Anyone that knows me will appreciate just how rare this moment is, me choosing a Bob Dylan track for my song of the day! It’s not that I really dislike Mr Dylan, I’m just not the keenest fan, but when I heard ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ the other day (and it had the same effect of me when I first heard it ages ago), it crawled straight into my head, wedged itself in and has been there ever since.
Driven by Dylan’s sombre piano chords, which contrast with the organ part played by songwriter/producer Al Kooper, this track was described by Kooper as “musically more sophisticated than anything else on the Highway 61 Revisited album,” also suggesting that “Dylan was the King of the Nasty Song at that time.”
Written and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1965, this track featured on his on sixth album, Highway 61 Revisited and is a song with various interpretations, for which the man himself described in to an audience in March 1986 as, “…a song I wrote a while back in response to people who ask me questions all the time. You just get tired of that every once in a while. You just don’t want to answer no more questions. I figure a person’s life speaks for itself, right? So, every once in a while you got to do this kind of thing, you got to put somebody in their place… So this is my response to something that happened over in England. I think it was about ’63, ’64. [sic] Anyway the song still holds up. Seems to be people around still like that. So I still sing it. It’s called ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’.”
There has been speculation whether Mr. Jones was based on a specific journalist but in an interview with journalist Bill Flanagan in 1990 Bob Dylan explained how, “there were a lot of Mister Joneses at that time. Obviously there must have been a tremendous amount of them for me to write that particular song. It was like, ‘Oh man, here’s the thousandth Mister Jones’.”
Well, thank goodness for all those unwanted questions is all I can say, without them Bob Dylan may never have written this superb song! Listen above.