Bob Dylan releases “Subterranean Homesick Blues” single on this day in 1965

It’s one of Dylan’s first electric recordings and one of his most influential songs

Bob Dylan releases “Subterranean Homesick Blues” single on this day in 1965

The leading track on the album “Bringing It All Back Home”, Bob Dylan’s iconic song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was released on March 8, 1965. Aside of being one of his first recordings using electric guitar, the song gave Dylan first Top 40 Hit in the U.S, peaking at number 39 on the Hot 100 and at the Top 10 U.K singles chart. Here are some interesting facts about the song: The title of the song was a homage to Beat poet Jack Kerouac’s “The Subterraneans”, a novel published in 1958 about the Beats. The song’s first line is a reference to codeine distillation and the politics of the time: “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine / I’m on the pavement thinkin’ about the government”. The song also depicts some of the growing conflicts between “straights” or “squares” and the emerging counterculture of the 1960’s. The widespread use of recreational drugs and turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War were both starting to take hold of the nation, and Dylan’s hyperkinetic lyrics were dense with up-to-the-minute allusions to important emerging elements in the 1960’s youth culture. It also refers to the struggles surrounding the American civil rights movement (“Better stay away from those / That carry ’round a fire hose”—during the civil rights movement, peaceful protesters were beaten and sprayed with high-pressure fire hoses). The song is considered one of the most influential of all time, John Lennon was reported to find the song so captivating that he did not know how he would be able to write a song that could compete with it. In addition to its influence on music, the song was used in one of the first “modern” promotional film clips, the forerunner of what was later known as the music video. The original clip was the opening segment of D. A. Pennebaker’s film Don’t Look Back, a documentary on Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. In the film, Dylan, who came up with the idea, holds up cue cards with selected words and phrases from the lyrics. The cue cards were written by Donovan, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Neuwirth and Dylan himself. While staring at the camera, he flips the cards as the song plays. There are intentional misspellings and puns throughout the clip: for instance, when the song’s lyrics say “eleven dollar bills”, the poster says “20 dollar bills”. The clip was shot in an alley close to the Savoy Hotel in London. Ginsberg and Neuwirth are briefly visible in the background. For use as a trailer, the following text was superimposed at the end of the clip, Dylan and Ginsberg are exiting the frame.

Look back at the iconic 1965 promotional film for “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan

Watch more 1960’s related videos


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