Bob Dylan began recording 'Like A Rolling Stone' fifty-two years ago today

June 16, 2017

Today in 1965 Bob Dylan recorded 'Like A Rolling Stone'

The recording sessions were produced by Tom Wilson on June 15–16, 1965,

in Studio A of Columbia Records, 799 Seventh Avenue, in New York City

for the forthcoming 'Highway 61 Revisited' album

In the first session, on June 15, five takes of the song

were recorded in a markedly different style (3/4 waltz time,

with Dylan on piano) from the eventual release.

The lack of sheet music meant the song had to be played by ear.

However, its essence was discovered in the course of the chaotic session.

The musicians did not reach the first chorus until the fourth take,

but after the following harmonica fill Dylan interrupted,

saying, "My voice is gone, man. You wanna try it again?

When the musicians reconvened the following day, June 16, 

Al Kooper joined the proceedings.

Kooper, at that time a 21-year-old session guitarist

was not originally supposed to play, 

but was present in the studio as Tom Wilson's guest. 

When Wilson stepped out,

Kooper sat down with his guitar with the other musicians,

hoping to take part in the recording session. 

By the time Wilson returned,

Kooper, who had been intimidated by Bloomfield's guitar playing,

was back in the control room.  

After a couple of rehearsal takes,

Wilson moved Paul Griffin from Hammond organ to piano. 

Kooper then approached Wilson

and told him he had a good part for the organ. 

Wilson belittled Kooper's organ skills but didn't explicitly forbid him to play.  As Kooper later put it, "He just sort of scoffed at me ...

He didn't say 'no'—so I went out there."  

Wilson was surprised to see Kooper at the organ

but allowed him to play on the track.  

When Dylan heard a playback of the song,

he insisted that the organ be turned up in the mix,

despite Wilson's protestations that Kooper was "not an organ player.

A breakthrough was made when it was tried in a rock music format,

and the rookie session musician Al Kooper 

improvised the organ riff for which the track is known.

For the recording session,

Dylan also invited Mike Bloomfield from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band 

to play lead guitar.

Invited to Dylan's Woodstock home for the weekend to learn new material, Bloomfield recalled, "The first thing I heard was 'Like a Rolling Stone'.

I figured he wanted blues, string bending, because that's what I do.

He said, 'Hey, man, I don't want any of that B.B. King stuff'.

So, OK, I really fell apart. What the heck does he want?

We messed around with the song.

I played the way that he dug, and he said it was groovy.

Columbia Records was unhappy with both the song's length

at over six minutes and its heavy electric sound,

and was hesitant to release it.

It was only when a month later a copy was leaked

to a new popular music club and heard by influential DJs

that the song was put out as a single.

Although radio stations were reluctant to play such a long track

"Like a Rolling Stone" reached number two in the US Billboard charts

'Like A Rolling Stone' became a worldwide hit.


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