Bob Dylan Rides The Northern Lights (With Presley, McCartney, And Jagger)


by Larry Fyffe

In a vault at the Untold Dylan offices, gathering dust, we uncovered some sheet music with handwritten lyrics and notes by Bob Dylan.

The lyrics to one of the songs:

We were all just hangin’ around
Down at Ed’s Cafe
Everybody had too much beer
And nothin’ to say
Overlookin’ Hudson’s Bay
The dishes were piled up high
In the kitchen sink
The customers had all gone home
No-one had to think
About tomorrow or today
With our feet in the fireplace
Eatin’ mom’s home cookin’
Overlookin’ scenic Hudson’s Bay
(More Or Less Hudson’s Bay)

An accompanying tattered notebook contains handwritten scribbles that indicate the song above be written on a cold winter’s day in 1968 by Bob Dylan – staying in a log cabin at Gods River, a small community located in northern Manitoba, Canada.

Dylan scribbles down that the lyrics satirize a hit song by Bobbie Gentry:

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the backdoor, “Y’all remember to wipe your feet”
(Bobbie Gentry: Ode To Billy Joe)

In addition to the notes, there is a group-photograph of Bob Dylan with Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney (who is wearing a sealskin jacket purchased at a local Hudson’s Bay Store). Taped to the back of the photo is a label that reads ‘Mid-Night Sun Marauders -1968’.

The song ‘More Or Less Hudson’s Bay’ is a track on ‘The ‘Masked Marauders’ album released in 1969. The album is said to have been produced in a small town close to the old Hudson’s Bay Colony in Canada. In the notebook from the vault, Dylan writes that Hudson Bay covers 470,000 square miles. Also, he tells us that on a visit to Canada a few years before, he had been asked by the Department of Northern Affairs to make a ‘Never-Ending-Midnight-Sun Tour’ across the Canadian Arctic.

It seems that the tour goes well. Bob Dylan mentions that Elvis Presley, the ‘King of RocknRoll’, and he, earmuffs and all, had a great time driving Elvis’ Cadillac around on the Hudson Bay mud flats.

An out-take from the musical mystery tour of the Arctic appears on Dylan’s ‘Love And Theft’ album:

Everybody get ready to lift up your glasses and sing
Well, I’m standin’ on the table, I’m proposing a toast to the king
Well, I’m drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

Concerning the ‘Summer Days’ song, Tony Atwood points out that a number of music critics mistakenly think that the Dylan out-take is about the Southern United States when in fact it’s about the Canadian tundra tour:

Certainly, it is possible to tie in the issue about the flats.   Gods River flows into the Hayes River and the result is rapids, lakes, waterfalls, and as it nears Hudson Bay, tidal flats
(Tony Attwood: Review of ‘Summer Days’)

As well, the notes indicate that ‘Joe Two Rivers’, a wilderness guide and an expert at riding wild rapids, whom Dylan met on his earlier visit to Canada, is a valuable asset to the tour group on days off. Bob writes he’s glad that Canadian actor Michael Zenon lives up to his pseudonym.

Also noted is that Anthony Quinn, the American-Mexican actor, telegraphs Bob that ‘Inuk’ will be joining the musical troupe on stage in Nome, Alaska; a grateful Dylan makes a note that he’s a-gonna sing a special song to celebrate the occasion:

Well, everybody’s building big ships and boats
Some are building monuments
Others jotting down notes
Everybody’s in despair
Every girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Everybody’s gonna jump for joy
(Bob Dylan: The Mighty Quinn)

We are also informed through the notes that Mick Jagger, due to assistance from a bilingual priest, is able to sing ‘I Can’ t Get No Satisfaction’ in what’s then known as ‘Eskimo’.

Jagger’s unique version of ‘Satisfaction’ appears on aforementioned ‘The Masked Marauders’ album:

Can’t get no nookie
Can’t get no nookie
Can’t get no nookie
How come – see my girl, oh yeah
Can’t get no nookie
Well, she’s the sweetest thing in this world
Oh yeah – can’t get no nookie
(Can’t Get No Nookie)

What else is on the site

1: Over 470 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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1 Response to Bob Dylan Rides The Northern Lights (With Presley, McCartney, And Jagger)

  1. LouAnne k says:

    I want to see that photo!

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