Here’s another from my 1960’s vinyl collection, I assume that everyone has heard this perhaps dozens of time as I have but I wanted a cut that was representative of that period Dylan. Like a Rolling Stone and Desolation Row were both first choices but there are dozens/hundreds more, all wonderful so I poked around with ‘Freewheelin’, ‘ a Changin’, ‘Bringing it all Back Home’ and ultimately I settled on ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. If you were not there you can’t imagine the effect that the release of this album had, it was unlike anything that you see today, the times were indeed a changin’. It contains so many great songs, all recorded right after the fiasco at the Newport Folk Festival where he ‘went electric’, it contains both of my initial choices, it starts with ‘Stone’ and finishes with ‘Desolation’ but I decided to choose another favorite, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”, a real slow country blues that relates directly to the album’s title, Highway 61. That’s the highway that runs from Minnesota to New Orleans running parallel to the Mississippi much of the way; there’s a lot of blues connections on Highway 61, it’s also the route that many black Americans took to escape the poverty of the Delta and how jazz migrated from New Orleans to Chicago.
Musically, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh” has a lazy tempo driven by session drummer Bobby Gregg, a barrelhouse piano part played by Paul Griffin, a raunchy bass part played by Harvey Brooks, an electric guitar part played by Mike Bloomfield and a harmonica part by Dylan.
By 1965 Dylan was into his sixth album, a huge archive of great music but here I wanted to select just one cut to epitomize that era, an impossible task: which cut would you have chosen?