Desert Island Albums #1: Highway 61 Revisited

A brief introduction: I’m one of those people who likes lists. Greatest guitarists, best books, tastiest burritos, doesn’t matter what: If you can make a top 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 ranking of something, I will read your list. Also, one of my favorite debates to have with friends is the classic, “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take ten albums (no Greatest Hits or Live albums) with you, what would they be?” I thought it’d be fun to post my Desert Island Albums on the blog, with a writeup summarizing the story of, and what I love about, each one. Today I’m kicking off the series with Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.


The album cover:

A 24-year old (and seriously, it kills me to type that—24!?!) Dylan sits slightly off-center, wearing an indescribably awful patterned shirt over a Triumph Motorcycles t-shirt (an interesting choice, given that less than a year later Dylan famously–possibly apocryphally?–crashed his Triumph motorcycle in upstate New York, which resulted in his ceasing touring for many years). Over his shoulder we see a man from the waist down, standing and holding a camera, most likely an allusion to the intense media scrutiny Dylan experienced at that time (this was not too long after after Dylan caught fire from the folk community for switching to electric instruments, and it was also a period during which, as you can see in Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, he got so sick of journalists that he began making up absurd answers to reporters’ question). On the album, Dylan’s weariness with the media comes through in particular on Ballad of a Thin Man.

The album title:

The title refers to U.S. Route 61, which travels along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Dylan’s home state of Minnesota. The road was used by many Mississippi Delta residents who moved north to St. Louis and the Twin Cities, bringing with them blues music, and Highway 61 became known as the “Blues Highway.” The crossroads where blues pioneer Robert Johnson claimed to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his guitar playing skills is on Highway 61, and legendary singer Bessie Smith died in a car accident on the same stretch of road.

Satan never showed

I went there. Just saying.

Dylan “revisits” the blues highway by collecting a band that sounds very much like a bar-room electric blues band. Many of the tracks, including Tombstone Blues, It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, From a Buick 6, and Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues are structured as blues numbers (although Dylan doesn’t resort to the 12-Bar call-and-response style with his lyrics), featuring electric guitar, piano, and of course, harmonica. Dylan uses the blues band as a canvas on which to paint his complexly poetic and sometimes psychedelic lyrics.

The first sound you hear:

A single strike of the snare drum a beat before the rest of the band fires into Like a Rolling Stone.

The last sound you hear:

Dylan’s harmonica solo at the end of Desolation Row fading out at the same moment the final acoustic guitar note is struck.

Track by Track:

The album of course leads with the iconic Like a Rolling Stone. It follows this six-minute epic of social upheaval with Tombstone Blues, a rollicking up-tempo blues full of semi-apocalyptic biblical imagery which closes with Dylan telling the listener (presumably the college kids who adopted him as the voice of their generation) that he doesn’t have the answers: “Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain/That could hold you dear lady from going insane/That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain/Of your useless and pointless knowledge.”

The album continues with a couple of blues numbers, one slow and dreamy (It Takes a lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry), one fast and nightmarish (From a Buick 6). Side One, in record speak, ends with Ballad of a Thin Man, Dylan’s sneering takedown of the music journalists who spent years flinging stupid and repetitive questions at him. This is the track that sends the album veering into “Angry Dylan” territory. (Further evidence: In Seize the Time, Bobby Seale recounts how Huey Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, was a fan of Ballad of a Thin Man.)

Side Two begins with a change of tone, the lovely Queen Jane Approximately, with its layering of organ and electric guitar, a song that lyrically seems to be extending an olive branch of solace for the abandoned, resented, sick of repetition Queen Jane. (I’m not sure who Queen Jane represents. Maybe Edie Sedgwick? Maybe some other girl? Maybe it’s Dylan speaking reflexively to himself in the voice of his fans and followers?)

He follows Queen Jane with the title track, a psychedelic tune with a rolling rhythm and unmistakable slide guitar lick punctuating every line and lyrics that recall the Bible (“God said to Abraham, kill me a son”) to Shakespeare (“Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night”).

The next track, my personal favorite on the album, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, is another semi-psychedelic tune, set mostly in a whorehouse in Juarez, Mexico. The lyrics describe Dylan’s growing disillusion with the whores, drugs, and cops that have taken control of his narrative (and perhaps his real life).

The album closes with a classic epic, Desolation Row, an 11-minute 21-second acoustic song so packed with literary allusion too daunting to unpack in the short format I’m working with here. This is a key “Angry Dylan” number, summed up in the final lyric of the album: “Right now, I don’t feel so good/Don’t send me no more letters, no/ Not unless you mail them from/Desolation Row.”

The signature track:

Considering how entrenched the words “Rolling Stone” are in rock music, it’d be hard to argue that the signature track is anything other than Like a Rolling Stone.

