It was an evening in September 1965, “Positively 4th Street” was riding high on the charts and I was sitting in my bedroom, pretending to do my homework, when the phone rang. A friend from school was on the line, saying excitedly, “Listen to this: they announced ‘Positively 4th Street,’ but it’s not – it’s some song about crawling out a window!” Then he put the phone to his radio speaker so I could hear it.
Sometime before the end of the year, the Bob Dylan single “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” finally appeared at my local record store. I bought it on the spot. I knew it wasn’t the version I heard over the phone a few months before; instead, it had this crazy intro and this stop after each verse. At the very end Dylan even quoted the first line of “Positively 4th Street” as if the whole thing was a joke, but I didn’t care. It was a new Bob Dylan single and I gave it plenty of play while trying to figure out who the genocide fools and friends were and wondered what were the Littleton women?
Sometime later it would be revealed that this song ended Dylan’s friendship with Phil Ochs, (for a while anyway), and much, much later it would be revealed that the musicians on the track were The Hawks with Bobby Gregg – the drummer on Highway 61 Revisited. Even later than that, a friend would discover that it might have been one of Dylan’s first religious songs, though many would argue the subject. Still, those few notes Robbie Robertson plays between each verse at the end are pretty damn explosive.
As for the song I heard on the radio over the phone that night, I wouldn’t hear it again until about five years later, on a bootleg called Stealin’.