If there’s a lesson in being patient, it’s that infamous “Judas” heckle to Bob when he picked up the electric guitar and took a step away from acoustic folk. It all seems silly now in many ways, but the real truth is, the man probably wouldn’t have been creating ground-shaking works for much longer if he hadn’t taken that bold step.
Want proof? Play this album. “Highway 61 Revisited” isn’t just the first recording step into rock for Dylan, but it’s a masterpiece from a confident and more experimental artist who was still at the beginning of getting his mojo working.
For me, it’s not the classic opener, “Like a Rolling Stone” that gets me going though. There’s a lot to enjoy on this album. “Tombstone Blues” has a frenetic energy that never tires after hundreds of listens, and that same adrenaline is right there on “From a Buick 6” and the title track. At the same time, he nails the melancholy bass line in “Ballad of a Thin Man” and reaches for epic with “Queen Jane Approximately” and “Desolation Row”. None of which he’d have quite got with an acoustic guitar.
This is a groundbreaking album that outshone what he’d done before, not just for the brilliant (and often surreally funny) songwriting but for real musical innovation. And the best was still to come…
PS. I’ve always loved “Desolation Row” but, while it feels a bit cheap to say it, I’ve also got a bit of a soft spot for the My Chemical Romance cover for the “Watchmen” soundtrack. Totally different, maybe slightly sacrilegious, but great fun and worth a listen.