Entry count: 4702
Bob Dylan changes speed and consequently changes the game

Bob Dylan

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Released: May 26th, 1963

10.0
Album Review Bob Dylan

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1970.

Support Gaslight Records

As the story goes, Dylan was extremely unhappy with his first album. Almost immediately after dropping the needle for the initial playback, he decided that he needed to return to the studio to work on new material. He could do better, so he thought.

Iconic A&R man John Hammond agreed that it was worth putting the young singer/songwriter up for another go-round. In fact, Hammond believed in Dylan's talent so much that he put his reputation on the line in order to keep Dylan from being dropped by Columbia altogether following the commercial failure of his debut album.

"Hammond's folly", as Dylan had become known to other staffers at Columbia, was only allowed to continue because of Hammond's track record as a talent scout. He had, before Dylan, been instrumental in sparking and/or furthering the careers of Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Pete Seeger and Count Basie; and later he would go on to discover Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen. But even though he possessed what was arguably the best radar in the business, it's hard to imagine that he could have predicted The Freewheelin' was to follow Dylan's debut.

Bob Dylan changes speed and consequently changes the game
Bob Dylan & Suze Rotolo
Dylan is a genius, a singing conscience and moral referee, as well as a preacher

Tracks like "Song to Woody" (from Dylan's debut album) demonstrated that Dylan had real songwriting ability. But to expect that ability to mature into "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" in the space of less than a year would have been outlandish, even for a guy like John Hammond. Such a development makes descriptions like 'exponential growth' into the world's biggest understatements. To be sure, Hammond deserves all of the credit for championing the record's production and release through Columbia, and for mentoring Dylan through the uncertainty that must have followed the soft response to his first album. But he can't have believed that Dylan—still just 22 years old—would, figuratively speaking, go from building a modest home to constructing something akin to the Giza Pyramids in a matter of months; from "folly" to "the voice of a generation"; from gifted yet unremarkable folk singer to a visionary whose prophetic poetry and overall sense of the times stood all but unrivaled.

Perhaps talk show host Steve Allen put it best when, after the release of The Freewheelin', he said "[Dylan is] a genius, a singing conscience and moral referee, as well as a preacher".

Such was the rhetoric that surrounded Dylan after The Freewheelin'. It was, without question, the record that his whole steez was built on: that of a cameleonic character with an uncanny ability for cutting to the core of just about anything—love, politics, the mentality of the beat generation, blue collar culture, the spirit of the oppressed and marginalized; and moreover, for doing it in a way that is subtle and sophisticated to the point where you have guys like Allen Ginsberg in tears over the over profundity of the lyrics (see Scorsese's No Direction Home for full details).

The Freewheelin' was rightly the catalyst of such regard for Bob Dylan. All but "Masters Of War"—a track that feels locked to its context and made somewhat blunt-edged by the intervening years—have stood the test of time. More than that, "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" seems a timeless summation of heartbreak; and "Bob Dylan's Dream" reminds us that he was equal to just about anyone in terms of sharp political satire. But it's "Hard Rain" that leaps out above the pack: still baring a phosphorescence and raw-power that situates Dylan amongst the very rarest of artists.

More recent news

Watch The Jackson 5 perform single from their debut album on Ed Sullivan

News

December 23rd, 1969: Watch The Jackson 5 perform single from their debut album on Ed Sullivan

Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 is the latest release from Motown

 
The Clancy Brothers have released a new album of Christmas songs: Listen

News

December 20th, 1969: The Clancy Brothers have released a new album of Christmas songs: Listen

Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers have recorded 11 songs to bring a little joy to your Christmas

 
See photos from The Doors album cover shoot in Los Angeles today

News

December 18th, 1969: See photos from The Doors album cover shoot in Los Angeles today

The new Doors album is due for release early next year.

 
Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Article

December 10th, 1969: Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Here's the story of Altamont in quotes from many of the people involved.

 
The Rolling Stones have released a new studio album ahead of their free concert tomorrow at Altamont

News

December 5th, 1969: The Rolling Stones have released a new studio album ahead of their free concert tomorrow at Altamont

As The Stones finish their run of U.S. concert dates they have released their eighth album, Let It Bleed.

 
This summer Bob Dylan sat down for an interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine

Interviews

December 4th, 1969: This summer Bob Dylan sat down for an interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine

Read the transcript below of Dylan and Wenner's interview from June this year

 
Emmylou Harris covers Bob Dylan on debut album

News

December 3rd, 1969: Emmylou Harris covers Bob Dylan on debut album

Listen to Harris's cover of Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from her album Gliding Bird

 
Peter Stone Brown covers Bob Dylan's 'She Belongs To Me'

Live At The Gaslight

Peter Stone Brown covers Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me"

Recorded in Atlantic City at Dylan Fest in 2015

 
Watch Roy Orbison perform 'Oh, Pretty Woman' with Johnny Cash last week

News

October 4th, 1969: Watch Roy Orbison perform "Oh, Pretty Woman" with Johnny Cash last week

Orbison appeared on The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville

 
Mixtape October 1969

Mixtapes

October 1st, 1969: Mixtape October 1969

It's the end of Summer 1969, here's what I'm listening to.

 
Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single 'Pewter Suitor' this week - Listen

News

October 1st, 1969: Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single "Pewter Suitor" this week - Listen

The new single was left off the band's album Unicorn, from earlier this year.

 
'I was just about all through as a man' Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Interviews

October 1st, 1969: "I was just about all through as a man" Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Cash gave a brief interview recently while visiting London

 
Loading more