See you later Allen Ginsberg (1 and 2). Tracing the origins of Bob Dylan’s joking around

By Tony Attwood

To those of us of a certain age in England Bill Haley was our introduction to rock n roll, simply because it was sanitised enough to be broadcastable on the BBC (there were no commercial radio channels at the time in the UK).  It was only as we discovered European radio stations that actually played hard core rock and blues that we found there was so much more.  The Bill Haley sound today would be called rockabilly I think.

But as a child I liked Bill Haley and actually had a 78rpm vinyl of “See you later Alligator”

But, in case you don’t know, Bill Haley and his Comets continued to tour for years, and I did get to see them later.  Sadly Bill Haley died in 1981 aged just 55.

The song was written by Robert Charles Guidry and first recorded by him under the name Bobby Charles and released on Chess as “Later, Alligator”.

The melody was based to a certain degree on  Guitar Slim’s “Later for You, Baby” which was recorded in 1954.

The song was also recorded by Roy Hall, who had written and recorded “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (which of course you’ll know as well as this song) just ten weeks before.  How it all goes around.

Aside from the chance to mention those recordings, I really wondered if I should be reviewing Dylan’s “See you Later Allen Ginsberg” as a Dylan song since it takes the essence of “See you later alligator” and changes the last word to the name of the leader of the beat generation (as Wiki calls him).   All that is added is a bit of reverb and other tape effects.  The guys, in short, are larking around.

But it was an excuse to play some Bill Haley, and be sad about his life (he had severe problems with alcohol and later a brain tumour), and remember a bit of my childhood with 78rpm records.

The tune is the same as the original, and the lyrics on Dylan’s version are

See you later alligator
(Alligator alligator)
After a while crocodile
(Crocodile, crocodile)
See you later alligator
(Crocodile) alligator
After a while crocodile

Crocogator crocogator
Alli-crile alli-crile
Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg after a while
Allen Ginsberg Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg after a while
Allen Ginsberg Allen Ginsberg

There is however a Bob Dylan Haiku for the song which gives the recording a certain credibility.

Bob and the Band
Say adios to Ginsberg
Over and over.

Eyolf Østrem has even done a chord chart for the song.  Maybe these guys are my sort of age and remember the old timers and do it for Bill Haley’s sake.

As for Allen Ginsberg, I somehow have a feeling he deserves better than this.  But perhaps my little review here might actually encourage someone to read Howl – you can read it here.

The poem’s fame was added to by a 1957 obscenity trial on the grounds that it described homosexual sex.    In his ruling on the case Judge Clayton W. Horn stated that “Howl” was not obscene, adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”  It was a significant step forward for writers in America to be able to write about the subjects that they wished to write about, as the “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” gave writers in the UK in 1960.

I’ve argued elsewhere on this site that one of the problems Dylan faced in working to take music into a new dimension of expression was that the beat poets had found a way to do this with words, but the form of popular music was stuck with rock n roll’s use of three chords and a beat while singing about love, lost love and dance, and folk music was using the forms generated that evolved from the 19th century to sing about the topics found in protest folk that Dylan was associated with in his early days.

My view, for what it is worth, and it is just my view, is that the breakthrough for music came with Subterranean Homesick Blues which really did kick the possibilities forwards, in 1965.

As for these two recordings, I’d say they don’t actually add anything, and really, claiming Dylan as the composer is pushing it a bit.

What else is on the site

You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.

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

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. Well if you are reviewing this can The Spanish Song (both versions of course) be far behind? I guess “See You Later” is better than “Tiny Montgomery” though …

    Fun stuff as always, your reviews.

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