It was today in 1965 that the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was released in the United States, becoming his very first top 40 tune stateside. But it was the inventive way that the song was presented in the opening of the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Don’t Look Back that has truly kept the song alive.
The original clip, seen above, was the perfect opening for Pennebaker’s doc on the enigmatic young musician, replete with beat poet Alan Ginsberg standing nonchalantly in the left hand side of the frame.
It’s doubtful that Dylan and Pennebaker knew what an iconic film they would be producing at the time, or that they were well on their way to creating a new form of music entertainment…the music video.
Let’s take a look at some of the other songs that have found direct inspiration from Pennebaker’s vision of Subterranean Homesick Blues.
The late Michael Hutchence and INXS brought the iconic concept into the 80’s with the music video for their 1987 hit “Mediate” (replete with a cued sax solo).
Weird Al Yankovic- “Bob”
Master parodist Weird Al Yankovic took the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card concept to send up Dylan in a pallandromic exercise entitled simply “Bob.”
Tim Robbins (from Bob Roberts)- “Wall Street Rap”
Cue card shuffling once again returned to the cinema in the 1992 political satire Bob Roberts, where Tim Robbins, as the title character, has a few problems with the cards until a manageable solution is reached.
Bloodhound Gang- “Mope”
Bloodhound Gang took the cue cards to the digital realm in their slightly raunchy 2000 ode to a cornucopia of pop culture, “Mope.”
Steve Earle- “Jerusalem”
Country artist Steve Earle not only employed the cue cards for his video for 2002’s “Jerusalem,” but he also came through with harmonica and a folksy vocal which lend a nod to Dylan.
The Flaming Lips-At War With The Mystics (promo clip)
The Flaming Lips parodied the clip in a UK commercial promoting their 2006 CD release At War With The Mystics. The clip utilizes their “The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah Song” from the CD.
Google Instant with Bob Dylan
Our final stop on our look at the long lasting influence of Dylan and Pennebaker’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” comes via Google, who took the concept to the highest level as a way of promoting Google Instant back in 2010.