10 August 2008

Dylan Covers

Frank Lynch — friend and namesake, but no relation — keeps an amusing blog called Really Not Worth Archiving. In a recent post, he sorted through the covers of songs by Bob Dylan on his iPod. It sounds like a fun game to play.

Like Frank, I have a playlist of Dylan covers, with a comparable number of songs — he's got 125, I'm at 148.

Frank tallied up the songs that were most covered, and found "I Shall Be Released" at the top of his list. I've gone easy on that one, with only two versions, but here are the songs I have in three or more versions (not counting any of Dylan's own recordings):

  • "All along the Watchtower," 5
  • "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," 4
  • "The Times They Are a Changin'," 4
  • "Just like a Woman," 4
  • "Mr. Tambourine Man," 4 (two of them by the Byrds, another by Roger McGuinn, so the count is inflated)
  • "Don't Think Twice," 3
  • "It Ain't Me Babe," 3
  • "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," 3
  • "When the Ship Comes In," 3
  • "Wicked Messenger," 3
  • "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," 3
No surprises there — they're mostly the greatest hits — except "Wicked Messenger," covered by the Faces, Patti Smith, and the Black Keys.

Frank also lists some off-the-beaten-track recordings. Here's a list of my faves that are little known, or at least little discussed, even among the cognoscenti:
  • "Born in Time," Eric Clapton, from Pilgrim
  • "Changing of the Guards," Patti Smith, from Twelve
  • "Emotionally Yours," the O'Jays, both in the studio recording and in the live version from the 30th Anniversary concert
  • "Gates of Eden," Arlo Guthrie, from Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys
  • "Lay Down Your Weary Tune," Steeleye Span, from The Guv'nor
  • "Like a Rolling Stone," Jimi Hendrix, from Monterey International Pop Festival (everyone knows his "Watchtower," but this one is too often overlooked)
  • "Mississippi," Sheryl Crow, from The Globe Sessions
There are also a few downright oddball recordings that I enjoy:
  • "Come una pietra scalciata," Articolo 31: an Italian hip-hop version of "Like a Rolling Stone"
  • "My Back Pages," the Magokoro Brothers: a caffeinated version of the song in Japanese
  • "Mama You've Been on My Mind/Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie," Jack Johnson
I'll add another category to the awards contest: bonus points for those who picked unexpected Dylan songs for covers, going beyond the obvious hits to find underappreciated gems from the back-catalogue:
  • "As I Went Out One Morning," Mira Bilotte
  • "Changing of the Guards," Patti Smith
  • "Dear Landlord," Janis Joplin
  • "Drifter's Escape," Jimi Hendrix
  • "Foot of Pride," Lou Reed
  • "Ring Them Bells," Sufjan Stevens
  • "Seven Days," Ron Wood
  • "Solid Rock," Sounds of Blackness
  • "Wallflower," David Bromberg
  • "Wedding Song," Maria Muldaur
  • "What Was It You Wanted," Willie Nelson (studio and live)
  • "When You Gonna Wake Up," Lee Williams & the Spiritual QC's
Now I have to check out some of the goodies Frank listed that I haven't heard yet.


Anonymous said...

Add, if Frank hasn't noted it already, Hendrix's cover of Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? (on BBC Sessions), which is quite fine. I disagree about Wicked Messenger being out of the greatest hits, unless you mean literally one of the Greatest Hits albums though I can't think of one with all those but Messenger on it. Despite Hendrix's cover of Watchtower having made that song the most famous on the album, I think Messenger holds the edge. Dear Landlord is underrated too: check out Sandy Denny's cover of that.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is certainly a meme that is worth propagation. I confess I don't know most of the ones you highlighted for extra tension, Jack: so let's bounce this out to as many as we can!

I don't know if any of the online resources offers the BS&T "Down In The Flood," but it occurs to me that it would make sense if I had a back-up repository of my music outside of Brooklyn. NJ would do.

Anonymous said...

I also collect Dylan covers and I'm at 1065 by today, including "Watchtower" 26 times ...

One of the finest hobbies I ever had! ;-)

Jack Lynch said...

Ay dios mio! -- 1065 Dylan covers? I have a few dozen more on CD than I've put on the iPod, but it'll be a while before I hit the 1K mark.