Like many of Dylan’s characters, the question of the identity of Queen Jane has never been answered. Preeminent Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin hypothesizes that Queen Jane might be the ultimate icon of ‘60’s scene: Andy Warhol. At the time of the album’s release, reporter Nora Ephron questioned Dylan about the identity of the eponymous character, to which Dylan responded: “Queen Jane is man.” While Dylan could have been playing coy, he could also have been confirming what Heylin believes is hidden amongst the lyrics of the tune: “When … you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations,” “When all the clowns that you have commissioned,” “When all your advisers heave their plastic,” and so on. The competition between Dylan and Warhol was widely publicized, possibly born from their concurrent relationships with Edie Sedgwick or perhaps just a natural result of two rival tastemakers. Another theory sees Joan Baez as the Queen, as in the words of author Mark Polizzotti: "It is hard not to see shades of Joan, Queen of Folk-- Jane, approximately-- behind this portrait."
In keeping with the musicality of the other eight songs on Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan had a virtuoso electric band back him up in the studio. Unfortunately, the result was not to the liking of all of Dylan’s devotees. Even with Mike Bloomfield on guitar and Al Kooper on organ, the original release of the song is noticeably out of tune, although as Heylin notes, the mono release is “less painful.” Perhaps the unintentional dissonance is what kept Dylan from performing “Queen Jane Approximately” live for so long, or maybe Dylan was incited to compose the lyrics by a vengeful wave that eventually ebbed away. Whatever the case, as compared to the other songs on Highway 61 Revisited, “Queen Jane Approximately” has what Polizzotti calls “a touch of sympathy and even comfort in place of relentless mockery,” and has only gained in popularity since its initial release.
Like the preceding lot, the present manuscript was used in the Studio A of Columbia Records by either Dylan or a member of the studio band during the recording sessions. The verso of this lyric includes a portion of the lyrics from The Kingston Trio’s Christmas tune “Last Month of the Year,” and was probably a loose sheet from a quarterly folk magazine, such as Sing Out! or Broadside, that Dylan found lying about. A testament to the practical nature of the manuscript, Dylan uses shorthand to capture the repeating lines. After verse one Dylan has written in longform: “[Won’t you come and see me Queen Jane?]”, but in the remaining four verses he jots down, “[Won’t you ---------------- -2].” However, the edits represent real revisions to the lyrics and the numbering of the stanzas, small doodle on the righthand side of the page, and the song title at the conclusion give the impression that Dylan took his time when writing out this manuscript. Dylan also took his time when recording the song. “Queen Jane Approximately” required seven takes altogether, more than any other on the record save the titular “Highway 61 Revisited,” which Dylan has remarked was the hardest song he has ever had to record.
Sotheby’s has recently achieved record prices for Dylan manuscripts, which are uncommon on the market.
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