Posts Tagged ‘Music’

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.


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.


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

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As I mentioned in this blogpost here, last Friday (4 November) I went to see Paul Simon playing live in Cardiff. It was a wonderful concert; I found Paul Simon totally mesmerising. He is very small. I knew that already, but it strikes you when you see him on stage. He was also very very charming, chatting to the audience, and he was very funny.

His set included a great mix of some songs from his new album Stranger to Stranger (which is well worth getting, I have been listening to it a lot over the last few weeks), but also songs from Graceland, Rhythm of the Saints, other solo albums and some Simon & Garfunkel songs too. He finished with “Graceland”“The Boxer” and “The Sound of Silence” in his final encore. To see the man who wrote “The Sound of Silence” singing it live and standing only about 10 metres away was a truly moving experience.


I took this very blurry photograph of Paul Simon performing “The Sound of Silence” as his final song in the concert.

I had been listening to quite a bit of Paul Simon music in the lead-up to the concert, and so all the songs that he played were songs that I had recently listened to. Except for one, his 1972 song “Duncan”. For some reason, even though I know this song and have it on one of his Greatest Hits albums (a vinyl Greatest Hits album), I did not have it on my phone, so had not heard it in many years. It is a remarkable song, so indicative of Simon’s wonderful song-writing skills. The opening lines “Couple in the next room / Bound to win a prize / They’ve been going at it all night long” are just wonderful. Simon grabs your interest straight away with those lines, and gives us something with which we can relate. We have all stayed in a cheap hotel or motel room with those paper-thin walls.


“Duncan” is on Paul Simon’s 1972 solo album called Paul Simon. It was released as a single in July 1972.

“Duncan” was released as a single in July 1972, it was the third single to be released from his second solo album Paul Simon. It only got to number 52 in the US singles charts, not very high for someone who had many number ones with Art Garfunkel. But, I think the stature of this song has grown over the years, it is a beautiful example of Simon’s skills in writing a narrative. The song also includes some Andean flute playing, again a nice illustration of Simon’s love of bringing in musical influences from all over the world into his songs.

Couple in the next room
Bound to win a prize
They’ve been going at it all night long
Well, I’m trying to get some sleep
But these motel walls are cheap
Lincoln Duncan is my name
And here’s my song, here’s my song

My father was a fisherman
My mama was the fisherman’s friend
And I was born in the boredom
And the chowder
So when I reached my prime
I left my home in the Maritimes
Headed down the turnpike for
New England, sweet New England

Holes in my confidence
Holes in the knees of my jeans
I was left without a penny in my pocket
Oo-we, I was about destituted
As a kid could be
And I wished I wore a ring
So I could hock, I’d like to hock it.

A young girl in a parking lot
Was preaching to a crowd
Singing sacred songs and reading
From the Bible
Well, I told her I was lost
And she told me all about the Pentecost
And I seen that girl as the road
To my survival

Just later on the very same night
I crept to her tent with a flashlight
And my long years of innocence ended
Well, she took me to the woods
Saying here comes something and it feels so good
And just like a dog I was befriended
I was befriended

Oh, oh, what a night
Oh, what a garden of delight
Even now that sweet memory lingers
I was playing my guitar
Lying underneath the stars
Just thanking the Lord
For my fingers
For my fingers

Here is a recording that I made of “Duncan” from last Friday’s concert. The audio quality is not great, but you get an idea of the atmosphere in the concert. Enjoy!

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On Monday I blogged about the death of David Bowie, who died on Sunday (10th of January) of liver cancer at the age of 69. I wanted to put something up quickly, so that blog I wrote on Monday was written within 15-20 minutes of hearing the news of his death. I actually heard it breaking at 7am Greenwich Mean Time, I had been listening to the radio since about 6am.


Now I have had a few days to collect my thoughts, I have decided I will do a more detailed and complete blogpost about his death. In fact, this will be a two-part blog, on the 26th I will do a part 2, as I need to get back home to Cardiff to access something about Bowie which I want to share in the second part.

When the news broke of his death I was overcome with a profound sadness, the most sad I have felt about the death of a singer or celebrity since the tragic killing of John Lennon in 1980. This reaction surprised me, but as they were playing Bowie’s songs on the radio throughout the morning I realised that Bowie’s music had been the soundtrack to my teenage years. I always preferred 60s music when I was growing up in the 1970s but, of all the music being produced in the 1970s,  it was Bowie and Queen’s music that I liked the most. As they played song after song of Bowie’s on Monday morning, I wept for the memory of my teenage years.

I also got emotional thinking about the strong connection that Bowie had with John Lennon, who was (and still remains) my music hero. When I read Yoko Ono’s tribute to Bowie I could not contain my tears. This is what she said (you can read it on her webpage here).

