Should anyone be surprised that the two songs topping Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 greatest songs of all time? They are the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at No. 2 and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” at No. 1. Ahem, what’s the name of the damn magazine, people?
Naturally, as a Dylan fan I think the editors made an excellent choice with their top pick. I’ve now been to 19 Dylan concerts and have heard “Like a Rolling Stone” more often than any other song in concert — 13 times. You’d think that by now I’d be sick of hearing it. But while some performances have certainly been better than others, the song never fails to draw me in.
Whether Dylan’s voice is in form or not on a given night, he seems to always keep something in reserve for the song, which usually comes in the encore. By the time he gets to that first chorus and belts out the question,”How does it feel?” it never fails. The song is that good, that gripping, that urgent, that important, after nearly 40 years now.
Of course from one chorus to the next Dylan varies the timing of how long he draws out the “feel,” so you can never sing along, unless you don’t mind going too long or too short. You’ve no choice but just to listen, to appreciate what he’s doing, and enjoy the hell out of the song.
That’s just the way he wants it.
UPDATE: Here’s an interesting column in The New York Times by a former Columbia recording executive who takes credit for saving “Like a Rolling Stone” from the trash heap by getting it played at a trendy nightclub, giving it buzz the higher-ups were wise to heed. I’m a pretty serious Dylan fanatic and I’ve never heard or read this story anywhere, which makes me wonder whether it isn’t at least slightly fabricated to make the author, Shaun Considine, look far-sighted.