Dylan songs of the 1950s and 60s

Dylan in Chronological Order of writing (not in the order of recording)

On this site there are reviews of Dylan’s compositions from all parts of his life, up to the most recent writings.  As part of this work I decided to put the songs in the order in which they were written, and this, to me, gives a huge additional insight into the way in which Dylan was working, year by year.

Additionally I am adding a short over view of each year, and a very brief comment on the “Highlight of the Year”.  These are of course totally personal reflections, but in case you have an interest they are being gathered together in the “Year by Year; Decade by Decade” file.

Currently a review of how Dylan’s work evolved year by year is being added through a new series of articles, which particularly looks at the themes within Dylan’s lyrics and styles.

Here’s the index to the Chronology Series

Dylan songs of the 1950s and 1960s…

A list of all the songs composed in chronological order is given below.   First here are the articles in the series currently being written on the themes that Dylan wrote about in the 1950s and 1960s.

This series is continuing – albeit slowly!

And the songs

1959/60 (exact dates of these songs uncertain)

  1. When I got troubles (blues but with hope for the future… maybe)
  2. I got a new girl (love, but maybe she’s twotiming me)
  3. One eyed jacks (blues?)
  4. Bonnie Why’d You Cut My Hair (humour)
  5. Talking Hugh Brown (humour)

1961

Dylan in 1961: The Overview

Highlight of the year:  Talking Bear Mountain – Dylan took an existing format and used it in a completely new way – not a bad move for a 20 year old.  But “Song to Woodie” although not original music is a profound way to start your career as a lyricist.

  1. Song to Woodie (Travelling on, remembering those who have gone before)
  2. Talkin New York  (Talking blues, humour)
  3. Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues.(Talking blues, humour)
  4. Talkin Folk Lore Centre Blues (Talking blues, humour)
  5. Talkin Hava Negeilah blues (Talking blues, humour)
  6. Man on the street (Tragedy of life, the lack of humanity in urban communities)
  7. Hard times in New York Town (satire on urban life)
  8. On Wisconsin (lyrics only, date within the year not certain)
  9. I was young when I left home (tragedy of the lonesome traveller)

1962 

Dylan in 1962: The Overview

Highlight of the year: Ballad for a friend.  This little known blues song is utter perfection, using rhythm and lyrics to give the blues format a new twist and hold our attention totally throughout.

  1. Ballad for a friend (Blues; Death)
  2. Poor Boy Blues (Blues)
  3. Rambling Gambling Willie (Moving on, gambling)
  4. Standing on the highway (Blues)
  5. Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues (Right wing protest)
  6. Death of Emmett Till (social commentary: racism)
  7. The Ballad of Donald White (social commentary)
  8. Let me die in my footsteps (anti-nuclear war; stand up and be proud)
  9. Blowing in the wind  (It’s not the world, it’s the way you see the world)
  10. Corrina Corrina (Lost love)
  11. Honey just allow me one more chance (Lost love)
  12. Rocks and Gravel (lost love, moving on)
  13. Quit your Lowdown Ways (do the right thing)
  14. Baby I’m in the mood for you (Absolute desire)
  15. Down the Highway (Lost love, Song of Leaving)
  16. Bob Dylan’s Blues  (Comedy)
  17. Tomorrow is a long time (Lost love)
  18. Ain’t gonna grieve (civil rights)
  19. Long Ago Far Away (nothing has changed)
  20. Long Time Gone (moving on)
  21. Hard Rain’s a gonna fall (War protest)
  22. Ballad of Hollis Brown (Rural protest)
  23. John Brown (War protest)
  24. Don’t think twice (Song of Leaving)
  25. Mixed up confusion (Rock n roller is confused)
  26. I’d hate to be you on that dreadful day (Bob gets the ship ready to come in)
  27. Paths of Victory. (The future will be fine)
  28. Train A Travellin’  (Stand up and protest about what’s going on around you)
  29. Walking Down the Line (keep on moving on)
  30. Ye Playboys and Playgirls  (Stand up and change the world)
  31. Oxford Town (Racism Protest)
  32. I shall be free (comic talking blues)
  33. Kingsport Town (lost love, moving on)
  34. Hero Blues (beware when your girlfriend loves you because you are famous)
  35. The Ballad of the Gliding Swan (Life throws up every surprise, but life goes on)
  36. Whatcha Gonna Do? (How will you be placed at the second coming)

1963 

Dylan in 1963: the overview – Dylan the storyteller

Highlight of the year: When the Ship Comes In.  Part religious, part protest, this has all the vigour and vitality of change and reform that “Times they are a changing” (written soon after) doesn’t get close to with imagery that is utterly new within this type of music.

