Dylan re-imagined: Workingmen’s 2, Dogs running free, and a real old favourite

Performances selected by Paul Hobson, commentary by Tony Attwood

In this series we have been taking a look at some of the more notable performances of songs by Dylan on the Never Ending Tour.  There is an index to our articles in this series here.

Workingmen’s Blues No 2 from “Modern Times” has been one of Dylan’s favourites since he introduced it into the song rosta on 11 October 2006, and it stayed as part of the Never Ending Tour for two solid years, garnering 267 performances, before finally being set aside 12 years later almost to the day, at least for a while.

Although listening to the performance below I felt it would be hard to make much of the lyrics if one didn’t know them.  But the fact is that into this century Bob was still telling us his visions:

Some people never worked a day in their life
Don’t know what work even means

Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the front line
Sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues

Moving on to our second choice – “If Dogs Run Free” this is an interesting selection indeed.  It was part of New Morning which came out in 1970 but did not get an outing on stage for 30 years until suddenly on 1 October 2000, there it was, in the show.

Over the next five years Bob performed it 104 times, until in 2005 it was once more shut away in its box not to be seen again.

The live performances had none of the twinkling jazzy piano that was central to the album version, and of course the unexpected scat singing of the second vocals, which at times sounds like imitation dog type noises.   But the bounce of the song is still there, and here Bob sounds much more convinced about his own lyrics – as if he had looked again at his lyrics and thought – “no this is not rubbish as some reviewers said – we just need to change the arrangement.”

And for our third selection today, here is “Highway 61 Revisited.  Bob decides to talk to his audience a little before bringing those familiar lyrics, and he really looks like he is enjoying himself with it.  And why not – it is a song from 50 years ago, and still going strong.  Still most certainly worth performing.

Now it really was a bit of a surprise to find the song has been with us for 50 years, as the listings show us that Bob began playing this song at the end of 1969 and was still playing it in the shows this year – a staggering 1,986 live performances.

As such it is the third most performed song in the Dylan repertoire, with the current (August 2019) list, reading

Ranking Song Times played to date
1 All along the watchtower 2268
2 Like a Rolling Stone 2075
3 Highway 61 Revisited 1986
4 Tangled up in Blue 1685
5 Blowing in the Win 1585
6 Ballad of a thin Man 1240
7 Don’t think twice it’s all right 1086
8 It Ain’t me babe 1060
9 Maggie’s Farm 1051
10 Things Have Changed 967

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+ Dylan compositions reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.  It contains reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

We also 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.

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