Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
who looked at the future through the strings of a Strat
Some of us are too old, others are too young, we all run the risk of getting lost between the verses of a Nobel which was only missing a date. Bob Dylan lit one of the fuses of our own cultural revolution, and without him, nothing would be blowing in the wind in our world which, on this side of it, still seeks answers. We run the risk of forgetting that on the day he donned a Fender he discovered in our favourite instrument another voice that the whole world would understand and listen to.
The day he chose to hang an electric guitar around his neck could have been just a fucking fluke; the nutmeat of one of his mythic fits. And the booing and jeering that ensued, due to poor sound, cut short a gig and ended up pissing everyone off. What happened that 25th of July, 1965, on stage at the Newport Folk Festival, (or rather what survived in the wings) was something inevitable, the logical evolution of a musician conscious of the changing times that was dawning in many spheres, and also in popular music. (Dylan, by the way, never returned to the Newport festival until the 25th of July 2015, at 74).
Maybe it was also a flip of luck when the bad-humoured genius asked for an electric guitar and they handed him a Fender. His Stratocaster Sunburst from 1960 that, like what happens to many legendary guitars belonging to famous guitarists: mysteriously vanished in an airplane. Also a flip of luck might have been the reappearance of the guitar years later, or Dylan’s reassurance that it was not the one he used in Newport, for which there is plenty of evidence.
In such an undemanding guitarist as he is, with a Black Strat and Telecaster (blonde of course) he has more than enough to work with. In some instances, he'll strap on a Les Paul, but the Gibsons have always been there for special occasions, such as the acoustic gems SJ-200 that bear his name.
In the mid-60s, Dylan got ahead of the elite universe of intelligentsia that smoked anything they could get their hands on in the California campuses, seeing before they did, that rock and roll was the future and that later on electricity would be the universal amplifier for what he wanted to tell the world.
The big-shots of folk however, soon stopped pulling out their hair and burning their records. Dylan gave notice in 1965 with Subterranean Homesick Blues, fronting an electric band for his fifth record, and with Bringing it all Back Home, and Highway 61 Revisited few months later, the metamorphosis was complete.
All he needed was to play a few notes on the strings of his new guitars to make the world go round once again. Like a Rolling Stone.
(All images: ©CordonPress)