Rolling Stones

Why Mick Jagger “couldn’t record” like Bob Dylan

Mick Jagger will tread over hot coals to defend Bob Dylan, but the unique way in which the folk troubadour works terrified The Rolling Stones singer when he witnessed it up close and personal. It was a moment in time that only made Jagger admire Dylan more.

Jagger and Dylan are two of the last survivors from the 1960s artistic and musical boom, artists that have today become permanent parts of the cultural furniture. While they are valiantly still creating music today, many of their contemporaries have sadly not made it this far, and the pair are monoliths from a historical era in music.

Amid what has been something of a chart position rivalry over the decades, there has always been deep respect between both artists. The Stones and Dylan reached the pinnacle of their lanes, and secretly, they’d have quite happily swapped places if given the opportunity.

“The Rolling Stones are truly the greatest rock and roll band in the world and always will be,” Dylan once famously said. “The last, too,” he added. “Everything that came after them, metal, rap, punk, new wave, pop-rock, you name it… you can trace it all back to the Rolling Stones. They were the first and the last and no one’s ever done it better.”

Both have shared the stage on a sprinkling of occasions, and Jagger was also invited to watch Dylan record Blood On The Tracks in 1974. It was an experience that stuck with The Stones frontman, even though he could never operate similarly.

For Dylan’s 80th birthday, Jagger spoke about his relationship with Dylan’s music during an interview with The Guardian, revealing that he believes ‘Desolation Row’ is the singer-songwriter’s opus. Jagger remembered: “I was playing Bob Dylan records at my parents’ house when he was still an acoustic folk singer, but he was already very important and his lyrics were on point. The delivery isn’t just the words, it’s the accentuation and the moods and twists he puts on them.”

The Rolling Stones frontman continued: “His greatness lies in the body of work. I was at a session for Blood on the Tracks [1975] and really enjoyed watching him record ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’, with this incredible depth of storyline, surrounded by all these boring people from the record company who he had sitting in the control room. I couldn’t record like that.”

For Jagger, seeing the magician in action up close inflamed his infatuation with Dylan, and awarded the singer with a deeper understanding of what makes the folkie tick. Rather than shattering the illusion he’d painted in his mind, the episode only heightened Dylan’s mystique.

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