Study Guide

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Subterranean Homesick Blues Introduction

In a Nutshell

Bob Dylan scarcely needs an introduction. Considered by many to be the greatest songwriter of all time, Dylan revolutionized American popular music and influenced generations of subsequent artists. 

"Subterranean Homesick Blues," released shortly after Dylan "went electric" and abandoned the acoustic-only instrumentation of traditional folk music, was his first Top 40 hit. 

With its rapid-fire lyrics laid out atop a rollicking blues rhythm borrowed from a Chuck Berry song and the rhyme scheme of its last verse borrowed from a Robert Browning poem, the song sounded not quite like anything that had come before.

About the Song

ArtistDylan, Bob
Year1965
LabelColumbia Records
Writer(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Tom Wilson
Musician(s)Bob Dylan (vocals, guitar)
Learn to play
AlbumBringing It All Back Home

Music Video

Influences on Dylan, Bob

Chuck Berry
Woody Guthrie
John Lee Hooker
Alan Lomax
Pete Seeger
Hank Williams

Influenced by Dylan, Bob

Just about everyone
Tim Buckley
T. Bone Burnett
Jakob Dylan
The Grateful Dead
The Mamas and the Papas
Bruce Springsteen
Neil Young

Subterranean Homesick Blues Resources

Books

The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (2008)
Dylan guru Michael Gray is smart and objective throughout this mind-numblingly big piece of work on Dylan, which is intense in its completeness as a resource.

Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (2007)
What better way to understand the artist than to go directly to the wellspring of creativity himself? With over 40 years of interviews in this book, it's a great, inspiring, and funny look at Mr. Dylan.

Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader (2005)
Benjamin Hedin compiled a great set of resources here, interviews, criticism, analysis, poetry, and reviews by various sources including Dylan himself fill in this college-class-worthy reader.

Albums

Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
1965 was a great year for Dylan, first he released Bring It All Back Home and got his first Top 40 hit, and then, with Highway 61 Revisited he released one of the greatest songs ever written, the six-minute single, "Like A Rolling Stone."

The Best of Bob Dylan (2005)
With a career like Dylan's, a "best of" album is entirely necessary, and totally enjoyable.

Together Through Life (2009)
Dylan's 33rd and latest release, Together Through Life, is markedly different from his early work; it is mostly country based, with some blues and plenty of accordian.

Bring It All Back Home (1965)
Dylan's first electric album is really only half electric; "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and others are electric, full band deals, but Dylan smartly leaves room for some excellent folk songs like the ever so classic "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Images

Bring It All Back Home
When asked what the cover of Bring It Back Home meant, Dylan had only to slyly say that he hadn't looked at it, despite having carefully arranged each seemingly random bauble in the photograph.

Young Bob
Bob Dylan was a handsome young man in the '60s. He still could have used a comb.

Old Dylan
Dylan has become more of a cowboy in his later years.

Purple Bow Tie
Dylan poses in a press photo for his 33rd studio album, Together Through Life.

Dylan and a Six-string
Dylan plays the guitar.

Dylan Rolls
Check out those Beatle boots.

Dylan Going Electric
Dylan strums a Fender Esquire.

Allen Ginsberg
You may recognize this man, writer of the masterpiece Howl, as the man lurking in the back of the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video.

Single cover
Here's the sleeve for "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

Movies & TV

No Direction Home (2005)
Martin Scorsese brilliantly puts together this documentary on the early career of Bob Dylan.

I’m Not There (2008)
Writer/director Todd Haynes gives us Dylan in six parts, each played by a different actor (or actress), in this challenging, audacious film.

Don’t Look Back (1965)
D.A. Pennebaker's original Dylan documentary, detailing his 1965 British concert tour, holds up in today's standards.

Websites

The Official Bob Dylan Site
Dylan's official site is a great resource, with lyrics, media, and news.

Expecting Rain
A daily-updated fan site that deals with everything Dylan.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction
The Rock Hall of Fame gives a brief but pleasant and up-to-date overview of Dylan's decades-long career.

Chronicles Preview
Preview Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles on Google Books!

Video & Audio

"Subterranean Homesick Blues" cover
The Red Hot Chili Peppers cover "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

1965 press conference
Dylan answers the sometimes banal questions of the press with a natural wit.

"Bob"
Weird Al's excellent parody of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," which is sung entirely in palindromes.

Sizzla's Reggae take on "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
The Jamaican dancehall reggae superstar Sizzla Kalonji recently offered up a cover of the Dylan classic, even going so far as to "cover" the iconic music video in a Kingston gully street. We're pretty sure that Bob Dylan never saw this one coming.

"Subterranean Homesick Blues" music video
It isn't really a "music video" per se, but this segment of Don’t Look Back might well serve as an early antecedent to the music video. Look for Allen Ginsberg in the background.