The moment The Replacements butchered ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ in front of Bob Dylan
When The Replacements decided to play around in the studio and record a parody cover of Bob Dylan’s timeless ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, not only did they decide to joke at the great bohemian songwriter’s expense by comically renaming the song to ‘Like A Rolling Pin’, but they were also somehow completely unaware that the man himself was watching them butcher his hit.
It’s safe to say that The Replacements’ take on the Dylan classic lacked the beauty and intricacy which bled out of every pore of Dylan’s original. The parody aspect is one that also doesn’t have anywhere enough humour to raise a wry smile out of Dylan and, in truth, is just a bit lacklustre. Record producer Scott Litt, who had produced with the likes of Nirvana, R.E.M. as well as later acting as an engineer with Dylan on 2012’s Tempest, remembered the incident all too well. Whilst talking about that Dylan record, he couldn’t help himself from letting the cat out of the bag on the embarrassing moment he was working with The Replacements on their butchering of Dylan’s classic.
The incident in question had occurred a few decades before, a time when Litt was producing a record by The Replacements and, unsurprisingly, ‘Like A Rolling Pin’ wouldn’t make the cut for the record. When they were working on the track in the studio, of all the moments that Bob Dylan chose to make his entrance he picked this one. He was working on his own record nearby and decided to take a break to come to see what the fuss was with The Replacements, who he would be less than impressed with.
Litt recalled the incident to the New Yorker in 2012, remembering the moment Dylan walked in the studio looking inconspicuous in a hoodie and lead singer Paul Westerberg failed to realise who had just abruptly entered the studio, which didn’t put The Replacements leader off his stride. Litt, however, did realise who it was but, for whatever reason, decided it would be best not to alert the singer who continued with his disastrous parody. When the longest few minutes of Litt’s life finally finished, Dylan asked: “You guys rehearse much?” then went on with his day.
“I didn’t bring that up when Bob and I were working together,” Litt said. “He was in his Venice studio, surrounded by his recording equipment, much of it, such as the vintage Neve console, all but obsolete, in a ProTools world,” he added.
The song would eventually feature on the group’s compilation record Nothing For All in 1997 and, around the time of its release, the story of Dylan entering the studio being first confirmed by Warner’s A&R executive Michael Hill. He was the man who signed the band and was there for this hilarious encounter with Dylan which he recounted to MTV in 1997.
“It’s a really fun and wild song that’s probably the best picture of the ‘Mats at a particularly low point in their recording history,” said Hill about the parody cover. “Bob Dylan was in the next studio, which is why they did it,” Hill said to MTV all the way back in 1997 which legitimised the story even further. “Paul had his back turned and Dylan walked in in the middle of the song and heard the whole thing. Nobody wanted to tell Paul to stop because it probably would have been more embarrassing if he’d known.”
The whole story feels too unbelievable to be real and, unsurprisingly, Paul Westerberg has never commented on the shameful incident which likely still makes him shudder still all these years later. Although the cover isn’t the finest moment in the history of The Replacements — and is certainly not among the great Dylan covers — the story attached to ‘Like A Rolling Pin’ is unrivalled.