There’s something quintessentially New York City about Bob Dylan’s 1965 masterpiece, Highway 61 Revisited. From it being recorded at Studio A in Manhattan and one of the songs actually mentioning NYC, I wanted it to be the last album I listen to in full before going back home for the remainder of the summer.
“Like a Rolling Stone” and “Ballad of a Thin Man”
-Fast forward an Edith Warton novel 30 years and you’ve pretty much got Miss Lonely and her boyfriend, Mr. Jones. She, the type of girl who “never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns,” and he, the kind of man who’s read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, are the perfect example of duality of NYC: you’ve got the very rich and the very poor. But when Miss Lonely drops from wealth or independence, she doesn’t know what to do, while in the case of Mr. Jones, the socialite in him looks past the scowling looks of the people who ask, “How does it feel to be such a freak?” Such is the world—and it intensifies in the city.
“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
-One of my all-time favorite Dylan lines: “I’m goin’ back to New York City/I do believe I’ve had enough.” Although the song begins in Juarez, Dylan ends it with pining for NYC—which is quite peculiar considering the song is about being strung out on drugs. And New York City ain’t where I would go to get clean. So, although maybe it doesn’t take place in the city throughout the whole song, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to hear a New Yorker sing the line “I started out on burgundy/But soon hit the harder stuff” and talk about Housing Project Hill.
“Queen Jane Approximately”
-Queen Jane, having been spurred by her family and friends for reasons that I’m not sure she even knows, is left without a friend, expect for Dylan who’s asking for her to come see him. In the hustle and bustle that is a New York City day, it’s essential that at the end of the day you have someone to turn to. If not, the big city seems unquestioningly more difficult than it has to be.
-Hell’s Kitchen? Times Square? All of the Bronx? Harlem? Any of those I’d be happy to call Desolation Row—especially Times Square.
As I leave for a month and think about all the good times in New York Town, there was no better album to pick than Highway 61—especially because I was walking through the Village while doing so.