'Like A Rolling Stone' was unlike any rock'n'roll record that had been heard before. At one second short of six minutes, it was far longer than any previous single, and its rippling waves of organ, piano and guitar formed as dense and portentous a sound as anyone had dared to offer as pop, smothering listeners like quicksand, drawing them inexorably down into the song's lyrical hell. Dylan's performance, too, was utterly gripping, a semi-spoken blues rap delivered in a sour, offhand monotone which curled occasionally at the ends of lines, like a sneer twisting the corner of his mouth as he gloated over a hipster's downfall. At a time when three-minute declarations of love were still the pop norm, this vicious tirade of recrimination was quite simply without precedent, a strange but compelling experience made all the more troubling by the incursions of surreal imagery into its damning flow. Who, fascinated fans debated, were Miss Lonely, Napoleon in rags, and--most bizarre of all--the diplomat who rode a chrome horse while balancing a Siamese cat upon his shoulder? What on earth was going on here?
     For an industry whose optimum single length--between two and three minutes--had been set during the Forties and Fifties by jukebox operators intent on maximizing the number of plays per hour, 'Like A Rolling Stone' was far too long to secure blanket radio coverage, but it still managed to become Dylan's biggest hit so far, reaching number two on the American charts (and number four in Britain) in August 1965. Its effect was simply stunning: fans, peers and rivals alike realised that he had raised the bar way beyond anything they had heard or done before.


- Excerpt from Bob Dylan, The Early Years, by Andy Gill