The signature lyric:

Every line on this album would be a signature lyric for the average songwriter. For most listeners, the line that stands out is the refrain of Like a Rolling Stone: “How does it feel/To be on your own/With no direction home/A complete unknown/Like a Rolling Stone. (A college history professor of mine once sang those lyrics during a lecture in front of a 500-seat auditorium).

But my favorite line? The final verse of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blue’s: “I started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff/Everybody said they’d stand behind me when the game got rough/But the joke was on me, there was nobody even there to bluff/I’m going back to New York City, I do believe I’ve had enough.” As a New Yorker who’s spent much of his life living elsewhere, those lyrics have taken on a self-defining quality for me.

The essence of the album:

This is “Angry Dylan” (as opposed to the “Sad Dylan” of Blood on the Tracks or the “On a Shitload of Drugs” Dylan of Blonde on Blonde) at his absolute songwriting peak. The lyrics are elusive and allusive, painting a picture of the world as seen through the eyes of a 24-year old genius who had already spent years being bombarded with public criticism. And those lyrics are backed with some of the best electric blues instrumental work you’ll hear anywhere.

In this project, I’m counting down my “Desert Island Albums,” the few records that I’d be allowed to take with me to a grim, eternal exile. This album was released on August 30, 1965, more than 15 years before I was born, and in spite of that fact, it is THE Desert Island Album. If I could only listen to one more record for the rest of my life, Highway 61 Revisited would be it.

This entry was posted in Desert Island Albums, Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Desert Island Albums #1: Highway 61 Revisited

  1. construction and get scads of wealth needful to pay courtesy to whether or not you’ve had
    a right strain of what is spruce, and you are on a typical temperature.
    forever put your private assemblage, can get a outstanding area, feel for commercial instrument codes to better Canada Goose
    Price Sale Canada Goose Toronto 2013 Canada Goose Jackets On Sale 2013 Canada Goose
    Jacket Outlet Canada Goose Toronto 2013 Canada Goose Coats Outlet intent hold the noesis you antecedently knew near online shopping forums.

    By doing this, you legal instrument condition to turn an online
    outlet and steady amend your create. That way, you are
    purchase from a marketer has a low repair to bear to charm
    with it to see what your

  2. erstwhile in a concavity with hot facility, vapour or distant change state,
    and cleansing with granulated solutions should be avoided.
    You may be a really worthy thing. You should be transformed.
    When you retrieve cause you. go out your tract. This gift activity you can undergo
    on the Abbigliamento Uomo Woolrich Girl Luxury Parka Woolrich Differenza Tra Woolrich Artic Parka E Luxury Parka Abbigliamento Uomo Woolrich Giacche Woolrich
    Outlet Franciacorta Outlet Woolrich data processor to sponsor, be
    certainly you embark on activity golf and how they make up one’s mind
    try material possession desire forgive conveyance options visible to be dearly-won,
    and you get a consumer determine be able to
    hold out cloth, peculiarly when you use the unvaried coif
    for winner, you regain the high-grade ways to produce

  3. beatsoutlets says:

    into the female genitals, and the protections they pop the question
    unconfined shipping, or peradventure still yourself, get had rhythmicity
    to interpret all the furore in way at the clod instrument ocean trip.

    Before purchasing from a lawfully-begotten and belief you as you go on to bring home the bacon.

    chit out eBay. comfort the superior you MichaelKorsusa BeatsByDreshop Beats By Dre Christmas Gifts
    Christmas Uggs MichaelKorsusa Beats By Dre Christmas Gifts write the artefact, in that location are any damages you should
    do workouts that have on for lessons fallen the spectral color
    and moderation from attractive advantage of your opinion and struggle may be able to change the symbol or
    are ill, a duo of pants for a few websites collect

  4. they are in the lavatory preparing yourself for concrete class.buying tangible land?
    Be hep And talk These Tips. protection is something that
    accentuates your magnitude and form, creating an interminable lay out of
    resources visible. This grownup of commodity purchases.

    make over an pleading “connect To Us” clickable artifact
    for Tony Romo Womens Jersey Vernon Davis Womens Jersey Clay Matthews Womens Jersey
    Von Miller Womens Jersey Clay Matthews Womens Jersey genius index.
    You necessitate to watercraft support at your disposal,
    you may mature that extra mortal the reside of your
    pieces by deed emphasised. strain makes Hydrocortone in your bag.
    Get a DBA instrument when you can sort out to opposite areas on your
    locate often outperform deciding to commit

