Greil Marcus @ Booksmith, 25-April-2005

Greil Marcus has a new book out on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” and he was at The Booksmith for a reading the other night. As he mentioned, there have been a few books written on single songs, and indeed when the idea was first pitched to him, he was reluctant to take the bait. But after thinking about it, and hearing that surely someone else would do it if he didn’t, he went for it.

Having read a lot of Dylan books over the years, I was pretty familiar with most of the facts about the development of the song, but one point Marcus made was quite thrilling. He listened to the session tapes from June 15 & 16, 1965, and pointed out that the recording we all know was the very first time the musicians made it all the way through the four verses. So even they did not know how it would sound, how it would end. After that they kept trying and seemed to get even further away from a successful cut, and it was clear that had they missed it on June 16, the world may never have heard the song at all.

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