Through emotional dissonance and the want to revolutionize oneself, Dylan pushed his sixth album to become more electric. This slight change was as if the wheel had been redesigned as if sliced bread was at its inception; Highway 61 Revisited chronicles both the poetry of Dylan wrapped in a fresh coat of paint.
The opening track, “Like A Rolling Stone” is iconic enough to be covered by more than just those who experienced a guitar and despair together. “Like A Rolling Stone” is still powerful enough even 55 years later to bring a tear to the eye and wash over the audience as if Dylan was speaking directly to the individual. With an electric gleam and an organ chord structure heavy enough to break hearts, Dylan describes on the chorus, “How does it feel? How does it feel? To be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”
While simple on the delivery, having such an emotionally draining first track that sets its roots into the audience is a bold choice for his redesign. As Dylan marches on into “Tombstone Blues” where the more upbeat and comedic poetry is reminiscent of a folk standout, its reliance on the hook verse structure that is buried by a ragtime organ of sorts becomes illusionary.
Dylan describes in this barn-burner of an instrumental, “The sweet pretty things are in bed now, of course, the city fathers they’re trying to endorse, the reincarnation of Paul Revere’s horse.” As the music picks up like a storming hurricane, Dylan moves on to say, “But the town has no need to be nervous. The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits, to Jezebel the nun, she violently knits. A bald wig for Jack The Ripper who sits. As the head of the Chamber of Commerce.”
While Highway 61 Revisited is such a monumental album and will be recognized as one of the greatest pieces of Dylan’s career, the writing here always manages to either bring a flurry of either laughter and smiles or absolute dread. It is almost astounding to see the style switches that occur through Highway 61 Revisited and just how well they identify Dylan’s career.
There is a plethora to love disguised under Dylan’s passionate sixth studio release, especially with “Queen Jane Approximately” which is dreamy and somehow packs this love ballad into a digestible dichotomy. Five-and-a-half minutes is surrounded by ’50s plucking electric guitars that would make Chuck Berry glimmer. Dylan’s harsh harmonica wails are present on the track and give “Queen Jane Approximately” this undertone of unity between his two persistent sounds. On one end, a folk writer and legend, and at other times, an eclectic rebel who remains enigmatic through each release.
Inspiring more than just the generation that followed him, Bob Dylan is certainly an acquired taste that becomes more approachable with both Highway 61 Revisited and his Blonde On Blonde record that soon followed. While hated for its complete change of mantra, Dylan’s experimentation led him to a crossroads where he eventually blended the two pathways to crunch under his leather shoes.