Bob Dylan’s forgotten masterpieces: eight more works of brilliance

By Tony Attwood

A year or so ago I wrote a little article about Dylan’s forgotten masterpieces that have been reviewed here.  This morning, I thought I’d do another list without looking up the old list, just to see if it turned out the same.

I know, a pretty naff and silly thing to do, and I can already hear the calls of “get a life” but that’s how it goes here in the East Midlands in the autumn and no one is shouting that a client’s advert needs completing now, if not yesterday, or come to that last week.

This exercise doesn’t really go in for definitions – all I am talking about are songs that Dylan has written which we don’t hear much about, or maybe which some people forget really are Dylan, or which are just extraordinary performances or which in one case could be a beautiful performance if only they’d remix it.

This is what I came up with last time

1: Ballad for a friend

2: Caribbean Wind

3: Too Much of Nothing

4: When He returns; (live version)

5:  To fall in love with you.

6: This Wheel’s on Fire

7:  Tell Ol’ Bill

8:  Abandoned Love (and do listen to both versions)

Just getting that old list out was something else, because I hadn’t played “Abandoned Love” since I wrote the original article, and I’ve just played through both versions (the solo and the one with the violin and percussion as well as guitar).  What a perfect way to spend 10 minutes.

Any way, what of the new list?   I just kept writing songs down and yes I managed to come up with another eight – but I have one restriction – I am trying to find songs that I can offer a link to so that if you don’t know the piece you can listen to it.  I didn’t manage it in every case, but almost.

1: I’m not there: 

There are two versions of this on the site, Dylan’s own version, and the rather different version used in the movie it was written.  This is quite an extraordinary piece of music – even if we can’t hear all the words the rhythms are so unusual that one just has to listen and hear the overall sound.  We get some lyrics, but for once that is not the most important thing: it is the rhythms that drive the sound.

2: I once knew a man

This is the song we have from the Letterman show rehearsals, a song that has been confused with another piece of the same title.

For me this song shows all by itself what Dylan can do with that most common form of musical writing: the 12 bar blues.   And he has quite a band playing with him; the drummer really does justice to the piece.

And seemingly he just played it and left it.  What an extraordinary thing to do.

3: Maybe someday

No not a forgotten song, but I wish I could forget this version and get my hands on the master tape and do a remix.

4: Let me die in my footsteps

A very early song but one that shows extraordinary maturity in handling the topic and the musical accompaniment.  Even if you remember this it is worth going back and listening one more time.

5: Tomorrow is a long time

This is so delicate and so beautiful, it is hard to find words to describe it.

6: Well well well

I can listen to this all day and night – especially the O’Keefe version – and just remember this came out of a time when Bob was apparently having difficulty with his songwriting.

There are songs that I can just carry with me through life, and this most certainly is one of them.

7: Yonder comes sin

It really is truly frustrating – there was a version of Yonder on the internet when I wrote the original review, and now it has gone.  It does appear on a bootleg album if you want to get hold of a copy, and I can tell you this song really is great fun – even though we only have a partial recording (when we have one at all).

8: Up to me

If you ever wanted a second “Tangled up in Blue” here it is – but it is a separate song in its own right.  And it appeared on Biograph, which means it is also on Spotify.   The lyrics are just line after line of brilliance.   No one else has ever written pop and rock lyrics like this – apart of course from Bob.

I can’t say which one is the greatest lost song, but looking at all 16 now I find myself playing the second version of “Abandoned Love”.  Oh yes and the live version of “When He Returns”.  This could be my ultimate Bob album.

What is on the site

1: Over 400 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.  A second index lists the articles under the poets and poetic themes cited – you can find that here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines




  1. 1. I love “I Once Knew a Man.” It’s the father I never had. Like a lot of people, I wish Dylan had recorded the INFIDELS songs with the Cruzados. But since everybody’s albums were overproduced in the mid-eighties, the end result could’ve still sounded sterile and soulless.

    2. “Maybe Someday” is full of good lines, such as:
    “Maybe someday you’ll remember what you felt
    When there was blood on the moon in the cotton belt.”
    I don’t know what that “means” and I don’t care. Real poetry transcends human meaning. And the fact that KNOCKED OUT LOADED features Dylan’s best singing since DESIRE helps put it across.

    3. It would be nice to know why he left “Up to Me” off BLOOD ON THE TRACKS. Yes, musically it’s too similar to “Shelter from the Storm,” but he could’ve effortlessly changed the chords and melody. Maybe he thought the lyrics, as awe-inspiring as they are, would’ve come off as self-aggrandizing. But since he was experimenting with pronouns at the time, he could’ve rewritten it as “Up to You.”

    It’s too bad he doesn’t have people like us to guide his artistic decisions. He might’ve had a career in music instead of welding. Oh, well.

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