track is led by Mike Bloomfield’s ‘razor slash slide guitar’ and shows the highway to be wide, with room for endless drifting people. Tombstone Blues parades historical characters with veiled hints at Vietnam. It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry is like much Dylan material, reinvented with two versions, one guitar-driven, the second slow blues.
From A Buick 6 is shaped from blues riffs; Ballad Of A Thin Man could be politics again, hitting the counterculture of the 1960s. Queen Jane Approximately is about falling from grace. Dylan took 16 takes to record Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, with its nightmares, literary references and guitar, drums and two pianos.
Listen: My Chemical Romance covering Desolation Row