Ramblin Down Thru the World: Bob Dylan edges towards an instrumental

By Tony Attwood

The 50th Anniversary Collection 1963 was the second Bob Dylan collection of songs that  Sony Music published with the idea of stopping recordings of Bob’s early songs from entering the public domain in Europe – which under EU law happens 50 years after the song is written – if there is no recording in place to extend its copyright control.

To achieve their aim of restricting circulation, the music has to be “published” in the fullest extent and so to do this Sony produced a six LP set (only LPs, not available on CD) of all the songs they wanted to protect and made 100 copies of it.  I’ve no idea who got them or how much the LPs changed hands for – if any were ever released to the public.  If you know more do say.

As far as I know this song was performed just the once on 12 April 1963 at the Town Hall concert in New York, and was just about the closest Bob got to an instrumental until he started writing film music.

The song however was very much part of Dylan’s experimental mood at the time as we can see with the list of songs that Dylan wrote immediately prior to this little piece.

These are primarily songs about travelling on, travelling because one just has to travel, and being on the outside of society looking in.  This song is the least substantial of the whole list and pretty soon after this Dylan seems to have got the notion out of his system – at least for a while.

Haiku 61 gives us

I’m just a rambler.
Ramble happy, ramble sad.
Ramble good or bad.

which is an excellent summary of the little song, but the writer also suggests Dylan’s work comes from Woody Guthrie’s “Ramblin Round”.   Certainly the concept of the lyrics (such as they are) is very similar, but in musical terms the Guthrie song doesn’t have anything much to do with Dylan’s version.

Here are the lyrics

Well, I’m just one of them ramblin’ boys
Ramblin’ round and makin’ noise
Sometimes lonely, sometimes blue,
No one knows it better than you
Ramblin round ramblin twirl
Ramblin down through the world
Ramblin down ramblin twirl
Ramblin down through the world

And here is the performance…


And beyond that I’m not sure there is too much to say.

What else is on the site

1: Over 460 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 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 produced 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.

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 our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

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



  1. Labelled ‘Rambling Round’, this NY recording is on Side 3 of the fine double bootleg Zimba/TMQ LP released in 1970, entitled ‘Zimmerman Looking Back’.

  2. Dylan’s first released instrumental was “Woogie Boogie,” which was featured on Self Portrait.

  3. It’s a version, or a revision, of “Sally Gal,” which he’d been doing since 1961. See the No Direction Home soundtrack. The music is the same; he leaves out the verses about Sally, and “I’m just one of those ramblin’ men” is now “I’m just one of those rambling boys.”

  4. ‘Sally Gal’ is on TMQ “Blind Boy Grunt” vinyl LP bootleg, released in 1972.

  5. The harmonica playing, particularly on the earlier Sally Gal, is absolutely brilliant. I often wonder why so little is said of Bob’s wonderful harmonica playing; the style/phrasing is unique and always complements his songs perfectly.

  6. Trivia:
    On Zimmerman Looking Back bootleg, ( at least on some) the round label on the vinyl recording is pasted over one that reads Handal’s Messiah.

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