Considering Sam Fender’s transformation from self-confessed “stoner” to one of the UK’s most successful singer-songwriters, it’s no surprise he developed an affinity with Bob Dylan.
In 2011, Fender was living with his mum in a cramped flat with his mum. Eight years later, his debut album Hypersonic Missiles won him a Brit Award. Brimming with social awareness, the album marked Fender out from his blissfully ignorant contemporaries (Cough cough, Ed Sheeran, Cough cough) while rooting him in a long tradition of songwriters tackling issues of class and culture.
At the start of 1965, Bob Dylan was also in the midst of a transformation. The replacement of jeans and work boots with hip new clothes and cat-eye sunglasses implied that his persona had started to shift. At the same time, his relationship with his audience began to change. The release of Bringin’ It All Back Home was, in a sense, an attempt to deliberately outrage his fanbase and thus reset the clock.
The LP’s opening track, ‘Homesick Subterannean Blues’, was a statement of intent. Recorded with an electric backing band, the 1965 single led many members of the folk fraternity to cut ties with Dylan. Sam Fender was a little more forgiving. Indeed, the singer-songwriter actually named the song as his favourite Dylan track of all time when selecting five songs that shaped his life for Planet Radio.
“I chose this next song because it’s by one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, the man himself Bob Dylan. It was probably the first song by Bob Dylan that I really, really loved. It was also, I hear, one of the first music videos. It’s just Dylan holding up loads of placards in the middle of the street and they’ve all got lyrics on, and he’s just dropping through them and they’re going all over the shop and it’s just a one take.”
Fender continued: “It’s immense. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. And obviously like most of Bob Dylan’s songs back then it’s really bluesy, it’s really rocky, it’s got this proper classic Dylan-esque tongue twister lines y’know that constantly spin.
“The man, he was an MC, man. He’s a lyrical genius. It’s a banger. I supported him at Hyde Park, which is my claim to fame – I opened up for Bob Dylan and Neil Young, which will be the thing I brag about for the rest of my life.”
You can revisit ‘Homesick Subterranean Blues’, along with its masterful video, below.