Desolation Row

In 1963, the director Federico Fellini released his film 8 ½ with the following scene opening the movie: The scene depicts a man feeling a panic attack come over him during a traffic jam in the inner city. Smoke or steam pours into his car. He struggles to leave the car while faces from theContinue reading “Desolation Row”

Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)

In an interview for Spin in December 1985, Bob Dylan said the following about the act of songwriting: “The best songs are the songs you write that you don’t know anything about. They’re an escape. I don’t do too much of that because maybe it’s more important to deal with what’s happening rather than toContinue reading “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”

Watching the River Flow

In March 1971, Bob Dylan entered the studio searching for a new sound after the pastoral feel of his previous album New Morning. The song “Watching the River Flow” was the single that emerged from those sessions: This recording session was produced by Leon Russell, a former studio musician who had achieved renown for leadingContinue reading “Watching the River Flow”

Tombstone Blues

Bob Dylan was asked about his 1965 hilariously surreal rock ‘n roll masterpiece “Tombstone Blues” for the 1985 box set Biograph by interviewer Cameron Crowe. Dylan recalled the inspiration for the composition of the song 20 years later: “I felt like I’d broken through with this song, that nothing like it had been done before…justContinue reading “Tombstone Blues”

She Belongs to Me

In March 1965, Bob Dylan released Bringing It All Back Home, the first of his albums to showcase electric instruments, unlike the solo acoustic work of his earlier albums. With a few exceptions, Bringing It All Back Home features electric songs on the first side and mainly acoustic songs on the second side. The secondContinue reading “She Belongs to Me”

Series of Dreams

In 2001, the director Richard Linklater released a film called Waking Life, which centers on one man’s experiences as he interacts with a variety of different characters who share observations, memories, and theories with him. These scenes are interrupted by the protagonist waking up and realizing that some of the exchanges he is having withContinue reading “Series of Dreams”

Pressing On

On November 17, 1978, Bob Dylan was performing in San Diego at the San Diego Sports Arena. He recalled an incident that happened onstage: “Towards the end of the show someone out in the crowd … knew I wasn’t feeling too well. I think they could see that. And they threw a silver cross onContinue reading “Pressing On”

Outlaw Blues

In 2017, Bob Dylan was interviewed by Bill Flanagan to promote Triplicate, Dylan’s third consecutive album of standards. In the interview, he talked about the music before rock ‘n roll and how thinking back on that time informed the making of Triplicate. But rock ‘n roll changed him as he described that moment in theContinue reading “Outlaw Blues”

Mr. Tambourine Man

Bob Dylan recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man” in January 1965 as the first track on the acoustic side of Bringing It All Back Home, which was released in March 1965. By all accounts, Dylan had written the song a year previously in the first months of 1964 until it was recorded during the Another Side ofContinue reading “Mr. Tambourine Man”

Like a Rolling Stone

The first time I listened to Bob Dylan was after seeking him out. I was a junior in high school and had been in a serious Beatles phase for a few years. I had listened to every Beatles song multiple times, even buying bootleg Beatles albums with murky sound quality and murky origins with myContinue reading “Like a Rolling Stone”