The Bob Dylan song he described as a “long piece of vomit”

Bob Dylan once said, “I change during the course of a day. I wake, and I’m one person, and when I go to sleep, I know for certain I’m somebody else.” In the mid-1960s, he was proving that this was more than a mere pithy quote. His artistry was mercurial, his outward persona was flippant and hard to pin, and then came an epic anthem that typified this new visceral, mystic Bob Dylan roaring a blazing trail through the counterculture zeitgeist.

Dylan also once said, “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet, and I’ll die like a poet.” This meant that venting his spleen over 20 pages of lyrical prose was not out of the ordinary. However, rarely did it become a finished song. The anthem that is arguably his masterpiece was one of the rarities spawned from the scribe of Dylan’s scorned pen.

When he was promoting ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ back in 1966, he sat down with Jules Siegel and remarked: “It was ten pages long. It wasn’t called anything, just a rhythm thing on paper, all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end, it wasn’t hatred, it was telling someone something they didn’t know, telling them they were lucky.”

Continuing: “Revenge, that’s a better word. I had never thought of it as a song until one day, I was at the piano, and on the paper it was singing, ‘How does it feel?’ in a slow motion pace, in the utmost of slow motion following something.”

Alas, with flippancy now a core tenet of his mystic counter-counterculture character, by the time he sat down to chat with Marvin Bronstein just a few days later, the page count of the original diatribe had doubled. “[I was writing] this long piece of vomit, 20 pages long, and out of it I took ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and made it as a single,” he said.

Adding: “And I’d never written anything like that before, and it suddenly came to me that was what I should do … After writing that, I wasn’t interested in writing a novel or a play. I just had too much, I want to write songs.”

And what a song he wrote. The success of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ even helped to quell some of the folk purists who had called him Judas for going electric. Could you really pair the searing wit of the song with a humble acoustic? It took the wherewithal of folk, modernised the context, and paired it with the zeitgeist’s rocker fuel: rock ‘n’ roll. It then stood as a singular epic, the finest piece of vomit the world has ever seen.

As Paul McCartney fittingly commented: “It seemed to go on and on forever. It was just beautiful… He showed all of us that it was possible to go a little further.” Maybe not 20 pages, but not far off, both literally and figuratively.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *