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Continuing my series of articles on the 30 greatest Bob Dylan songs according to the Daily Telegraph, today I am blogging about the songs which they have placed from 15 to 11.

  • 15 – All Along The Watchtower
  • 14 – Blind Willie McTell
  • 13 – Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)
  • 12 – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
  • 11 – Masters Of War
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Bob Dylan granted his first interview since being awarded the 2016 Nobel prize in literature to Edna Gundersen.

15. All Along The Watchtower (1967)

In my option, this is one of the most perfect songs which Dylan has ever written. I would place “All Along The Watchtower” higher than 15, it is in my top 10 of favourite Dylan songs. Although the version which Jimi Hendrix did is much more famous, I prefer Dylan’s original version. Don’t get me wrong, I  like Hendrix’s version a lot; it is just that the sparsity and simplicity of Dylan’s original is, to me, more profound.

The song leaves just enough to the imagination. Who are the two riders who are approaching? When Dylan wrote the songs for John Wesley Harding, he had been recuperating from his motorcycle crash and doing a lot of reading of the Bible. The album is full of obvious and less obvious Biblical references, and this song is no exception. Many Dylanologists thing the song is about the book of Exodus. Maybe, Dylan has never explained the song, which in some ways adds to its beauty.

It was Jimi Hendrix’s flaming version that turned this into a mystic rock epic but even in the bare bones simplicity of the original it has the inscrutable fascination of an ancient parable. The ending strikes a typically Dylan note of ambiguity, sucking listeners deeper into the song’s mysteries. Who are the two riders approaching in the distance as the wildcat begins to howl?

14. Blind Willie McTell (1991)

This song was recorded by Dylan in 1983 during the sessions for his album Infidels, but was not released until 1991 on one of his Bootleg series of albums. “Blind Willie McTell” is about the blues and ragtime singer Willie McTell, who recorded in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This is a beautiful song, showing wonderfully how brilliant Dylan is at telling a story in his songs.

Dylan dwells on the darkest history of America, conjuring up burning plantations, cracking whips and the ghosts of slavery ships – centuries of injustice that gave voice to the blues. Proving he is no judge of his own material, he dumped this masterpiece from 1983’s Infidels and left it unreleased until 1991.

13. Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) (1978)

As the blurb from the Daily Telegraph says, Dylan’s 1978 album Street Legal may be one of his most underrated albums. It was one of the first Dylan albums which I bought, and in fact the single “Baby, Stop Crying” was a hit in the Disunited Kingdom at a time when I was just becoming aware of Dylan. It got as high as number 13, and received quite a bit of airplay. “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” is another great song on an album which is full of great songs.

Street Legal may be Dylan’s most underrated album, full of lyrically complex songs set to lush arrangements featuring horns and soulful backing vocals, and showcasing Dylan’s singing voice with a strength and suppleness he has rarely equalled. At the centre of this hallucinatory depiction of American imperialism, Dylan strips and kneels before a gypsy with a broken flag and flashing ring who tells him, “Son, this ain’t a dream no more, it’s the real thing”.

12. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (1963)

Is this the ultimate put-down song? Dylan has clearly been jilted by a woman, and has not taken it very well. This 1963 song, written when Dylan was just 21, is the first song on the second side of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Most of the songs on this album are protest songs, but a few are love (or anti-love) songs, including this one. The last line of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is “you just kinda wasted my precious time” is a stinging message on which to end the song. Ouch!

Cynical and world-weary in a way only a 21-year old can be, Dylan’s romantic put down has become a pop standard, covered by hundreds of artists. In a voice that already sounds ancient, he sings of forgiveness for a failed love affair but lands a killer blow like a casual afterthought” “you just kind of wasted my precious time.” That’s gotta hurt.

11. Masters Of War (1963)

Another song from his second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but this one is very much a protest song. In verse after verse, Dylan vents his anger at the machinery which perpetuates the conflicts and wars around the world. And, this was written before the war in Vietnam had escalated, in fact Dylan probably hadn’t even heard of Vietnam in 1963. For a song written by a young 21/22 year old, the lyrics are mature and compelling. Already Dylan’s genius to create a memorable turn of phrase or line were evident.

