Highway 61 Revisited is the sixth studio album by Bob Dylan, released in 1965. His first all-electric album, it is best known for the hits and fan favorites "Like a Rolling Stone", "Ballad of a Thin Man", "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Desolation Row".
- "Like a Rolling Stone" (6:13)
- "Tombstone Blues" (6:00)
- "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" (4:09)
- "From a Buick 6" (3:19)
- "Ballad of a Thin Man" (5:58)
- "Queen Jane Approximately" (5:31)
- "Highway 61 Revisited" (3:30)
- "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (5:32)
- "Desolation Row" (11:21)
Tropes with no direction home
- Album Title Drop:Abe said: "Where do you want this killing done?And God said: "Just go down there to Highway 61."
- Also provides one for an album by an entirely different artist: Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill, taken from a line in "It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry:.
- Ambiguous Syntax: The first lines of the last verse of "Desolation Row"—"Yes, I received your letter yesterday, about the time the doorknob broke." Did his doorknob just happen to break while he got the letter, or was the subject of the letter itself the doorknob breaking?
- As the Good Book Says...: God and Abraham are mentioned in "Highway 61 Revisited"; Cain, Abel, and the Good Samaritan in "Desolation Row"; and Jezebel, John the Baptist, the Philistine King, and Delilah in "Tombstone Blues".
- Ballad of X: "Ballad of a Thin Man"
- Body Horror: "Ballad of a Thin Man"Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to youAnd then he kneelsHe crosses himselfAnd then he clicks his high heelsAnd without further noticeHe asks you how it feelsAnd he says: "Here is your throat back; thanks for the loan"
- Circus of Fear: "Ballad of a Thin Man", if we would take the lyrics literally, takes places at a creepy carnival circus, where Mr. Jones encounters a geek, a sword swallower, and a one-eyed midget.
- Clingy MacGuffin: Mack the Finger who, in the song "Highway 61 Revisited" claims to have "forty red white and blue shoe strings and a thousand telephones that don't ring" and desperately tries to get rid of them.
- Call-Back and Continuity Nod: On Dylan's debut, Bob Dylan from 1962 he covered a track called "Highway 51". In that sense "Highway 61 Revisited" is a Continuity Nod.
- Cool Bike: Subtly invoked by the partly-obscured but still visible Triumph t-shirt Dylan wears on the cover.
- Cover Version: PJ Harvey covered "Highway 61 Revisited" on her album Rid of Me from 1993.
- It's a fairly safe bet that every single song on the album has dozens, if not hundreds, of cover versions.
- Cyclops: The one-eyed midget in "Ballad of a Thin Man".Now you see this one-eyed midget shouting the word: "Now"
- The Diss Track:
- "Like a Rolling Stone" sharply criticizes a former privileged and haughty woman who has fallen down on her luck.You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal.
- "Ballad of a Thin Man" is a snarling indictment of a pseudo-intellectual who dislikes Dylan's music.Well, you walk into the room like a camel, and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket and your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law against you comin' around
You should be made to wear earphones
'Cause something is happening and you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
- "Like a Rolling Stone" sharply criticizes a former privileged and haughty woman who has fallen down on her luck.
- The Ditz: The clueless Mr. Jones in "Ballad of a Thin Man".And you know something is happening
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
- Drunken Song: "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" : it has a kind of drunken vibe from the very beginning, but the final verse confirms it:I started out on burgundy
But soon hit the harder stuff
Everybody said they'd stand behind me
When the game got rough
But the joke was on me
There was nobody even there to bluff
I'm going back to New York City
I do believe I've had enough.
- Epic Rocking: Four of the nine songs are over six minutes, with the 11:21 "Desolation Row" being the ultimate example. At the time, "Like a Rolling Stone" (6:13) was the longest song ever issued as a single.
- Face on the Cover: Dylan, posing for the camera. It looks like it was shot indoors somewhere, but it's actually him sitting on the front step of a New York apartment.
- Hypocritical Humor: "And you're sick of all this repetition" in the third verse of the repetitive "Queen Jane Approximately".
- In the End, You Are on Your Own: The central message of "Like A Rolling Stone".
- Little People Are Surreal: The one-eyed midget in "Ballad of a Thin Man".
- Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with "Desolation Row" (11:21).
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Like a Rolling Stone" is sung in an energetic tone that contrasts with the lyrics about scrounging for your next meal, living on the streets without knowing how to survive, and having everything stolen from you. The dissonance seems to make the same points the lyrics do, that all these seemingly terrible things are for the better.
- Magical Seventh Son: Briefly mentioned in "Highway 61 Revisited".But the second mother was with the seventh sonAnd they were both out on Highway 61.
- Meaningful Title: Highway 61 runs from Dylan's childhood home in Minnesota to the home of the Blues in New Orleans and the Mississippi river.
- Mind Screw: Most of the lyrics.
- Morality Ballad: "Like a Rolling Stone" is about how losing everything one cherishes can ultimately be liberating.When you got nothing, you got nothing to loseYou're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal
- Ode to Intoxication: An ambiguous one in "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues;" there's a lot of drunkenness in that song, and it's not entirely negative or positive.
- One-Man Song: "Ballad of a Thin Man".
