Bob Dylan’s Blues and the Syd Barrett tribute

by Tony Attwood

This song is given an added level of curiosity since as far as I can see although it is listed in Heylin’s “Revolution in the Air” and mentioned four times, there is no commentary upon it – and Heylin seems to comment on everything, including songs that no one has ever heard.  I’m not sure why he missed the commentary on this one out – although maybe it was added in a later edition. Still, early on, did he forget, or did he really think the song was not worthy of comment?

The song appears on both Freewheelin’ and on the Whitmark Demos with variant words (where it is a pony not a sports car for example) and this Whitmark edition it is very much an early version.  The Freewheelin version is much more polished, more lively and more fun.

There’s one other version I have found which is worth hearing, and a link to Syd Barrett, which is always worth mentioning; I’ll come to those later.

But back to the start…

The official Dylan site says the song was never sung in public although elsewhere I have found a reference to it being performed on WBAI FM, New York, in a three song setlist.  So not in front of a public audience – but to the public via radio.

What we do know is that the song on the album was recorded on July 9, 1962, at the same time as Blowing in the Wind (which was written shortly before), Down the Highway and Honey just allow me. 

Indeed Blowing in the Wind gets a sort of mention in passing…

Well, the wind keeps a-blowin’ me
Up and down the street
With my hat in my hand
And my boots on my feet
Watch out so you don’t step on me

And Dylan is mostly having fun, which means (at this time) he is full of the contradictions and nonsense that he seemed to like so much…

Well, lookit here buddy
You want to be like me
Pull out your six-shooter
And rob every bank you can see
Tell the judge I said it was all right
Yes!

Basically the song is a simple variation on the 12 bar blues with a further variant in the instrumental break.  It’s just a fun piece – but none the worse for that.  As with…

Well, the Lone Ranger and Tonto
They are ridin’ down the line
Fixin’ ev’rybody’s troubles
Ev’rybody’s ’cept mine
Somebody musta tol’ ’em
That I was doin’ fine

And we also get a little look ahead to “It Ain’t Me Babe” with the “go away from my door” line

Oh you five and ten cent women
With nothin’ in your heads
I got a real gal I’m lovin’
And Lord I’ll love her till I’m dead
Go away from my door and my window too
Right now

As I mentioned I’ve just found one cover version on line which is quite interesting to hear as we know the Dylan version so well.  I’m not too sure about the choice of accompanying film, but I can see what the person who made the piece was heading towards.  But Dylan as a hobo, and Chaplain as a hobo… to me it is stretching it a bit.

But what I really would like to introduce you to, if you don’t know it is the Syd Barrett song “Bob Dylan Blues”  written in 1965.

I am not sure how much the fame of Syd and his extraordinary compositions lives on beyond people of my generation in my country, but if you really don’t know about Syd you might care to investigate further.  He was (to my mind) the driving force (certainly in terms of compositions) behind Pink Floyd at the start, and the rambling solo albums he made after leaving Floyd contains such gems and promise – a promise that tragically we were never able to to hear fulfilled.

This is of course a very early song and not representative of what Syd could achieve.  But then we never did find out what Syd Barrett could achieve.  Roger Waters, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was sung for Syd.

 

From what I have read Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmour did apparently see a Bob Dylan show in London in 1963, and so the guess is that “Bob Dylan Blues” was written just after that.  It is certainly very early in his writing career.  This recording was made in 1970.

I saw Pink Floyd once with Syd Barrett in the band, at an end of year ball at Sussex University.  Jimi Hendrix was on the bill too.  Ah, memories…

Syd Barrett’s eventually health problems took him back to live in his family home after the release of his albums and as far as I know he remained there living as a recluse until his death aged 60 in 2006.  But his songs are still remembered, at least by some of us.

What else is on the site

1: Over 450 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order at the foot of 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

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.

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