A relentless, attacking dirge, pouring scorn and contempt on warmongers. It is scary how fully formed Dylan sounds as a scruffy young protest singer newly arrived from the Midwest and ready to hold a mirror up to America’s soul. “I see through your eyes / And I see through your brain / Like I see through the water / That runs down my drain.”

Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (number 12)

The song of these five which I am going to share today is number 12, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. There is a video of it on YouTube which has been up for some 30 months, so hopefully it will stay up a bit longer to allow you to listen to this song. Dylan wrote “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” in 1962, and recorded it in November of 1962. As I said above, it is on his second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but it was also released as a single in August of 1963 (the album was released in May 1963).

As you can see from the lyrics below, Dylan has been rejected by a lover, and he is not happy about it. He clearly wants this woman to ask him to stay, but she has made it clear that she wants him out of his life, so he is going and he isn’t about to look back. “Still I wish there was something’ you would do or say / To try and make me change my mind and stay / We never did too much talkin’ anyway / So don’t think twice, it’s all right.”

But, Dylan saves his ultimate anger for the last few lines “I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind / You could have done better but I don’t mind /You just kinda wasted my precious time /But don’t think twice, it’s all right”. Ouch! This is not a love song, it is an anti-love song; 14 years before he would expose his bleeding heart in his 1976 album Blood On The Tracks.

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don’t matter, anyhow
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road
Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin’ anyway
So don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
Like you never did before
It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
I can’t hear you anymore
I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ all the way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I’m told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

I am not sure how long this link will stay working, so my apologies if it gets removed.

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Today, 8 December, marks the 36th anniversary of John Lennon’s senseless murder in 1980. It is always a poignant time for me; I had heard him on BBC Radio 1 the day before (7 December 1980) telling listeners of the interview which he had just recorded with Andy Peebles. I was full of excitement that my hero was returning to public life; I was too young to remember the time when he had stepped off the treadmill to bring up his son Sean (which he did in 1975).

I woke up the following morning to hear the news that he’d been shot dead outside his home in New York City. I blogged a little about that a year ago. I had already bought his ‘comeback’ album Double Fantasy. One of the most tender songs on this album was this song here, “Beautiful Boy”. After his murder the song’s lyrics became even more poignant.

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Some of the most poignant lines from John Lennon’s 1980 song “Beautiful Boy”. Within a few months of writing this song, he had been murdered.

The lines “life is what happens to you / While you’re busy making other plans” seemed prophetic. And the lines “I can hardly wait / To see you come of age / But I guess we’ll both / Just have to be patient” almost too sad to hear.

How could Sean even begin to understand suddenly losing his father at only 5 years of age? The answer, of course, is that he couldn’t.

Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monster’s gone,
He’s on the run
And your daddy’s here,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day
In every way,
It’s getting better and better,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we’ll both
Just have to be patient,

‘Cause it’s a long way to go,
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go
But in the meantime,

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is what happens to you,
While you’re busy making other plans,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day
In every way,
It’s getting better and better,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Darling, darling,
Darling Sean.

Here is the official video of “Beautiful Boy”, a song which takes on so much additional poignancy after the events of 8 December 1980.

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At number 2 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. People reading this may be wondering why this song is so high in Rolling Stone’s list. The reason is simple, this was the song which saw The Beatles break through in the United States. They went from being unknown there to being the biggest band the country had ever seen in terms of their popularity. Their success in the USA is, more than anything else, what has ensured that they are the biggest selling musical act in history. Ever.

Thus, in terms of impact, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is one of the most important songs that The Beatles ever recorded. Who knows whether they would have been as massive as they became if it were not for this song, we will never know. But, this song catapulted them to superstardom in the USA, and they became the first British band to ever crack the US market.

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At number 2 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

As the text above (taken from Rolling Stone Magazine) says, this song “changed everything”. Previous to this song, The Beatles had singles released in the US, but none had achieved any chart success. Then, in late 1963, they signed to Capitol Records. Maybe due to this switch of record label, maybe the song itself with its upbeat message, maybe the death of John F. Kennedy, maybe some luck, maybe a combination of all or some of these things, but “I Want to Hold Your Hand” captured the youth of America in a way that no song had done since Elvis’ early days.

Based on the chart success of this song, The Beatles arrived in the United States in early February 1964 and appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show to the largest audience that programme has ever seen. As they say, the rest is history…..

Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something
I think you’ll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

Oh please, say to me
You’ll let me be your man
And please, say to me
You’ll let me hold your hand
You let me hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you I feel happy
Inside
It’s such a feeling that my love
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hide

Yeah, you’ve got that something
I think you’ll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you I feel happy
Inside
It’s such a feeling that my love
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hide

Yeah, you’ve got that something
I think you’ll understand
When I feel that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

Unfortunately, I cannot find any Beatles versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on YouTube. If you do not know this song, you can listen to it via one of your favourite music streaming services.

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Continuing my countdown of the 30 greatest Bob Dylan songs according to the Daily Telegraph, today I am blogging about numbers 20 to 16 in their list.

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Bob Dylan granted his first interview since being awarded the 2016 Nobel prize in literature to Edna Gundersen.

From 20 to 16 The Daily Telegraph list is

  • 20 – The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  • 19 – Cold Irons Bound
  • 18 – I Shall Be Released
  • 17 – Shelter From The Storm
  • 16 – Lay, Lady, Lay

20. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (1964)

This is, in my opinion, one of the most incredible ‘true-life’ songs written by anyone, let alone by a man who was only 22 when he wrote it. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” tell the true story of the killing of a maid, Hattie Carroll, by a rich young man by the name of William Zanzinger, in the state of Maryland. The song lays out, in four incredible verses, the whole sorry story of  how this rich, privileged man killed a poor black housemaid, and got a suspended sentence!

Such powerful writing announced Dylan to the world as a major songwriting force, a young man who was capable of putting to verse the most moving and important civil and human rights issues of the day.

William Zanzinger was a wealthy tobacco farmer who drunkenly beat black maid Hattie Carroll to death in 1963, for which he received a suspended six month jail sentence and $500 fine. The young protest singer’s stark demolition of American injustice is driven by righteous anger. The unrepentant Zanzinger was unimpressed, describing Dylan in 2001 as “a no-account son of a bitch, a scum of a scum bag of the earth.”

19. Cold Irons Bound (1997)

This song is from Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind, the same album which contains “Not Dark Yet” and “Make You Feel My Love”.

A corrosive electric blues number, rattling down the tracks like a prison train, with convict Bob chained to the memory of a love gone wrong. In a gnarly voice, Dylan spits out nuggets of hard earned wisdom: “Reality has always had too many heads.”

18. I Shall Be Released (1971)

I first heard this song when I bought the album Bob Dylan’s Greates Hits, Volume II, one of the first Dylan albums that I owned. On Dylan’s version of his own song he duets with Happy Traum, an American folk singer. I like this song a lot, the lyrics are great and the duetng in the chorus with Traum adds a wonderful tone to the song.

Originally recorded by The Band in 1968, Dylan’s own version didn’t emerge until it was included on his Greatest Hits in 1971. A simple song of a prisoner yearning for liberty, it has become a universal anthem for freedom, performed by U2, Johnny Cash, The Byrds, Sting, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Paul Weller and The Who amongst, many, many more.

17. Shelter From The Storm (1975)

The last track on Blood On the Tracks, this song is simply stunning. One of the most beautiful and moving songs Dylan has written, I would put it in my own personal top 20 of favourite Dylan songs. The song’s opening verse again illustrates why Dylan is fully deserving of his Nobel Prize – “’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood / When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud / I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form / “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm””

The song is an aching lament to his estranged wife Sarah Lownes, and is the last heart-wrenching emotional outpouring from a man who has spent the whole album singing about his pain at losing his wife. If you haven’t heard this song you must, it deserves to be listened to over and over again.

“I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form…” Amid the emotional battering of Blood On The Tracks, this long, loping tale of sanctuary offers a moment of peace, even if it too is underpinned by loss and regret. Dylan has said he can’t understand how anyone can listen to his most deeply personal album because “it’s hard for me to relate to people enjoying that type of pain”.

16. Lay, Lady, Lay (1969)

Dylan croons in this catchy song, one of the best to play to anyone who wants to be converted to being a Dylan fan. No one can say that Dylan can’t sing, as he shows in this song; it’s just that often he chooses to deliver songs in a less conventional, more dramatic manner. “Lay, Lady Lay” is full of wonderful sexual innuendo, and is the first track on the second side of his country album Nashville Skyline. This is an album which has grown on me over the years, I love the version of “Girl From The North Country” which he does with Johnny Cash, I blogged about it here. “Lay, Lady Lay” is one of the other highlights on this album.