John and David respected each other. They were well matched in intellect and talent. As John and I had very few friends we felt David was as close as family.

After John died, David was always there for Sean and me. When Sean was at boarding school in Switzerland, David would pick him up and take him on trips to museums and let Sean hang out at his recording studio in Geneva.

For Sean this is losing another father figure. It will be hard for him, I  know. But we have some sweet memories which will stay with us forever.

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Another very moving tribute was tweeted by Iggy Pop

David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.


Bowie was probably the artist of anyone I can think of who changed most frequently throughout his career. The chameleon of pop. He was, by his own admission, a very restless person (in fact he put it down to Attention Deficit Disorder). He would quickly get bored with one incarnation and changed to something different. I didn’t like all of his incarnations, particularly his heavy metal ‘Tin Men’ phase; but I liked many of his ever-changing styles.

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Here is a small gallery of some of his incarnations. From hippy to Major Tom, to Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and his  ‘Let’s Dance’ period, he was the consummate restless artist. And, he will be sorely missed.

It would be wonderful to think that Bowie has reunited with his dear friend John Lennon and that they have been catching up, since last seeing each other the week before Lennon was murdered in December 1980.



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Yesterday my daughter Esyllt and I were in Bute Park in Cardiff taking photographs of some of the beautiful autumn colours of the leaves. Here are a few of our results:

I find this time of year very beautiful, particularly in the New England part of the United States, where the colours of the trees changing colour is truly breathtaking. I am in the process of scanning many of my photos that I took pre-digital camera, so hopefully sometime over the next few months I can post some of the many photos I have of the North American “fall“.

Seeing today’s colours also made me think of this beautiful song – “The leaves that are green” by Paul Simon, sung by him when he was with Art Garfunkel. The opening lines of the song are:

I was 21 years when I wrote this song.
I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long.
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.

And, here is a Youtube video of Simon & Garfunkel performing the song live:

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Over the weekend my 13-year old daughter was repeatedly singing “The lights are out, but you’re not home…”, and I thought “Ooh, I recognise that song, it’s Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love””. When I said this to her she said no, it was Florence + the Machine. I went onto YouTube to listen to Florence + the Machine’s cover of this classic 1980s hit, and I must say I liked it quite a lot.

The original, which was released by Robert Palmer in 1986, is best remembered for its iconic video, directed by legendary British photographer Terence Donavon. The most memorable aspect of the video is the red-lipsticked, pale skinned female “band members” (who were, in fact, professional models), who swayed in the background as Robert Palmer sang the song. Such images leave an indelible stamp in the mind of any heterosexual male. But, it was not just the video I liked, the song has a pretty good groove and Robert Palmer sang it really well.

Here is the video of his his song (with the models swaying!)

When I listened to Florence + the Machine’s version I was struck by how much they (she?) had changed it. The original is quite a rock song, but Florence has stripped it down to almost an acoustic, acappela song. Here is the YouTube video of her version

In general I nearly always prefer the original of a song to a cover version. I am not sure why this is. I think it is because if I get to the like the original first, it’s hard to adjust to a different version. There are a few exceptions to this, and I will talk about some of them in future blogs.

Which cover version do you like more than the original?

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Precious Angel

This evening I’m going to the Cardiff International Arena to see Bob Dylan in concert.


This will be the 4th time I’ve seen him, twice in the 1980s and the 3rd time only a few months ago in June when he headlined the bill at the Feis Festival of Irish music in London’s Finsbury Park (quite what Bob Dylan has to do with Irish music is still a mystery to me). When I saw him in the 1980s I found his performances to be very disappointing. This was partly because he had the habit of singing alternative versions of well known songs, with most of the lyrics changed.

In June he was superb, as most of the reviews seem to agree.

This evening he’s playing with Mark Knopfler who was, of course, the lead singer and amazing guitarist in the 1980s band Dire Straits. Fewer people know, however, that Knopfler played lead guitar on Dylan’s 1979 album “Slow Train Coming“. This was just as Dire Straits were getting their first chart success in both the United States and the Disunited Kingdom with “Sultans of Swing”.

“Slow Train Coming” was the 1st of a trilogy of Christian albums that the “born again” Dylan released, thé following two being “Saved” in 1980 and “Shot of Love” in 1981. Whilst the 2nd and 3rd albums were slated by the critics and sold poorly, “Slow Train Coming” received generally favourable reviews upon its release, and sold reasonably well.

From the “Slow Train Coming” album Dylan had a hit single with the song “Precious Angel”, which features many of the kind of guitar riffs and licks which would make Knopfler famous 3-4 years later.

It is my favourite song on the album. I wonder if Dylan and Knopfler will play it tonight?

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