Exactly 50 years ago today, in mid-June 1965, Bob Dylan recorded in New York City, with Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and the gang, the final take of what some (not just me) call the greatest single in rock 'n roll history, "Like a Rolling Stone." It was released one month later, on July 20, reaching #2 on the Billboard chart. Among other breakthroughs: It was the first six-minute single and DJs played the whole thing for weeks, before breaking off after two verses near the end of its run. The rarely heard first take in the studio was slow, almost a waltz, and Bob on piano. The Wikipedia entry describes it this way: "The lack of sheet music meant the song was played by ear. However the essence of the song was discovered in the course of the chaotic session." Greil Marcus has a whole book on the song. Bob live in 1966.
And then, a year later, there was Jimi Hendrix's amazing version at Monterey. I saw Bob do it himself in November 1965, in Buffalo, with The Hawks. And below that, Bob does the tune for David Letterman's 10th anniversary on the air with, get this, Emmylou, Mavis, Rosanne, Michele Shocked--and Carole King on piano. But first up, an earlier acoustic take of the song 50 years ago in the studio: