Article

Kanye, I’ma let you finish . . . But Bob Dylan made the best video of all time

Words By: Roland Ellis | March 22nd, 1967

Kanye, I’ma let you finish . . . But Bob Dylan made the best video of all time

Dylan recorded "Subterranean Homesick Blues" on January 14, 1965, in Columbia Records' Studio A on Seventh Avenue, NYC.

The song was reportedly cut in a single take, which wasn't unusual for Dylan. He hated doing more than one take, especially in the early days—"I can't see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That's terrible."

What was unusual about the session was the sound of it. Up until that point, Dylan had been almost exclusively a solo artist. He had released "Mixed Up Confusion" as a stand-alone single, his first song with a backing band. But as far as most people knew, Dylan was still a rough-edged folk singer in the mold of Woody Guthrie.

I can't see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That's terrible.

Upon the release of "Subterranean" that perception of him changed. He had 'gone electric', much to the dismay of many fans.

Many critics contended that Dylan added the backing band (John Hammond Jr., Bill Lee, Bruce Langhorne, Bobby Gregg) and the up-tempo clip in order to capitalise on the trend started by the Beatles and Stones in Britain. But Dylan always denied such allegations: "Nobody told me to go electric . . . Nobody at all".

Kanye, I’ma let you finish . . . But Bob Dylan made the best video of all time

But it wasn't just the new 'electric' sound that marked "Subterranean" as a milestone in Dylan's career. Roughly two months after recording the song, Dylan and his pals entered a laneway behind the Savoy Hotel in London and made one of the very first music videos of all time.

Listen:

DA Pennebaker directed the iconic one-shot clip. In it, Dylan stands in the foreground throwing a series of key word placards in rapid succession. At the edge of the frame stands poet Allen Ginsberg conversing with Dylan's sidekick at the time, Bob Neuwirth. The placement of Ginsberg—the poet behind Howl (1955)—marks another key influence over "Subterranean". Not only had Dylan co-opted the rock and roll sound, but he had also brought with it the energy and deft surrealism of the beat poetry movement.


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