Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Elton John.

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

 

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