Highway 61 Revisited (LP)
Dylan's sixth studio album was a real belter. This is the one where he 'went electric'. Having used a rock band on some tracks for his previous LP, Bringing It All Back Home, Bob went all the way with this one and made a modern classic.
At the time Dylan was writing, Highway 61, sometimes called the "Blues Highway," went from New Orleans through Memphis and from Iowa through Duluth (Dylan's birthplace) to the Canadian border; the section of Highway 61 from Wyoming, Minnesota to Duluth was de-designated in 1991. It was regularly featured in blues songs, notably Mississippi Fred McDowell's "61 Highway" and James "Son" Thomas's "Highway 61." Bessie Smith met her death in an automobile accident on that roadway; Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49 (itself the subject of a Howlin' Wolf song); Elvis Presley grew up in the housing projects built along it; and Martin Luther King, Jr. would later be murdered at a motel just off Highway 61.
"A lot of great basic American culture came right up that highway and up that river", Robert Shelton told a BBC interviewer. "And as a teenager Dylan had travelled that way on radio. ... Highway 61 became, I think, to him a symbol of freedom, a symbol of movement, a symbol of independence and a chance to get away from a life he didn't want in Hibbing."
While "Like a Rolling Stone" was completed in mid-June 1965, the rest of the album was recorded with a different producer, Bob Johnston, in four days of sessions shortly after Dylan's legendary appearance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival; the sessions also produced Dylan's next single, "Positively 4th Street", not included on the LP.
Years after its release, Dave Marsh wrote that Highway 61 Revisited was one of Dylan's "best albums, and [one] of the greatest in the history of rock & roll." Subsequent polls in recent years prove that it remains a fixture in the rock pantheon. In 1995 Highway 61 Revisited was named the fifth greatest album of all time in a poll conducted by Mojo Magazine. In 1998 Q magazine readers voted it the 57th greatest album of all time; in 2001 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 22. Then in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine placed Highway 61 Revisited fourth on its list of the greatest albums of all time. Its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time placed "Highway 61 Revisited", "Desolation Row" and "Like a Rolling Stone" at #364, #185 and #1, respectively.
Clinton Heylin wrote it was "an album that consolidated everything 'Like A Rolling Stone' (and Bringing It All Back Home) proffered ... an amalgamation of every strand in American popular music from 'Gypsy Davey' to the Philly Sound." Tim Riley said it was "the first Dylan record to posit protest as a way of life, a state of mind, something as psychologically bound as it is socially incumbent."
A profound influence on Dylan's contemporaries, it also coincided with greater commercial success as singles like "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Positively 4th Street" brought him to a wider audience. The controversy that ignited with Newport would continue to follow Dylan throughout 1965, but he had no intention of turning back.