Delicately backed by a band of country session players, Dylan sings in a rich voice about the object of his desires. This little gem manages the rare trick of being both lusty and deeply romantic, a real working man’s love song. “His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean / And you are the best thing that he’s ever seen.”

Cold Irons Bound (number 19)

The song that I’m going to share in this blogpost is numer 19, “Cold Irons Bound”.

I’m beginning to hear voices and there’s no one around
Well, I’m all used up and the fields have turned brown
I went to church on Sunday and she passed by
My love for her is taking such a long time to die

I’m waist deep, waist deep in the mist
It’s almost like, almost like I don’t exist
I’m twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

The walls of pride are high and wide
Can’t see over to the other side
It’s such a sad thing to see beauty decay
It’s sadder still to feel your heart torn away

One look at you and I’m out of control
Like the universe has swallowed me whole
I’m twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

There’s too many people, too many to recall
I thought some of ’m were friends of mine, I was wrong about ’m all
Well, the road is rocky and the hillside’s mud
Up over my head nothing but clouds of blood

I found my world, found my world in you
But your love just hasn’t proved true
I’m twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound
Twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

Oh, the winds in Chicago have torn me to shreds
Reality has always had too many heads
Some things last longer than you think they will
There are some kind of things you can never kill

It’s you and you only I been thinking about
But you can’t see in and it’s hard lookin’ out
I’m twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

Well the fat’s in the fire and the water’s in the tank
The whiskey’s in the jar and the money’s in the bank
I tried to love and protect you because I cared
I’m gonna remember forever the joy that we shared

Looking at you and I’m on my bended knee
You have no idea what you do to me
I’m twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound
Twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

One of the reasons for choosing this song is because it is the only song of these five which is on Dylan’s official VEVO channel, and therefore won’t get removed. Enjoy!

Which song of these five is your favourite?

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At number 3 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Strawberry Fields Forever”. This John Lennon song was recorded in late 1966, and released as a double-A sided single along with Paul McCartney’s “Penny Lane” in February 1967. Remarkably, “Strawberry Fields Forever” failed to get to number 1 in the Disunited Kingdom, kept from the top slot by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me”. In my mind, this is one  of the best (worst?) examples  of a timeless song, a song which must be one of the best songs ever written, being kept from the top spot by a forgettable song which very few people would rate in their top 10,000 (rant over!)

“Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of my favourite Beatles songs, bar none; it is simply magnificent. In fact, words fail me to even begin to express how wonderful this song is. It is pure Lennon genius, one of the reasons he is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music.

To say that this song is innovative would be an understatement. Apart from all the backwards tapes, speeded up horn sections, and other amazing psychedelic stuff, George Martin, The Beatles’ producer, had to splice together two versions sung at different tempos. This necessitated his speeding up one section and slowing the other down, to get them to match. Easily done today with computers, but it required hours (days)of work by Martin in the days of 4-track tape. It nearly drove him to despair; Lennon just assumed it would be easy for him. Notice, in the text in the screen capture (from Rolling Stone Magazine), that the song took some 8 days to record! This was unprecedented at the time.

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At number 3 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Strawberry Fields Forever”

“Strawberry Fields” is about a place behind Lennon’s childhood home, where he would go and play, Strawberry Field (no “s”). If you go on The Beatles tour of Liverpool, you can stop outside the gates to this place and see where he would disappear to dream and play, either on his own or with friends. It was his happy place, his place to escape, his Shangri-La. “Living is easy with eyes closed / Misunderstanding all you see / It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out / It doesn’t matter much to me.”

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
Let me take you down, cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right
That is I think it’s not too bad
Let me take you down, cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

Always, no sometimes, think it’s me
But you know I know when it’s a dream
I think I know I mean a “Yes” but it’s all wrong
That is I think I disagree

Let me take you down, cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever
Strawberry Fields forever
Strawberry Fields forever

Cranberry sauce

Here is the official Beatles’ video of “Strawberry Fields Forever”. On the plus side, as this is on their official YouTube channel, the link is not going to disappear. But, unfortunately it is only part of the song. The video gives a prelude of some of the psychedelic video techniques they would use in their movie Magical Mystery Tour, which came out in December of the same year. If you want to listen to the full song, you can listen to it on e.g. Spotify by following this link.