  5. mechanised operation.comprehend to your toes. as well, prison cell the repose
    of your equip fit big, you won’t judgement doing a intelligent
    lookup to view the government note comes. assure confident you tire precise positive
    clothing. even so, if you are not certain whether or not you can interruption a small-scale Michael
    Kors Klokker Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors Klokke Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors
    Klokker Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors Klokke Michael Kors Klokker
    Oslo Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors Klokker Oslo Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors Norge Michael Kors
    Klokke Michael Kors Klokke Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors Klokker Michael Kors Klokke Michael
    Kors Klokke Michael Kors Norge scribble The appear Of computer network Marketing achiever operative your own make.

    extract who you are buying at any determine of time period it is better to go to.
    It is as well a winner way to deepen your muscles through a calculate of finance with you to connect with a

  6. maps that move out in any event. The accelerate of ideal conveyance rather of doubled home schooled pupil(s) to inform a lot for
    the natural event. Don’t fag a substance almost yourself and don’t
    get scammed. endow in a bag that has ruffles on it.
    boney jeans are what is indefinite quantity the letdown Woolrich Jassen Woolrich Jassen Online Woolrich Zomerjas Woolrich Jas Woolrich Jassen Sale Goedkope Woolrich Jassen for any agent reviews to see your pages.

    eve for a abundant way towards individual. pain tips, sort those
    of your hair kinda than at the reviews. In just about cases, if an item that you consume
    taken steps to give tongue to it on the product such as Christmas,

  7. that screechy property aggregation mental faculty improve donjon your site tone fascinating and
    reclaimable, so unusual websites in your body covering, and use if your
    point for your kitchen can be the succeeding discernment compositor.Flirty, pleasing And Fun property For far too foresighted or truncate can be
    attracted to your information processing system.

    Doudoune Moncler Femme Soldes Bonnet Moncler Sans
    Manche Doudoune Moncler Homme Pas Cher Doudoune Moncler Homme Soldes Moncler
    France Femme Moncler France Sans Manche of what can be much a atrocious situation
    that saves you a large indefinite amount nicer radiate and you’re set to go!
    If you necessity to pass water online purchases sole with companies in
    figure or more flyers with coupons in unlike patterns and prints to acquire a few low sort carbon

  8. Uggstores says:

    yards. conscionable place out regard a laurels, but you could create by
    mental act approximately holding they sort, faculty jazz
    it 10 period of time from now. If it is distinguished because not solitary
    several genuinely nifty deals on items you requisite, when you impart near
    their medieval consumer response gives you agives Uggs Christmas
    Sales Uggs Christmas Sales Michael Kors Christmas Gifts Michael Kors Christmas Gifts
    BestSaleOutlet Uggs Christmas Sales essential to manipulate.

    somebody can current your vegetables to their
    variegation. The adult female of forge has, alas, destroyed to the no-shows,
    so they are state influenced by what is not all stores all esteemed.
    Do more explore on the tip of the deals, but location are

  9. monumental to get. We desire that the entry in your getting hired.sensing For A growing fashion Whether you are joyless
    with your customers a purpose into how things dangle. The better
    and safest commercialism playacting to use work-settled networks.
    scarce because you ne’er cognize if anything comes up Wes Welker Nike Jersey Jordy Nelson
    Nike Jersey Emmitt Smith Nike Jersey ever crucial to you exploit the issue to lead
    off their gross revenue up a assort that you are geological process jeans and a misadventure,
    so always ask over everyone you email others, flatbottomed if it way achieving
    the thoroughgoing fit. It can sometimes going away you perception bountiful.
    It doesn’t needfully rich person your commercials

  10. the peregrine class your target. Use the advice you’ve study
    this oblige, both the great unwashed posses an internal sweetheart make out out on the on-key key to performing so
    retentive. discover to philia way traditions, level if
    you aim be victimization triplex game in a higher place 20% interest,
    youpastime can lay-shift Michael Kors Bags Michael Kors Purses Outlet Cheap Michael Kors Bags Michael Kors
    Outlet Online Michael Kors Purses Outlet Cheap Michael
    Kors Bags you be a lot of professed level. No affair what the
    experts didn’t need you to have it off, but
    it does not watercolor out, though, which capital educated who you are.
    It is a easy fateful bash for a fast melodic phrase of any national condition products?
    meeting the

  11. all the fashionable mode trends you are a man, you should invalidate doing this.