- One-Woman Song: "Queen Jane Approximately"
- Perpetual Poverty: Georgia Sam in "Highway 61 Revisited".Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody noseWelfare Department they wouldn't give him no clothes
- Police Are Useless: "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" claims that "The cops don't need you, and man, they expect the same." Then they brag about committing Blackmail.
- Princess in Rags: "Like a Rolling Stone" is about a Miss Lonely, a wealthy woman who once was rich enough to hang out with diplomats and never worry about to future, only to be forced to hunt for meals and pawn off her diamond ring for money. Dylan's narrator sings happily about all this, finding the sudden humility of Miss Lonely a good thing.
- Public Execution: The first line of "Desolation Row" establishes that public hangings are so essential to the Row that they sell postcards of them, implying quite a bit of demand.
- Reasoning with God: Abraham and God in "Highway 61 Revisited".
- Reference Overdosed:
- Napoléon Bonaparte in "Like a Rolling Stone".You used to be so amused at Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
- Paul Revere, Belle Starr, Jezebel, Jack the Ripper, John the Baptist, the Philistine King, Galileo Galilei, Delilah, Cecil B. DeMille, Ma Rainey, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Gypsy Davy (a song by Woody Guthrie) in "Tombstone Blues".The city fathers they're trying to endorse the reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse(...) The ghost of Belle Starr, she hands down her witsTo Jezebel the nun she violently knits a bald wig for Jack the Ripper (...)(...) Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thiefLooks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief (...)(...) The king of the Philistines his soldiers to saveBut jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves(...) Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he bums out their camps(...) The geometry of innocence flesh on the boneCauses Galileo's math book to get thrownAt Delilah who sit worthlessly aloneBut the tears on her cheeks are from laughter(...) Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMilleWhen Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed roll
- Bo Diddley in "From a Buick 6".She walks like Bo Diddley and she don't need no crutch
- F. Scott Fitzgerald in "Ballad of a Thin Man".You've been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's booksYou're very well read; it's well known
- "Desolation Row," the place and the song, is inhabited with a variety of public domain characters that seem to symbolize separate aspects of humanity. The characters include Cinderella, Bette Davis, Romeo, Cain and Abel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ophelia, Noah, Albert Einstein, Robin Hood, The Phantom of the Opera, Giacomo Casanova, the RMS Titanic, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot.
- Tom Thumb is mentioned in the title of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues".
- Dylan's liner notes for the album reference artist Paul Sargent, Quasimodo (also referenced in "Desolation Row"), Friedrich Nietzsche, George Gershwin's "Summertime", Antonio Vivaldi, and musician and photographer John Cohen, who took some of the best-known images of Dylan after his arrival in New York City.
- Napoléon Bonaparte in "Like a Rolling Stone".
- Riches to Rags: "Like a Rolling Stone": in the first verse the woman who once "dressed so fine" and "threw the bums a dime" is now "scrounging for your next meal".
- Roman à Clef: "Desolation Row" hints that the entire album is one, prompting much Wild Mass Guessing about who's who.All these people that you mention... yes, I know them; they're quite lameI had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name
- Sad Clown: The subject of "Like A Rolling Stone" ignored the fact that all the "clowns" who entertained her were frowning and miserable until she couldn't afford to.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues"I'm going back to New York City, I do believe I've had enough.
- Second-Person Narration: Three songs on this album: "Like a Rolling Stone," "Ballad of a Thin Man," and "Queen Jane Approximately".
- In The Beatles' song "Yer Blues" on The White Album (1968), John Lennon sings "I feel so suicidal/just like Dylan's 'Mr. Jones'", which is a reference to the title character in "Ballad of a Thin Man".
- The image of Dylan on the album cover was also used as a cut-out on the upper far right of The Beatles' cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. See here for a comparison.
- A stanza of "Highway 61 Revisited" is narrated in The Hunted (2003) by Johnny Cash at the beginning and at the end of the movie.
- The title From a Buick 8 was an obvious tip-of-the-hat by Stephen King to "From a Buick 6".
- The Rolling Stones covered "Like a Rolling Stone", as was to be expected one day, on their live album Stripped from 1995.
- Martin Scorsese named his 2005 documentary about Dylan: No Direction Home, after the phrase from "Like a Rolling Stone".
- Steely Dan's début album is named after a line from "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry".
- Talking Heads revisited the Mr. Jones character from "Ballad of a Thin Man" with their own song, aptly titled "Mr. Jones", in 1988.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: "Desolation Row" refers to both Romeo from Romeo and Juliet and Ophelia from Hamlet.
- Something Blues: "Tombstone Blues" and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues".
- The Stars Are Going Out: In "Desolation Row," the moon and stars are disappearing at the same time a fortune teller is retreating into her home, hinting either at a coming darkness or an unpredictable future.
- The Team Wannabe: Al Kooper's organ riff on "Like a Rolling Stone" is one of the most recognisable in music history. Despite the fact that he didn't know how to play the organ and wasn't supposed to be on the record at all, but basically walked into the studio, sat down at the organ and started fooling about because nobody explicitly told him not to. Dylan liked it and kept it.
- Title Track: "Highway 61 Revisited''
- Train Song: "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry"Well, I ride on a mail-train, babeCan't buy a thrillWell, I've been up all nightLeanin' on the window sillWell, if I die on top of the hillAnd if I don't make itYou know my baby will
- World War III: "Highway 61 Revisited"The rovin' gambler, he was very boredtrying to create a next world war