Positively 4th Street

Positively 4th Street

Infobox Single
Name = Positively 4th Street

Artist = Bob Dylan
B-side = "From a Buick 6"
Released = September 1965
Format = 7"
Recorded = July 29, 1965
Genre = Rock
Length = 3:54
Label = Columbia 43389
Producer = Bob Johnston
Chart position = * #7 (US Billboard Hot 100)
* #8 (UK Singles Chart)
* #6 (Canada CHUM Chart)
Last single = "Like a Rolling Stone"
This single = "Positively 4th Street"
Next single = "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?"
(1965)Extra tracklisting
Album = Biograph
Type = compilation
prev_track = "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?"
prev_no = 14 of disc 2
this_track = "Positively 4th Street"
track_no = 15 of disc 2
next_track = "Isis"
next_no = 16 of disc 2

"Positively 4th Street" is a song written and performed by Bob Dylan, first recorded by Dylan in New York City on July 29, 1965. Released as Columbia Records single 43389 during September of the same year, it reached #7 on the U.S. charts and #8 on the U.K. charts. The magazine "Rolling Stone" ranked the song as number 203 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time [cite web|title=Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time|url=http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/500songs/page/3|accessdate=2008-08-08]

Recording sessions & release

"Positively 4th Street" was recorded July 29, 1965 during the same sessions that produced most of the material that appeared on Dylan's 1965 album, "Highway 61 Revisited". The song was the last to be attempted that day, with Dylan and a variety of session musicians having successfully recorded master takes of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and "Tombstone Blues" earlier. The band for "Positively 4th Street" featured Robert Gregg (drums), Russ Savakus (bass), Frank Owens (piano), Al Kooper (organ) and Mike Bloomfield (guitar), with the song appearing as "Black Dalli Rue" on the studio's official recording sheets.

Though recorded at the "Highway 61" sessions, the song was saved for single-only release, eventually charting in the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic. Critic Dave Marsh praised it as "an icy hipster bitch session" with "Dylan cutting loose his barbed-wire tongue at somebody luckless enough to have crossed the path of his desires." The song later appeared on the compilations "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits", "Biograph", and "The Essential Bob Dylan".

It was also used in director Todd Haynes' 2007 film, "I'm Not There".


The lyrics of "Positively 4th Street" are bitter and derisive, which caused many at the time of the song's release to draw comparison with Dylan's similarly toned previous single "Like a Rolling Stone" (indeed, journalist Andy Gill described it as "simply the second wind of a one-sided argument, so closely did it follow its predecessor's formula, both musically and attitudinally").

There is uncertainty about exactly which "4th Street" the title refers to, with many scholars and fans speculating it refers to more than one Fact|date=October 2007. New York City's 4th Street is at the heart of the Manhattan residential district Greenwich Village, where Dylan once lived. This area was central to the burgeoning folk music scene of the early 1960s around Dylan and many other influential singer-songwriters. However, the song also may concern Dylan's stay at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where 4th Street S.E. is one of the two main roads crossing through the part of campus known as Dinkytown, where Dylan lived and performed.

The song is generally assumed to ridicule Greenwich Village residents who criticized Dylan for his departure from traditional folk styles towards the electric guitar and rock music. Many of them who had been good friends took offence, and assumed that the song carried personal references. Noted Village figure Izzy Young, who ran the Folklore Center, had this to say of the accusation:

"At least five hundred came into my place [the Folklore Center] ... and asked if it was about me. I don't know if it was, but it was unfair. I'm in the Village twenty-five years now. I was one of the representatives of the Village, there is such a thing as the Village. Dave Van Ronk was still in the Village. Dylan comes in and takes from us, uses my resources, then he leaves and he gets bitter. He writes a bitter song. He was the one who left."

Other possible targets of the song's derision are: Irwin Silber, editor of "Sing Out!" magazine and a critic of Dylan's move away from traditional folk styles; Tom Paxton, who had criticized the emerging folk rock scene at the time by basically describing the scene as putting style over substance, and he criticized the general popular shift to folk rock in a "Sing Out!" magazine article from autumn of 1965 entitled "Folk Rot" (though Dylan wrote and recorded "Positively 4th Street" months before the "Folk Rot" article even came out in "Sing Out!" magazine); Phil Ochs was also claimed to be a possible target in Michael Schumacher's book "There For Fortune: The Life Of Phil Ochs", after Dylan got angry at Ochs for his criticism of the song "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?", which supposedly prompted Dylan to throw Ochs out of his limousine (though Dylan wrote and recorded "Positively 4th Street" months before this incident occurred in September of 1965); Dylan's ex-girlfriend Suze Rotolo; and Richard Fariña (as reported by a counterculture insider in the 1960s, but like the other speculations, unverified). In the book "Dylan - Visions, Portraits, and Back Pages", compiled by the writers of the UK's Mojo magazine, there is some speculation that this song, as well as a general trend in much of Dylan's writing of the time, is due to his experiences with LSD. His feelings on this were that "LSD is not for groovy people: it's for mad, hateful people who want revenge", which then corresponds with a derisive, attacking tone in the songs on Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, and indeed in the harsh and powerful mess of Dylan's electric sound. Others have viewed "Positively 4th Street" and "Like a Rolling Stone" to have been directed at Edie Sedgwick and her association with Andy Warhol, though this seems very unlikely as Dylan recorded this song before his involvement with Sedgwick had turned sour.

David Hajdu took the title of the song for his 2002 book, "".

Musical structure

The song, like most of Dylan's, is composed of a simple chordal and melodic structure; the verse has a I-ii-IV progression followed by a I-V-IV-Vi-V. While the lyrics are distinctly negative, the organ-dominated backing music is major and almost care-free. This contrast heightens the ridicule and mockery of the lyrics.

Cover Versions

Johnny Rivers was probably the first to cover this song, using this as his album closing track on "Realization" in 1968.

The song was also covered by The Beatles in the Let It Be sessions. During the creatively bleak spots in the Let It Be sessions George Harrison would often contribute a Dylan cover to lighten the mood.

The Byrds covered this song in 1970 on their (Untitled) album.

ANTiSEEN covered this song on their 1989 LP, "Noise for the Sake of Noise".

Lucinda Williams contributed a cover of the song for the live compilation album "In Their Own Words, Vol. 1" in 1994.

Charly García covered this song on his 1995 album, Estaba en llamas Cuando me Acosté

Stereophonics covered this song on their 1999 EP, "Pick a Part That's New".

Violent Femmes covered this song on their 2000 album, "Freak Magnet".

Simply Red covered the song on their 2003 album, "Home".

Larry Norman released a version of the song (with slightly altered lyrics) on the 2003 album "Rock, Scissors et Papier".

Bryan Ferry covered this song on his 2007 album, "Dylanesque".

The Jerry Garcia Band covered this song during live performances.

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