Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Manuscript Sells for $2 Million But Dylan’s Secrets Remain Secret

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The manuscript for Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ (his first rock ‘n’ roll hit) sold today at auction for slightly over two million dollars — $2.045 mil to be exact — to a mystery buyer, according to Sotheby’s, the auction house that handled the transaction, but that buyer didn’t get a key to unlock the mysteries of the manuscript.

For instance, why did Dylan write “Al Capone” in the margin with a line from the gangster’s name to the word “direction” in the chorus?

“Al Capone” might have worked in terms of a rhyme, but it would make no sense in terms of what the song is about.

Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” sold for $485,000.

But back to Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ manuscript:

There are various alternate phrases written on the manuscript that Dylan wisely rejected, but they don’t reveal much.

On the second page of the manuscript is a version of the chorus with “path unknown” as one of the lines.

At the top of page three is written: “How does it feel/ Behind the wheel.”

At the bottom of page three the chorus is again a work in progress:

How does it feel to be on your own
It feels real (dog-bone)
Does it feel real.”

Then he wrote “New direction home” but put a line through “new” and wrote “no” under it.

Then: “When the winds have (unreadable word that could be “flown”)
“Shut up and deal like a rolling stone
Raw deal
Get down and kneel.”

More interesting perhaps, Dylan has written names of songs and books on the pages, which may or may not relate to the song itself: “Pony Blues,” a song by Charley Patton; “Midnight Special” (and above it “Mavis”); “On the Road”; and “Butcher Boy,” which likely refers to “The Butcher Boy,” an old folk song that the Clancy Brothers recorded.

Other revisions.

There’s a mostly discarded verse that reads:

“You never listened to the man who could (illegible) jive and wail
Never believed ‘m when he told you he had love for sale
You said you’d never compromise/ now he looks into your eyes
and says do you want make a deal.”

And what ended up being the third verse reads like this in part:

“You never turned around
To see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns
When they all came down
And did tricks for you to shake the money tree.”

There’s a line drawn through that entire last line.

Two million bucks and change.

— A Days of the Crazy -Wild blog post —

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

2 thoughts on “Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Manuscript Sells for $2 Million But Dylan’s Secrets Remain Secret

  1. The LARS lyrics went for more than I thought they would…how are a few pieces of paper worth more than the Newport guitar? I don’t get the whole ephemera thing. I guess people like to have historical stuff, just to look at or whatever. But I would much rather have the Newport guitar, which sold for like half as much. That seems very strange to me.

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