Dylan has also stated that when he attended the University of Minnesota in 1959, he fell under the influence of the Beat scene: "It was Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso andFerlinghetti." Kerouac's The Subterraneans, a novel published in 1958 about the Beats, has been suggested as a possible inspiration for the song's title.
The song's first line is a reference to codeine distillation and the politics of the time: "Johnny's in the basement mixing up the medicine / I'm on the pavement thinkin' about the government". The song also depicts some of the growing conflicts between "straights" or "squares" and the emerging counterculture of the 1960s. The widespread use of recreational drugs and turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War were both starting to take hold of the nation, and Dylan's hyperkinetic lyrics were dense with up-to-the-minute allusions to important emerging elements in the 1960s youth culture. According to rock journalist Andy Gill, "an entire generation recognized the zeitgeist in the verbal whirlwind of 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'."
Fifty years ago was an auspicious time in popular music.
In 1964, the Beatles appeared on Billboard’s charts for the first time, the Rolling Stones released their first album, the Supremes had five No. 1 hits and Simon and Garfunkel debuted with “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.”
The 50-year milestone is significant, because music published within the first half-century of its recording gets another 20 years of copyright protection under changes in European law.
So every year since 2012, studios go through their tape vaults to find unpublished music to get it on the market before the deadline.
That’s how we came to get outtakes of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Beach Boys in recent years.
This year, Sony is releasing a limited-edition nine-LP set of 1964 recordings by Mr. Dylan, including a 46-second try at “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which he would not complete until 1965.
The Beach Boys released two copyright-extension sets of outtakes last week.
There’s no official word on a Beatles release, but last year around this time, “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” turned up unannounced on iTunes.