For some reason known but to Pat Garrett and/or Billy the Kid, Rolling Stone is asking “What is Bob Dylan’s worst song?”
“Worst?” you ask. Then again, not all eleventy-hundred known Dylan compositions are as good as “Forever Young” or “Tangled Up in Blue” or especially “Like a Rolling Stone,” so if there are Best Songs, there must be Worst Songs, right?
My first impulse was to name “All the Tired Horses,” the lead-off track from Self-Portrait, which has two lines of words, one line of humming, and almost no actual Dylan presence. But then, this is a track I actually sing along with when it comes up in the rotation, so I can’t very well call it Worst. So I figured I’d go to something unsingable, the endless (8:33) “Hurricane,” Dylan’s 1975 attempt to raise awareness of the case of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, then serving time for a triple murder. Ten years later, Carter was freed; Dylan had been right all along. But the song is a screechy screed, a testimonial to Tom Lehrer’s insistence that “it don’t matter if you put a couple of extra syllables into a line,” containing lines like “We want to put his ass in stir / We want to pin this triple mur- / Der on him / He ain’t no Gentleman Jim.”
And since I’m in a Zimmermanesque mode, here are two reworkings of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” one by the (former) Raving Atheist based on a book by Dawn Eden, and one by Replacer based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Maybe this was Dylan’s best song: it’s not easy to cover, even if you’re as brilliant as “Weird Al” Yankovic, which of course you’re not.
Then there’s “Friday,” best known in its late-2010 recording by Rebecca Black. Dylan is credited as the composer on his own recording (Columbia 45409), which inevitably spawned a cover by the Byrds, who’d been successful with Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and would later record his “My Back Pages.” (Dylan, according to these sources, also wrote Black’s second hit, “My Moment.”)