Bob Dylan just released the 12th entry in his long-running Bootleg Series, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966. It's a mammoth collection of alternate takes, demos, and experiments created while Dylan was recording his classic LPs Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, and serious fans can spend days rifling through every scrap of sound and abandoned lyric. (The limited collector's edition of the compilation spans a whopping 18 discs.) For the majority of fans who fall somewhere between "obsessive" and "uninterested," Sony and production company Studio 6 have created Studio A Revisited, a hub where people can explore Dylan's time in the studio and take a crack at mixing one of his most popular songs.
Studio A Revisited currently includes two interactive portals. (A third, "Singing Session," is "coming soon.") In "Jam Session," fans can play with the four stems that make up "Like a Rolling Stone" — there's one each for vocals and rhythm guitar, lead guitar, piano and bass, and drums and organ — and try their hands at mixing the song themselves. If you want to hear an instrumental version of the song, that's your call; if you want to hear Dylan accompanied by just a rhythm part, drums, and organ, you can do that too.
Once you pick a few stems and hit play, the site will generate a unique visualization and facts specific to the stems you picked, and you can tweak the volume of each stem while the song's playing with a bunch of color-coded sliders. I wish I could've picked from a selection of different stems in each category — imagine getting to select from a half-dozen different vocal takes or guitar lines — but I still had fun playing with the mix on a basic level.
The "Listening Session" area isn't quite as interactive, but it still offers an interesting window into Dylan's time at Studio A. You can click along a timeline and read about alternate takes of songs like "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Visions of Johanna," and "Like a Rolling Stone," and in some cases the alternate versions are radical transformations of the songs Dylan eventually released. The experience is augmented by sound effects ripped from a virtual studio — spinning tapes, idle chatter — and tight integration with services like Spotify.
You probably need to reach a certain base level of Dylan fandom to find value in Studio A Revisited, of course — neophytes aren't going to care about the relative volume of the lead guitar on "She Belongs to Me" or the weather in New York during the spring of 1965. (It was "quite cool and pleasant," for the record.) If you've spent some time with the standard versions of the songs mentioned above, I think it's worth checking out. It'll encourage you to look at the work that went into "Like a Rolling Stone" and its counterparts in a new light.