By Aaron Galbraith
This article comes from the series “Songs about Dylan” – you can find details of other articles in this series via that link (and in case you lose the link it also appears in the list of series below the Dylan picture at the top of the screen).
Today let’s take a look at two tracks by two of the biggest superstars of the 70s, David Bowie and Elton John.
First up it’s Bowie with “Song For Bob Dylan”
The track appears on Bowie’s greatest album, “Hunky Dory”. It kinda gets lost amidst that album’s classic tracks such as “Changes”, “Oh, You Pretty Things” and, especially, “Life On Mars”. But it’s still a great song. Here are the second and third verses
You gave your heart to every bedsit room At least a picture on my wall And you sat behind a million pair of eyes And told them how they saw Then we lost your train of thought The paintings are all your own While troubles are rising We'd rather be scared Together than alone Now hear this Robert Zimmerman Though I don't suppose we'll meet Ask your good friend Dylan If he'd gaze a while down the old street Tell him we've lost his poems So they're writing on the walls Give us back our unity Give us back our family You're every nation's refugee
Dylan wrote in “Chronicles”:
“I found myself stuck in Woodstock, vulnerable and with a family to protect. If you looked in the press, though, you saw me being portrayed as anything but that. It was surprising how thick the smoke had become. It seems like the world has always needed a scapegoat—someone to lead the charge against the Roman Empire. But America wasn’t the Roman Empire and someone else would have to step up and volunteer…Now it had blown up in my face and was hanging over me. I wasn’t a preacher performing miracles. It would have driven anybody mad.”
In an interview in Melody Maker in 1976 Bowie said, “It was at that period that I said, ‘Okay, Dylan, if you don’t want to do it, I will.’ I saw that leadership void”. Bowie’s song begins by directly referencing “Song To Woody” and so sets himself up to be Dylan’s heir presumptive:
Next up it’s an unreleased Elton John track with lyrics by, as usual, Bernie Taupin. “The Day Bobby Went Electric”
It might have been Ibiza But it could have been the coast of Spain On a clapped-out continental radio I thought I heard his name But I was just another hippie then With my copy of Rolling Stone In a kickback full of hashish That I was trying to smuggle home chorus: And where were you When you knew Where were you When you heard The day that Bobby went electric How did you receive the word There was years of independence Put a meaning on the words "hard rain" In a rundown beachfront arcade I heard How the times have changed I was thrown in jail in Tangiers With a couple from Montreal Who'd been working their way to London To see the plug-in at the Albert Hall The day that Bobby went electric I was struggling through my teens And when he plugged in up at Newport I was caught up in a dream
The track was demo’d for the excellent “Songs From The West Coast” album. I’m surprised that it wasn’t used on the album or as a B side as it would really fit in with the sound and theme of that album. Maybe one day he will finish it off and record it properly for an album. It certainly works for me.
Now it’s quiz time… In 1973 Elton performed on radio a jokey pub piano style medley of some Dylan tracks. Much like Vic Reeves on Shooting Stars doing his Club Singer bit, try and figure out what songs Elton is playing here!
If you don’t get the Vic Reeves reference, here’s a clip to help you out. Enjoy!
What else is on the site
You’ll find some notes about 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 all the 590 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members. (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm). Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.
On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article. Email Tony@schools.co.uk
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