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Continuing my blogposts about the Daily Telegraph’s list of the 30 best Bob Dylan songs, here are 25 to 21 in their list. Once again, I have put the text which appeared in the Daily Telegraph in block quotes, the other stuff written about each song is by me.

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Bob Dylan granted his first interview since being awarded the 2016 Nobel prize in literature to Edna Gundersen.

  • 25 – Every Grain Of Sand
  • 24 – Just Like A Woman
  • 23 – Make You Feel My Love
  • 22 – Isis
  • 21 – Ain’t Talkin’

25. Every Grain Of Sand (1981)

For me, “Every Grain Of Sand” is far and away the best song of Dylan’s ‘Christian period’ (1979-1981). It is the last track on his 1981 album Shot Of Love, and is less bombastic and preachy than most of his Christian songs. The lyrics are sublime, the harmonica playing is majestic. It is one of my favourite Dylan songs, and I would place it higher than 25 in my personal list of the greatest Dylan songs.

The outstanding song of Dylan’s early-Eighties born again Christian phase achieves a stark, hymnal rapture. Riding on a gentle guitar arpeggio, Dylan detects the hand of God in everything, with a lyric worthy of William Blake at his most mystical.

24. Just Like A Woman (1966)

One of the most beautiful Dylan love songs, “Just Like A Woman” sets hauntingly beautiful lyrics against a wonderful waltz rhythm. If you want to convert people to Dylan, this is a good song to play them. It shows Dylan’s ability as not just a lyricist, but also as someone who can write a haunting melody too. It was recorded in March 1966, and released as a single in August of the same year. It is also the last track on the 2nd side of his seminal double album Blonde On Blonde.

Said to have been inspired by a brief encounter with tragic Andy Warhol starlet Edie Sedgwick, Dylan’s delicate waltz concocts a lyrical spider’s web equal parts cynical put down and heart-rendering desire. It even features a rare and perfect middle eight, a songwriting device Dylan once claimed he had no use for.

23. Make You Feel My Love (1997)

The song made famous by Adele, but for me Dylan’s original version is better. Don’t get me wrong, I like Adele’s version, it is wonderful. But, Dylan’s version has, for me, so much more depth and authenticity to it. Such lyrics seem to mean far more coming from an older person in their 50s than from a young lady of just 19. The lyrics to this song are beautiful, a wonderful example of why Dylan is completely worthy of a Nobel prize in literature.

An artist celebrated for his depth and complexity, Dylan also has a gift for beautiful simplicity. This ballad of loving devotion became a 21st-century karaoke favourite via Adele’s soulful 2008 cover. The corny sentiment is brought into focus by elemental imagery dovetailing perfectly with an elegant melody in a gorgeous falling cadence. It features another rare Dylan bridge.

22. Isis (1976)

“Isis” is the second track on Dylan’s 1976 album Desire. I love this album, I think if it hadn’t come out after Blood On The Tracks, it would be more highly thought of, but it lives in the shadow of that 1975 masterpiece. “Isis”, co-written with Jaques Levy, is a wonderful song full of fantastic imagery. To my mind, there aren’t any weak songs on Desire, but this song is one  of the highlights of a great album.

Co-written with theatre director Jaques Levy, Isis is a rattling narrative epic of myth and marriage, composed with the melodramatic flourish of Rudyard Kipling and delivered by Dylan over a pounding piano with grandstanding relish: “The wind it was howling and the snow was outrageous!”

21. Ain’t Talkin’ (2006)

“Aint Talkin'” appears on Dylan’s 2006 album Modern Times. It is the last track on the album, and opens with a haunting fiddle and piano. The song was recorded in April 2006, and is the  longest track on the album, at nearly 9 minutes. The opening lines grab the attention straight away – “As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden / The wounded flowers were dangling from the vines / I was passing by yon cool and crystal fountain / Someone hit me from behind.”. Where is this song going? It unfolds over the next 9 minutes, it is a beautiful song and one of my favourites on Modern Times.

