Song of the Day #798: ‘Like a Rolling Stone (Live)’ – Bob Dylan

I’ve read comments from Dylan fans along the lines of “If I had access to a time machine, the ‘Royal Albert Hall’ concert is the moment in history I’d revisit.” As for me, I’d probably opt for sometime during the Roman Empire, but I can appreciate the sentiment. Certainly it would have been something to watch this concert live, both for the music and the history.

Yesterday I featured the performance that closed Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There and today I’m moving to the song that closes Martin Scorsese’s fabulous Dylan documentary No Direction Home. (If you haven’t seen that film, do so immediately.)

After a rollicking version of ‘Ballad of a Thin Man,’ the audience was more restless than ever. That’s when one fan shouted out the famous “Judas!” taunt (which you can hear clearly on this clip). The remark was met with applause from many in the crowd and others joined in the heckling.

Another fan chimed in with what’s been reported as “I’m never listening to you again, ever” (I can’t hear what the guy says and I wonder if that’s just somebody’s best guess that’s been passed along over the years) and Dylan replies “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar.”

He then turns to the band and says “Play it fucking loud” and they tear into a bracing version of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ that seems to win the crowd back. Organist Al Kooper has said that during those tours the crowds would boo them every night except when they played ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ at which point they’d cheer like crazy.

I guess that’s because many of the songs Dylan played while “plugged in” started their lives as acoustic tracks alongside his early folk material. But ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was meant to be electric. It’s a shot to the head that you welcome. This is a song that you want to hear played fucking loud.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it
You said you’d never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #798: ‘Like a Rolling Stone (Live)’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    Anybody who can make out the comment that prompts Dylan’s retort is a better man than I, although I suppose the barb makes sense in context.

    As for this version of the song, apart from the historical heckling that proceeded it, I can’t say that the recording is anything all that special. I’ll take the album version any day. Still, in context of our discussion on yesterday’s post, I can’t say that it sounds all that bad. I’m wondering though if it sounded this way to the audience or if the engineers really evened out and cleaned up the mix for the recorded version.

    Oh, and in terms of going back in the Dylan time machine, as I said yesterday, take me back to the Rolling Thunder Revue tour please.

  2. Amy says:

    Sounds like a strange concert experience, but at least you know you’re not just listening to the record. I’ve always been torn when I fork over good money for a concert ticket. On the one hand, I want to hear the songs I love performed the way that I love them. On the other hand, I want to experience something different – or, at least, extra – to warrant the fact that I spent money on this ticket.

    The artists who most please their fans in conert manage to create that balance – giving them what they want and expect but also throwing in inventive covers and intriguing interpretations of some of their own classics. Today’s SOTD certainly would fall into that category, but I imagine I wouldn’t have liked quite a lot of the rest of what he performed.

  3. Darkeyez says:

    The show was actually at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, not The Royal Albert Hall

  4. Clay says:

    Yes, I mentioned that in yesterday’s post.

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