Lyrics scribbled on a page of hotel stationary circa 1965 that later became one of the most iconic rock songs of all time, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” has fetched more than $2 million in an auction at Sotheby’s.
What the auction house describes as “the only known surviving draft of the final lyrics for this transformative rock anthem” is written on stationary from The Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the page contains line-outs, changes and doodles.
The song, written when Dylan was just 24 but already well on his way to stardom, appeared on the album Highway 61 Revisited. It rose to No. 2 on the Billboard charts, despite the reluctance of some radio stations to air it due to its length (more than six minutes at a time when most pop songs were three to four minutes long).
Besides several doodles in the margins and on the bottom that appear to be of a deer, a hat and a chicken, there are a number of semi-legible changes in the lyrics that caught our eye:
— Under “Threw the bums a dime in your prime,” Dylan has scratched out: “At scene of the crime.”
— In the line that was recorded as: “You used to laugh about / Everybody that was hanging out,” Dylan had originally written “Everybody that was down and out?” before crossing it out.
— After “Now you don’t seem so proud,” is written “Voice is down” and “Head’s in the cloud.”
— He may also have been trying out alternate rhymes for “scrounging your next meal” — “make it real” and “your last meal” (both scratched out) and something entirely different: “like the children who play in the heat of the day.”
— After the plaintive and cynical refrain “How does it feel?” Dylan has written in mixed caps: “IS IT AINT Quite ReaL.”
— And “No direction home” looked tentatively to be “road back home,” but in the margins with an arrow pointing to it is another, stranger, alternative: “False Knight / Night on the road. AL CAPONE.”