No numbers are included in this list. It’s very tricky. It works backward, ending with number one. The list is as follows:
There aren’t many songs on Highway 61 Revisited that didn’t go unnoticed, because by then he was Bob Dylan; he was in his prime. And this album introduced “Like a rolling stone.” Several of the songs get consistent radio play, and many have been redone by artists across all genres. But there is one song that I’ve never heard on the radio: “Desolation Row.” Who could dream of a better place? It is like Dylan’s version of “The Wasteland” (by T.S. Elliot), or a lyrical, Dylan version of “Alice in Wonderland,” and it’s just as much fun. Goes on the i-pod!
This album isn’t his best. This song isn’t the best on the album. It wasn’t the best song written that year, and probably not even that month-possibly that week. But it is a song that has a certain sense of depth that is lacking in nearly every song made this century. Somehow, whether it’s the music, the words, the way he sings, somehow, someway, there’s more to it than just the words and the music and the way he sings. This song is alive more than most songs are alive. People walk out of the song and into your imagination, into the room. You walk into the song. I’m not sure. But something happens. Oh, the song is “As I went out one morning,” from John Wesley Harding.
The album Desire is one of his most commercially successful, and features “Hurricane,” a big hit. But not a hit at all is “Romance in Durango.” Good song! Dylan even sings in Spanish. But beyond that, it paints Dylan’s dreamy, old west side; it’s a pick-me-up for any mood you might be in, unless you’re already up. It takes you away, as they say.
“I shall be free, No. 10” is Dylan messing around. Some of it means something, most of it doesn’t. Doesn’t matter-it’s one of the best songs to listen on an otherwise pointless day. Therefore, it is one of the best songs to listen to: period. I don’t know what happened to the first nine I shall be frees, I think one or two of them appear somewhere, but this is the I shall be free to get; from the Another side of Bob Dylan album.
From what I consider to be his third-best album, Bringing it all back home, comes this silly gem. If you don’t enjoy it you might as well kill yourself now. Maybe not, but consider it, or at least consider changing your mind. Like “I shall be free, no. 10” but better “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” is a perfect Dylan song: funny, well written, and completely meaningless. It’s Dylan having fun, letting his mind tinker. It’s lighthearted. It’s wacky. It’s as a song should be.
Another Spanish song, although I really have no idea what about it is Spanish, “Spanish Harlem Incident” is also from the Another Side of Bob Dylan album-he was still young then and it has that youthful energy, that ambition and hope-and is number five on the list. Why? Because it is my list. I made it. I make the rules. “Spanish Harlem Incident” is number five. It’s a fairytale for the weird-hearted. It’s a love song for those who have never loved. It’s an anthem for the romantic alley cat. It’s just right.
A live song, hard to find. You’ll need to look for the two-disc copy of Time out of Mind with the live songs on the second disc. I have it. It was hard to find. If you can’t, maybe it’s on the Internet and you can get it for your i-pod. If not, call me; it’s worth hearing. Very worth. Song: “Roving gambler.” This song probably appears elsewhere on his bootlegs etc, but this live version is the one to look for. If you can’t find it, the other ones are probably good, too. But the energy here, all around, musicianship, singing, etc, it’s cat gone good.
“Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” is the longest song, with the longest title, on what is widely considered his “best” album, Blood on the Tracks. Whether or not that makes it the best song, I’m not sure. Probably not. No, that’s not the reason. But it is the best song on the album. Better than “Tangled up in blue,” better than “Shelter from the rain,” better than “Buckets of rain,” all which have been featured in movies. “Lily” is a story about the Jack of Hearts. It is another sort of old western song, a battle between good and bad for the love of a beautiful girl. What other battles are there? The Jack of Hearts is the underdog, an outsider; he is our hero. There is action, poetry, something happens, and thenÃ¢Â?Â¦ find out.
Ironically, some of Dylan’s best songs are on the Bootleg Series album, volumes 1-3. Anyway, the last two songs on this list come from within these volumes of work. The first, which is number two on the list, is “Farewell, Angelina.” It is a soft song, billowy like a cloud, pillowy like a pillow. It is like a field of soft grass, like beach sand, a good beach, not a Seattle beach. It is romantic and, again, because the day is almost over and I’m out of words, dreamy. It’s a Dylan mental painting, a written painting, a portrait of Angelina. His paintings are like Salvador Dali, very dreamy and obscure, but beautiful and interesting. It keeps you intrigued, in love, with whoever your Angelina is. You get to be a knight in this song, storm castles, etc. Try it.
“Let me die in my footsteps.” That’s number one on the list. Simple-just got to hear it. Who doesn’t want to die in their footsteps? I know I do. At least I do after hearing this song.
Read More from Jack Tilt: Dylan’s Greatest Songs, Not Hits