Six pages of lyrics written in Bob Dylan's hand have been auctioned at Sotheby's in New York.
They include a rough draft of the original lyrics to his landmark 1965 song Like a Rolling Stone, which sold on Tuesday for just over $2m. As a piece of memorabilia, it falls outside most fans' price range, but the auction has given us all an opportunity to examine a sliver of musical history.
Written in pencil on four sheets of stationery from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, DC, the manuscript provides a glimpse of the song as a work in progress.
The familiar opening verse is there, complete, scrawled at the top of page one: "Once upon a time, you dressed so fine/ Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?"
But the margins are littered with optional couplets ("rolling in the clover, with a nasty hangover"; "stranded on the shore, a hundred or more") that might have been slotted in as subsequent verses, had the author not ultimately decided to take the "You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat" route.
There is also a hint that Dylan was not, at this juncture, entirely comfortable with the idea of repeating the line "How does it feel?". There are lots of rhyming alternatives scribbled down, including: "Does it feel real?"; "Get down and kneel"; "Shut up and deal" and even "Behind the wheel". He repeatedly tries to work the phrase "like a dog without a bone" into the chorus.
For the most part, the rejected options – including the tantalising possibility of rhyming "rolling stone" with "Al Capone" – lie in the margins, with a fairly recognisable version of the song running down the centre of the page. This could suggest that Dylan is simply trying to convince himself his lyrics are sound by exhausting the alternatives – but who knows? He also drew a nice picture of a hat, and one of a chicken, at the bottom of one page, which may indicate that his concentration was starting to desert him.
Apparently, even this version was boiled down from a previous 10-page rant, but if the editing process was an arduous one, Dylan certainly made the right choices. Nothing in the margins is better than what he ended up with. Still, it gives you an idea of what a very different song Like a Rolling Stone could have been.
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