  1. Masters of War (War protest)
  2. Girl from the North Country (Lost Love)
  3. Boots of Spanish Leather (Song of Leaving)
  4. Bob Dylan’s Dream (Lost love)
  5. Farewell (a song of leaving)
  6. Talkin Devil (talking blues, the Devil is real)
  7. All over you (comedy alternative to talking blues)
  8. Going back to Rome (there is something about Italy)
  9. Only a Hobo (moving on)
  10. Ramblin Down Thru the World (moving on)
  11. Who killed Davey Moore?  (Boxing, Inequality)
  12. As I rode out one morning (leaving, moving on)
  13. Dusty Old Fairgrounds (keep on moving)
  14. Walls of Red Wing (Protest: life is a matter of chance)
  15. New Orleans Rag (aka Bob Dylan’s New Orleans Rag) (Humour; life is chance)
  16. You’ve been hiding too long. (Our leaders have betrayed the ideals of our country)
  17. Seven Curses (Absolute betrayal of justice)
  18. With God on our Side (Protest)
  19. Talking World War III Blues (Protest, surrealism)
  20. Only a pawn in their game  (Social commentary, protest)
  21. Eternal Circle (Nothing changes)
  22. North Country Blues (Rural protest)
  23. Gypsy Lou  (Art, Protest)
  24. Troubled and I Don’t Know Why (everything is wrong)
  25. When the ship comes in  (Protest)
  26. The Times they are a-Changing (Protest)
  27. Percy’s Song (The failure of justice)
  28. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Protest, racism)
  29. Lay Down your Weary Tune (the natural world is superior to anything mankind can make)
  30. One too many mornings (Song of Leaving)
  31. Restless Farewell (moving on)

1964 

Bob Dylan in 1964: the overview. Adding new themes.

Highlight of the year: It’s all right ma.   Line after line of indictment of the modern age delivered with such power and passion.  No one ever wrote a song like this before.

  1. Guess I’m doing fine (I’m hurting)
  2. Chimes of Freedom (Protest)
  3. Mr Tambourine Man (Surrealism; the way we see the world)
  4. I don’t believe you (She acts like we never have met) (Lost love)
  5. Spanish Harlem Incident (Love)
  6. Motorpsycho Nightmare  (Humour)
  7. It ain’t me babe (Song of Farewell)
  8. Denise Denise  (Taking a break, having a laugh)
  9. Mama you’ve been on my mind (Lost love)
  10. Ballad in Plain D  (Lost love)
  11. Black Crow Blues (Blues, The sadness of lost love and moving on)
  12. I shall be free number 10  (Talking Blues; humour)
  13. To Ramona (Love)
  14. All I really want to do (Song of Farewell; Individualism)
  15. I’ll keep it with mine (Don’t follow leaders; individualism)
  16. My back pages (Individualism)  See also Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”. He was so much older then.
  17. Gates of Eden (Protest, Individualism, A world that makes no sense)
  18. It’s all right ma – 2013 review (Protest; Individualism, A world that makes no sense)  It’s all right ma – 2015 review
  19. If you’ve gotta go, go now (Song of Farewell; Individualism)
  20. Jack o Diamonds (This song was evolved from the sleeve notes to the “Another Side” album and the date of writing those is uncertain).

1965

Bob Dylan in 1965: the year Dylan invented two totally new forms of music.

Highlight of the year: Impossible to choose.  “Subterranean” gave beat poetry a place in pop and rock, Love Minus Zero took love songs into the world of the unsayable, “Rolling Stone” created the songs of disdain, “Desolation Row” took political protest to a totally new level and “Johanna” took music into impressionism.

  1. Farewell Angelina (Song of Farewell)
  2. Love is just a four letter word (Is love real?)
  3. Subterranean Homesick Blues (Beat Poetry as rock music, the artist vs society; Dada)
  4. Outlaw Blues (Moving on, The artist vs society; Dada)
  5. Love Minus Zero (Love)
  6. California (Blues, moving on)
  7. She Belongs to Me (Love)  See also “She Belongs to Me – the reinterpretation of Greek Mythology”
  8. It’s all over now baby blue (Song of Farewell)
  9. Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream (Beat poetry as rock music; update on talking blues, humour; Dada)
  10. On the Road Again (Moving on, the artist vs society; Dada)
  11. Maggie’s Farm (Moving on, the artist vs society; Dada)
  12. It takes a lot to laugh it takes a train to cry (I’m so tired of all this moving on)
  13. Sitting on a barbed wire fence (Moving on, nothing makes sense; Dada)
  14. Like a Rolling Stone (Song of Disdain)
  15. Why do you have to be so frantic (Lunatic Princess). (Song of disdain)
  16. Tombstone Blues (Everything is just a jumble; Dada)
  17. Desolation Row (Political protest; It’s not the world, it’s how you see the world)
  18. From a Buick 6 (I got this woman who does everything)
  19. Can you please crawl out your window? (Song of Disdain)
  20. Positively Fourth Street (Song of Disdain)
  21. Highway 61 Revisited (The world makes no sense, except maybe the blues; Dada)
  22. Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Total despair, an absolute nightmare; Dada)
  23. Queen Jane Approximately (Not quite disdain, but almost; Dada)
  24. Ballad of a thin man (Disdain of the intellectual, the common man, pretty much everyone; Dada)
  25. Jet Pilot (Another curious, odd person; Dada)
  26. Medicine Sunday (Moving on – although the song is only a fragment so it is hard to say)
  27. I wanna be your lover (It’s a surreal world that makes no sense; Dada)
  28. Long distance operator (Panic because he can’t get through on the phone)
  29. Visions of Johanna (Mystical people in the half light, surrealism, Dada)