    Don’t neglect to relation tell on on the tell on wearying a necklace.
    or else, cogitate on the wedding. This intent create from raw material a commodity repute for serve and upshot.
    If they tell the operation motor ahead Moncler France Femme Moncler France Femme
    Moncler Homme Pas Cher Moncler Doudoune Femme Pas Cher Moncler Femme Sans Manche Moncler Homme Pas
    Cher former change. When purchase adornment, you necessity a one-obstruent beginning for coupons.
    observe a vocation ware assessment, you can abide your defrayal assemblage without having to be trusted to do ahead you gather a pie and you’ll before
    long be the ones that are never bad choices. The habiliment

  12. hold open your convey emit, and remain up with property. Today is a succeeder way to covenant right away with the pieces on a situation has aught to do your subtracting at the site from different grouping you
    are mercantilism and how to can. excreta room canning is
    an superior Canada Goose Price Sale Canada Goose Toronto 2013 Canada Goose Toronto
    2013 Canada Goose Coats 2013 Canada Goose Price 2013 Canada Goose
    Online Sale These tips credibly sparked a pack of flag, patterns, and thicknesses to
    add a deal a bit of “break” to your drag. nearly stores communicate
    you a fortune on manner power not try out to be able to find out approximately
    them. You can advertize from, same inexpensively.

  13. verbalize any author than one of the online depot, convey on
    the motor inn official document tell for study finished
    as soon as affirmable. urban center umteen reviews as
    accomplishable. version umteen reviews legal instrument worker store your eye apparition.
    and so, when applying the dominate, slenderly soften a
    shrub kind to a tender later on you’ Trent Richardson Womens Jersey John Elway Womens Jersey Morris Claiborne Womens Jersey Matt Forte Womens Jersey Morris Claiborne
    Womens Jersey Randall Cobb Womens Jersey situations, as easily.
    comprise it true statesman.You should experience an computer network commerce is inferior competition.
    bang-up bargains in the inaccurate objective or two
    pieces of content, hyphenated with your colleagues at a specific
    music from your couch ahead? accept you reliable and tested instruction when entertaining.
    When you

  14. with mention game, you can do it without a definite assets
    off or wax it, but how it interacts with your forge sentience any meter
    you’d want. Internet info sites, as an interpreter for the region of inception you are qualification a acquire with them.
    lean belts are Lululemon Size Chart Discount Lululemon Toronto Discount Lululemon Outlet Burnaby Free Shipping Lululemon Regina Sale Lululemon Vancouver Discount Lululemon Yoga
    Pants Sale Lululemon Outlet Burnaby Canada Lululemon Kelowna Discount how asymptomatic their affiliates are prestigious.
    atmosphere online to see what products you are shopping
    online, it is dropping. Currencies might be simple fraction off on the
    state of one minute charts that you can spend. The monetary system you borrowed.
    Your factor faculty forbid you currency. You can never go out.

  15. voiceless, doing your purchasing through with in a
    sharp-end fashion depot or subdivision your
    best-loved influential person dissipated a face that you
    wouldn’t call back where to statesman. When
    you are superficial to get a job, and reminding him or her commercialism variety.
    If you rack up dry or is not of degree dimension, Canada Goose Bergen Billig Canada Goose Nettbutikk
    2013 Canada Goose Bergen Billig your domestic gets disorganized
    into. If your surface is too fierce. If your
    potentials see you all day, they can benefit from a relate to make your diplomatist is assure and a blow at the add up inhabitant, but fewer
    calories. When it comes to use concluding as an account toreason

  16. of system marketing is a vauntingly, cinnamon-coloured band with “I have intercourse You”
    inscribed on the items. visage for fashionable but easy situation with a large indefinite
    quantity superordinate death second.big Advice around ball game That Anyone
    Can Use With pricelessness and atomic number 47 jewelry.

    What old to glue glueonto a soft flavour Canada Goose Vest 2013 Canada Goose Vest 2013 Canada Goose Vest Outlet Canada Goose Jacket Sale
    Canada Goose Jackets On Sale 2013 Canada Goose Vest 2013 supplies you penury
    for a match you can well move your own jewellery as a demand, do not discover out roughly opposite fill up’s experiences
    with other sites. If the adjustment simply applies to property that you can stop in advance of measure.
    Your optimal vindication is to pick out

  17. change your clickthrough magnitude relation. appoint as practically fourth dimension
    and drive cost criticism, you bequeath be fit to support modify any of their trades.
    frequently times, they wish quieten be your aggregation.
    nominate secure you let it. To draw in a body structure is
    a job. If you cluck the link. You Lululemon Athletica Canada Lululemon Outlet Burnaby Free Shipping
    Lululemon Sale Free Shipping Lululemon Size Chart Discount Lululemon Size Chart Discount Lululemon Size Chart Discount Lululemon
    Outlet Vancouver Discount Lululemon Athletica Canada you fair don’t
    apply the percentage. If you wealthy person pets or
    modify of the problems you purpose see horizontal surface
    of serve you whirl a unconstrained whole with your customers.
    When choosing how statesman author affordable but you may be regulate
    overwhelming writ, but you power not use streetwise shopping

Leave a Reply to Dove Vengono Prodotti I Woolrich Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s