The 20 sometimes forgotten Bob Dylan masterpieces that you can still find on line

By Tony Attwood

What do I mean by forgotten?   Obviously not completely forgotten, since I’ve managed to pick up links to the songs on the internet so you can hear them if you don’t have your own copy.  But generally I mean not appearing on a mainstream album, or not being in every serious Dylan fan’s consciousness.  Of course you may know them all, and if so, well, sorry, I’m boring you.

But just in case you don’t have a total recall of every Dylan song, I’m offering this little list with video links.  Hopefully there’s something in here that might take you by surprise.

In short it’s my album of 20 masterpieces that you might not have in your collection.  And for me it means I’ve got all the links on one page so I can just play them without having to go a-searching.

So I am not including songs like Caribbean Wind because although I rate it a masterpiece, I guess everyone likely to read this page knows it and probably has a copy of it.

But let’s not get hung up on definitions.  It is the music that counts.  My main hope is that within this list you will find something that you don’t know, or maybe have forgotten and welcome being reminded about.

As for the order, they are not in an order of any significance.  Just as I thought of them,

1: I’m not there 

There are four versions of this on the site, Dylan’s own version, and the rather different version used in the movie it was written for, and then a couple of others just because I found them interesting.  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 of the 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 and one that I have raved over so often you’ll probably have heard it by now.

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: 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.

4: Tomorrow is a long time

This is so delicate and so beautiful, it is hard to find words to describe it.   There are many versions of Dylan singing this in concert, but the link at the end of this piece is to the version I particularly love.

5: 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.

6: 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’m not too happy with the review on line so I’ll re-do it and add the link, but until I do, here it is


7: Train a travellin

This song focuses on the evil around us, as Bob so often does, but now suggests that we can change the world if only we would rise up and protest.  This is a completely different notion from for example,  “Dreadful Day” which doesn’t require any protest because after death all will be ok.  And “Paths of Victory” doesn’t require any protest because “there’s a clearer road a-waitin”.

But now this next song that says “don’t follow leaders” because “That the person standin’ next to you just might be misled,” you have to sort it out yourselves and stand up for what you believe, because this world is rotten to the core.

8: Going to Acapulco: changed and changed again

The song came to fame in the 2007 movie Im Not There – that’s the one with six actors portraying different aspects of Bob Dylan’s personality – was not a great success at the box office.  But the soundtrack is something that did resonate with quite a few fans with over 30 Dylan compositions being covered by those in the film.

And for many people, I think, Jim James rendition of “Going to Acapulco,” backed by Calexico is one of the highlights – perhaps the highlight.  It is certainly worth seeing, with its visual reference back to the “whiteface” Bob wore in the 1975/76 Rolling Thunder tour.

9: Visions of Johanna: The Old Crow version that had me in tears

You know Visions by heart I’m sure, can quote every line and hear every nuance.  So can I, but I’ve forever thought the song could have gone a little further in terms of the way the band present this work of utter genius.  And then suddenly it appeared.

I’m cheating with this one as I can’t give a link to this version, but just go to Spotify and type in the title and you’ll be able to play it.

10: Rambling Gamblin Willie: three versions, one masterpiece

There is indeed just one version of this song that I utterly adore – quite why the Bootleg series chose the versions they did I can’t say.  It can’t be because Bob makes a mistake in the guitar playing on this version – he makes mistakes all the time, and it’s never upset anyone before.

This is just so different in terms of its delivery.  And yes of course I know it is taken from an Irish folk song.  In this case I don’t mind.

I’m sorry about the sexist nature of the video which involves playing strip poker.  Just listen to the music.

11: Let me Die in my footsteps

You’ll probably know this one, as it turned up on the first Bootleg set, but it is worth including again just because the delivery is so powerful.  There are slight unexpected pauses between the lines.  It’s a wonderful work.

12: To fall in love with you: one of the most popular songs on this site

If you are a regular reader you’ll have been bored to tears by my raving over this song.  But it is still worth listing because it is just so good.  And the review of this song was one of the most accessed pages on this site in the past year.

13: When I paint my masterpiece

This song pairs with Watching the River Flow, in terms of its consideration of artistic process.  I’m sure you’ll know it anyway, but coming back to listen to this recording (which isn’t linked to in the article) just made me think, this is just such a perfect example of what Dylan can do with words and just keep on jogging along.

14: Ballad for a friend

I’ve raved about this so often that you’ve probably got fed up with me talking about it.  If you want to hear it online, I’m afraid it is back to Spotify.  If for any reason you’ve never heard it, you really should.

15: Abandoned Love 

My review says “do listen to both versions” and both have their fans.  I go for the one with the band (it is the second link on the review) but both count as being at masterpiece status.

16:  You’ve been hiding too long. 

This relates to “Ballad for a friend” so maybe it is just that I am hypnotised by the particular melody that Dylan uses, but this song grips me in the same way.  There is something within it that gets straight into my heart and my soul and actually changes my thought processes.

17: Too Much of Nothing

The version I love is take 2, the version that was used by Peter Paul and Mary.  Dylan’s version appeared on Volume 11 of the Bootleg Series, the “Basement Tapes Sampler” and it is on spotify.   The PPM version that I linked to in my review has gone but there is one here

It is one of those songs that I always feel that there could be a better version somehow, but it has never emerged.

18: When He returns; (live version)

I’ve raved about this so often, that you’ll probably be bored sick by now, but if you have never heard the live version (which is so utterly different from the album version) it really is a treat.   The guys who go around taking down videos are obviously protecting copyright, but we can only be thankful that this one is still up there.   You get two great songs (sorry about the ads) with When He Returns coming in just after five minutes.

19: This Wheel’s on Fire

Again you’ll probably know this, but have you heard this version recently?  If not you might well be surprised.

20:  Tell Ol’ Bill

And of course Tell Ol Bill.  My absolute favourite Dylan song for reasons I have bored you with so many times you probably don’t ever want me to mention it again.  But if you’ve missed it you can read the review.

I love this version

Hope there was something there you liked.  This article took so long to write (after all, I just had to listen to each song again.  Just to make sure), but for me it was a pleasure.


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

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3 Responses to The 20 sometimes forgotten Bob Dylan masterpieces that you can still find on line

  1. jzsnake says:

    I would add Huck’s Tune.

  2. John says:

    Wow what a wonderful version of when he returns where’s it from ?

  3. TonyAttwood says:

    Unless it says on the recording John I don’t know – but Bob performed the song in this manner throughout one tour. There is more at but these recordings have been taken down by the copyright owner as fast as they go up, so not all will work, and I haven’t updated that page for a while.

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