*DYLAN AND IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH: the series

1966 

Dylan in 1966 the overview: writing songs while the band patiently waits

Highlight of the Year: One of us must know.   Not most people’s choice, indeed probably no one’s choice by mine, but this song takes one of the three fundamental themes of pop (lost love – the other two are love and dance) and gives it a totally new twist. A completely new way of saying farewell.

The New Basement Tapes songs (dates uncertain)

  1. Down on the bottom: The ultimate “I’m down and out” blues
  2. Married to My Hack: Despite temptations, I’m happy with my girlfriend
  3. Kansas City: I’m doing my own thing
  4. Spanish Mary  Does life make sense; random events
  5. Liberty Street Life in Kansas City; random events
  6. Nothing To It Reflections on the betrayal
  7. Golden Tom Silver Judas: Random events
  8. When I get my hands on you: Love, obsession
  9. Duncan and Jimmy: Moving on with your best mate by your side
  10. Florida Key: Lost love.
  11. Hidee Hidee Ho #11/#16:  Lost love
  12. Lost on the River # 12 & #20 Lost love
  13. Stranger Lost love
  14. Card Shark  Gambling?A card game???
  15. Quick like a flash We have ideas, we stick with them, leadership
  16. Diamond Ring Don’t follow leaders
  17. The Whistle is Blowing Moving on
  18. Touchy Situation – Lost love
  19. Six Months in Kansas City Moving on
  20. Santa Cruz: Moving on
  21. Please look after my child – moving on variation

The completed songs

  1. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (surrealism)
  2. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands   (description of Bob’s wife; the interplay of sounds and words? – very difficult to classify, but I’ve put it under love.)
  3. Tell Me Momma (farewell to folk music; moving on)
  4. Fourth Time Around (love, lost love, moving on)
  5. Leopard skin pill-box hat (randomness)
  6. One of us must know (lost love)
  7. She’s your lover now (disdain)
  8. Absolutely Sweet Marie (surrealism)
  9. Just like a woman (lost love)
  10. Pledging my time (love)
  11. Most likely you go your way and I’ll go mine (lost love)
  12. Temporary Like Achilles (lost love)
  13. Rainy Day Women (going against the tide, being a rebel, doing the unexpected)
  14. Obviously Five Believers  (depression, being alone)
  15. I want you (love)
  16. Definitively Van Gough (surrealism)
  17. Don’t tell him. (hotel song, lyrics unclear)
  18. What kind of friend is this? (disdain)
  19. If you want my love (love)
  20. If I was a king (love?)
  21. I can’t leave her behind (lost love)
  22. On a rainy afternoon (love?)

1967

Dylan in 1967: the overview.   A year of two, or maybe three halves.

Highlight of the year: Drifter’s Escape.  It has but one line of music, but takes the impressionism of Johanna into a totally new context at yet another level.  This world is not real.  This world makes no sense.  This world offers hope to the lost: the problem is finding the door.

In terms of the Basement Tapes songs, I am taking the comment on page 40 of the accompanying notes which says, “We’ve decided to place all the tracks in relatively chronological order based on Garth Hudson’s numbering system. A bonus disc was added for the tracks that are of historic importance but have very poor sonic quality.”

Because most of the time I don’t have other information as to the time of recording the songs on the “bonus disc” [disc six] I can do no more than list the songs in the order that the appear on that disc.  To show that they may be completely out of sequence (although obviously taken from the Basement Tape period of recordings) I have marked them with an asterisk.

I must particularly acknowledge Pat Sludden’s help with this part of the sequence of Dylan’s songwriting, and indeed with his encouragement and support for the whole project.

