Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads

Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads

3.7 4
by Greil Marcus
     
 

Popular music critic Marcus sees the Bob Dylan song "Like a Rolling Stone" as a singular event in the career of the singer and in the history of pop music and the nation. In this extended meditation on the cultural context and impact of the song, he provides a wide- ranging discussion that examines its musical antecedents, its place in Dylan's career, the… See more details below

Overview

Popular music critic Marcus sees the Bob Dylan song "Like a Rolling Stone" as a singular event in the career of the singer and in the history of pop music and the nation. In this extended meditation on the cultural context and impact of the song, he provides a wide- ranging discussion that examines its musical antecedents, its place in Dylan's career, the circumstances of its production, its lyrical and musical structure and meaning, and its treatment in the hands of other musicians from Jimi Hendrix to Italian hip-hop artists, among other topics. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
"No less than Dylan's song, Marcus' book is a performance."
April 10, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
"Marcus approaches his topic with enthusiasm and enough breezy style to make it fan-friendly."
April 24, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
'Like a Rolling Stone' is Marcus at his companionable best,"
April 22, 2005
The New York Sun
"Worth the time of any reader fascinated... by popular culture."
April 12, 2005
Boston Globe
"Marcus has contributed something of his own blood."
April 17, 2005
Washington Post Book World
"Marcus displays a gift for couching the musical culture in its political era."
April 6, 2005
Associated Press
"Marcus is able to tell the familiar story in such a lively and light way that even the old sounds new again."
April 6, 2005
Alan Light
[Marcus'] description of the pure sonics of ''Like a Rolling Stone'' � a sound so complete and perfectly realized that it ''never plays the same way twice'' � forces you to approach a 40-year-old song with new ears.
— The New York Times
The Age July 31 2005
"The fun is in keeping up with Marcus' runaway trains...The song stands alone. So does the book."
Gambit Weekly July 19
"...an impressionistic history, with less concern for the chronological... events... than critical consideration of the elements of the song..."
Contra Costa Times 7/10/05
"[Marcus'] ability to... describe the combined meaning and effect of a song is what makes his book worth reading..."
Time Out New York 8/4/05
"Greil Marcus's unique command of both literary and musical references makes him unquestionably the best of Dylan's legion of critics."
Publishers Weekly
Marcus's engaging exegesis on the musical and cultural ramifications of Dylan's 1965 six-and-half-minute hit is not just a study of a popular song and a historic era, but an examination of the heroic status of the American visionary artist. Recorded when American popular music was "like a running election," Dylan's "music of transformations" induced a conflicted, confused America to look at its social disasters of racism, drug abuse and Vietnam, Marcus says, while simultaneously permitting it to strip away its illusions and hope for a better future. Ostensibly about a rich young socialite's fall from grace, the song's lyrics are open to many interpretations, which may have helped make it such a phenomenon. Marcus displays a comprehensive knowledge of American popular and political history, tracing the song's roots back to Robert Johnson and Hank Williams and spotting its influence on such disparate artists as Frank Zappa, the Village People and various contestants on American Idol. Part scholarly discourse and part beatnik rambling, the book is chockfull of lively metaphors and includes 20 pages of studio outtake banter. Marcus successfully convinces readers that (in the words of hit songwriter Gerry Goffin), "Dylan managed to do something that not one of us was able to do: put poetry in rock n' roll and just stand up there like a mensch and sing it." Agent, Wendy Weil. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran rock critic and cultural historian takes on Dylan's rock 'n' roll legacy. Marcus last held forth on Bob Dylan in his 1997 work, Invisible Republic (later retitled The Old, Weird America), which put Dylan's 1967 "Basement Tapes" recordings with The Band under the microscope. Here, he tackles Dylan's explosion into rock consciousness and mass culture with the release of the six-minute single "Like a Rolling Stone" in the summer of 1965. It's a cornerstone record in the Dylan canon: it was his highest-charting hit, reaching number two (kept from the top slot by, who else, the Beatles), and providing a staggering demonstration of his imagination and artistic ambition. Marcus calls the song "an event" and relates it to the cultural, social and political ferment of the time. He has always had a rare talent for making exciting and unexpected connections, and he does so here, pulling such diverse artists as R&B singer Clyde McPhatter, reggae stars the Wailers and the punk band the Replacements, among many others, into the mix. (Some digressions, like one about England's Pet Shop Boys, are less convincing.) His retelling of Dylan's move from folk musician to electric prophet is compelling. During the singer's stormy world tour of 1966, Marcus says, "Like a Rolling Stone" was thrown into the faces of outraged audiences like a curse, and indeed the present book's strongest suit is its recounting the thrill of that moment when Dylan's vision and sense of risk came together in one (and only one) perfect take of a song that summed up his time. Unfortunately, as in Invisible Republic, the volume is also weighed down by Marcus's overcooked and contorted attempts to get inside the music. When hegrapples with Highway 61 Revisited, the album that featured "Like a Rolling Stone," things grind to a numbing halt. On the history and reverberations of the music, however, Marcus is near the top of the game. How does it feel? Pretty good, most of the time.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781586482541
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
03/28/2005
Pages:
283
Product dimensions:
5.68(w) x 8.54(h) x 1.12(d)

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