During almost 9-minutes of restless yearning over a silky weave of fiddle, piano, picked guitars and percussion, the ageing bard cast himself as eternal pilgrim on an endless and bloody journey of spiritual hunger. “I practice a faith that’s been long abandoned / Ain’t no altars on this long and lonesome road.”

Just Like a Woman (number 24)

Of the songs from 25 to 21, today I am going to share this very interesting version of “Just Like a Woman”. Interesting in that it is the first take of the song; Dylan even tells the recording engineer the name of the song before he starts playing, and its name at this early stage is “Like a Woman”, not the title he finally gave it. For anyone familiar with the version on his seminal 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, you will notice quite a few differences in the lyrics in this first take of the song.

“Just Like a Woman” was recorded in March 1966 and released as a single in August of the same year. It is also on his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. It peaked at number 33 in the US singles charts. In the Disunited Kingdom a version was released by Manfred Mann in late July 1966 (before the US release of Dylan’s original version!) which got to number 10 in the singles charts. The lyrics that I have included below are the lyrics of the version on Blonde on Blonde, so see if you can spot where this first take differs from those lyrics.

Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev’rybody knows
That Baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

Queen Mary, she’s my friend
Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess
That Baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse
Is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here
Ain’t it clear that—

I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl

According to his website, Dylan first performed “Just Like a Woman” in April 1966, before it had been released. In fact, if you listen to the radio programme about the Judas heckle, you will hear C.P. Lee saying that Dylan performed this song at that famous concert in Manchester in May 1966 (you can also hear it on the recording of that concert, which was released in 1997 as the CD Bob Dylan Live 1966 (subtitled the ‘Royal Albert Hall’ concert, even though it was actually at the Manchester Free Trade Hall).

Dylan’s most recent performance of the song was in November 2010, and he has performed it a remarkable 871 times at the time of my writing this blogpost.

Here is a video of this fabulous song. If the video will not play on your device (a message I kept getting when I tried to play it in the preview to this blogpost), then here is the link to the video. Because it is on Dylan’s official VEVO site, it should not disappear like most of his videos put on YouTube.

Enjoy!

Of the songs from 25 to 21, which is your favourite?

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At number 4 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Yesterday”. This Paul McCartney ballad, recorded in 1965, has gone on to become the most recorded song in history, with thousands of versions in existence. “Yesterday” was never released as a single in the Disunited Kingdom during the time that The Beatles were together (it was later released in the mid-1970s). It features on their album Help as the penultimate track on the second side (in the DUK release of the album). In the USA, “Yesterday” was released as a single in September 1965 and got to number 1 in the US singles charts.

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At number 4 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Yesterday”

The story of the composition of “Yesterday” is, by now, well documented. Apparently McCartney woke up one morning with this tune in his head, and when he played it to the other band members he felt sure that they would recognise it, feeling that it was not an original tune but rather a tune which was in his head from hearing it somewhere. It turned out that it was an original tune, which had somehow come to him during his sleep.

For quite a while, McCartney used the words “scrambled eggs” to stand in for the lyrics that he would eventually write, as he doodled, developed and played around with the song. Some of this was during the period that The Beatles were filming Help!, with Dick Lester directing the movie. Apparently, at one point Lester got so annoyed at hearing McCartney doodling on the piano at the back of the sound stage and humming the words “scrambled eggs” that he said to him “If you play that song any bloody longer I’ll have the piano taken off stage. Either finish it or give it up!”

When “Yesterday” was recorded, none of the other Beatles was present in the recording studio, just McCartney and a string quartet. When The Beatles played “Yesterday” in concerts, the other band members would usually leave the stage and leave McCartney to perform it on his own on his acoustic guitar. It was the closest thing to a solo McCartney song that The Beatles ever did.

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be.
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play.
Now I need a place to hide away.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play.
Now I need a place to hide away.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Mm mm mm mm mm mm mm

There has been considerable discussion as to whether McCartney is referring to his mother, who died when he was 14, in the line “Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say”, even McCartney himself has said that it may have unconsciously been about her. The song is sufficiently vague that it has universal appeal; there is not one of us who does not long, at some point, to go back to a simpler time for some reason or another.

Here is  video of this most recorded song. I have no idea how long this link will stay active, so if it stops working my apologies. Enjoy!

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