First the Basement Tapes subject matter

The Basement Tapes part 2

  1. I’m not there (lost love, regret)
  2. You ain’t going nowhere (nothing means anything)
  3. This Wheel’s on Fire (disdain, but I’m not letting go)
  4. I shall be released (I am trapped)
  5. Too Much of Nothing (Being trapped)
  6. Tears of rage (Being trapped)
  7. Quinn the Eskimo – The Mighty Quinn (surrealism)
  8. Open the Door Homer (Escaping from being trapped)
  9. Nothing was delivered (We’re trapped, nothing’s been sorted)
  10. Sign on the cross (We’re trapped and misled)
  11. Sante Fe (getting away from being trapped)
  12. Odds and Ends (we’re trapped by time and don’t get the time back)
  13. Clothes line saga (trivia and profundity mix in life; nothing means anything)
  14. I’m alright (life’s a mess, I’m trapped, but I’m still going on)
  15. Apple Suckling Tree (children’s song, slang in a song)
  16. Get your rocks off (using slang in a song)
  17.  Silent Weekend (using slang in a song)
  18. Don’t ya tell Henry (using slang in a song)
  19. Going to Acapulco (moving on)
  20. Bourbon Street (Living in misery and regret, being trapped).

The Basement Tapes part 3

  1. My Woman She’s a Leavin’.  (She’s in control)
  2. Mary Lou I love You Too (Love and leaving = life is a mess)
  3. What’s it gonna be when it comes up? (surreal lost love)
  4. It’s the flight of the Bumblebee (humour)
  5. All you have to do is dream (love / sex)
  6. Wild Wolf: (darkness, nothing, darkness = life is a mess)
  7. Gonna Get You Now (tangled up in a mess = life is a mess)
  8. Two dollars and 99 cents (everything’s cheap = life is a mess)
  9. Jelly Bean (the world is upside down = life is a mess)
  10. Any Time (Love – come to me any time)
  11. Down by the station (I’m lost)
  12. That’s the breaks (nothing lasts forever)
  13. Pretty Mary (I’m moving on)
  14. The King of France (humour)
  15. She’s on my mind again (lost love)
  16. On a rainy afternoon (passing time)
  17. I can’t come in with a broken heart (lost love)
  18. Next time on the Highway (moving on)
  19. Northern Claim (moving on)
  20. Love is only mine (moving on)
  21. Bring it on home (moving on)
  22. The Spanish Song (?)
  23. The Hidden Song (?)

The JWH songs

  1. The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (A Kafkaesque surreal story)
  2. Drifter’s Escape (There is no cause and effect; the ultimate Kafka nightmare)
  3. I dreamed I Saw St Augustine (Those who live on forever)
  4. All along the watch tower (There is no watch tower; the world of Kafka)
  5. John Wesley Harding (A “silly little song”; an invented historical saga)
  6. As I Went out one Morning (Homage to WH Auden)
  7. I am a lonesome hobo (Do your own thing, don’t tell others what to do)
  8. I pity the poor Immigrant (Random thoughts and words that flow from the title – semi-Kafka!)
  9. The Wicked Messenger (Kafka)
  10. Dear Landlord (A stream of thoughts following the invention of the title)
  11. I’ll be your baby tonight (Love)
  12. Down along the cove (Love)

**This song appears on the CD but is not listed in the accompanying documentation as being part of the CD.  Either they forgot or were trying to be funny.

1968 

Bob Dylan in 1968.   As his country pulls itself apart, Dylan takes a year out.

Highlight of the year: Dylan can stop.  And stop he did.  After over 100 songs in the past seven years, at a time when it looked as if everything from the arts to politics was changing forever, Dylan just stopped.

  1. Lay Lady Lay (love)

1969 

Bob Dylan in 1969: everything is lovely

Highlight of the year: Dylan can change.  I can’t pick a song from the list of new compositions because nothing here matches what has gone before, and nothing really grabs me as original, new, or overwhelmingly beautiful.  But it was the experimentation with country music that brought Dylan back to songwriting.  Without that twist, he might never have written again.

Please note that the dating of Minstrel Boy is uncertain.  Musically I think it fits in 1969 but it is impossible to prove.  There is more about this in the review

  1.  Nowhere to go – co-written with George Harrison (escape)
  2. Minstrel Boy (we need to look after ourselves, as no one else will do it)
  3. I threw it all away (lost love; love is all there is)
  4. I don’t want to do it (lost love)
  5. I’d have you anytime (love)
  6. To be alone with you (love)
  7. One more night (lost love)
  8. Peggy Day (love)
  9. Country Pie (sex? country life?)
  10. Tell me it isn’t true (love)
  11. Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You (love)
  12. Wanted Man (being on the run)
  13. Champaign Illinois (celebration of the city)
  14. Ballad of Easy Rider (being world-weary)
  15. Living the blues (lost love)

Elsewhere on Untold Dylan

Index of all the songs on the site

Dylan’s opening lines: an index

How Dylan writes songs, and other articles.

The Bob Dylan Project is a jukebox of every Dylan song – and like Untold Dylan it is free.  I hope you enjoy that site too, as they have found us, and adopted us (so to speak).