By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
You might recall that we recently announced we had come across a set of lyrics written by Bob Dylan which seemingly has no music. So, being UNTOLD Dylan (the name was chosen very purposefully) we asked if anyone would care to write the music to go with the lyrics, then perform the song, and have the song included in the list of all the songs that Dylan has composed or co-composed.
And now that has happened.
The song is called Dope Fiend Robber. The lyrics were written in 1961 and was found in a notebook left at the McKenzies. As we noted before Woody Guthrie also had an unreleased song called Dopefiend Robber, apparently written in 1953, and then discovered in 2012, with music subsequently added by The New Multitudes.
So we published the lyrics, noting that the “sections” of the song are of varying lengths, which suggests that this is a very early draft, and that the song would have been modified as the music was added, to make the verses more regular. So we suggested that anyone taking on the task of writing the music should feel free to write is as he or she wished.
For as we said at the time when Bob Dylan allowed all the famous songwriters to compose the music for the New Basement Tapes Notebook songs, he made it clear that the composers could do anything they liked with the lyrics. Indeed it is instructive to go back and look at those songs to see just how varied the composers were able to be in handling the notes that Dylan left.
And now we have the song evolved from “Dope Fiend” – and let us tell you, it is sensational. Like really sen-sat-ion-al.
We’ll be listing this as Dylan’s song number 604 and putting it in the alphabetical list of Dylan compositions – exactly as the New Basement Tapes songs are.
So here we have “Dope Fiend Robber” by Bob Dylan and Nick Juno.
As we noted above, the lyrics by Dylan were clearly not finished, so Nick has kindly provided us with his amendments and additions in italics in the text that follows
I got shot from a gatling gun In the uniform of your land I was doing nothing else But fighting for uncle sam They took me to the infirmary They had to give me something for my pain It was morphine In the hospital till ‘45 More or less half alive They patched me up and I am glad But now I got a habit and I got it bad It caused me ruin and it caused me shame My wife don’t even want my name I was buying high day by day All I do is pay and pay I don’t want to harm no man Hope that you can understand Most need food to get along I need dust inside inside my bones I tried to rob the jewelry store The police grabbed me at the door They soon found out I use morphine The papers called me a dope fiend Nobody would go my bail I couldn’t stay inside that jail I didn’t mean to kill that man But he held the keys right in his hand They quickly caught me on the street The police knocked me off my feet The headlines on the Morning Star Mad dope fiend killer back behind bars They found me guilty at the trial The Judge condemned me to die Been on that morphine quite a while But once I was somebody’s child I don’t want your sympathy An I’m not part of your society But there’s a ghost who's chained to me You’ll take my life and we both go free
And here it is. A new old Dylan song, exclusive to Untold Dylan, thanks very much to Nick Juno.
- Lyrics © Bob Dylan and Nick Juno, Music © Nick Juno 2020.
- Published originally by Untold Dylan
Insightful comment from Tony: “I can’t believe he’s just done that It’s fucking brilliant!”
Most fulsome thanks to Nick – we both think this is brilliantly written and exquisitely performed.
Untold Dylan: who we are what we do
Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan. It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.
We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers. Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who study English literature. If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is for publication.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with approaching 5000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture. Not every index is complete but I do my best.
But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page. I’m proud of that; no one else has that many songs with that much information. Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.
And please do note our friends at 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, plus links back to our reviews (which we do appreciate).
If in reading the site and listening to some of the music you get even one tenth as much pleasure as I get in publishing the material, you’ll be having a good time.
Tony Attwood, Publisher / editor, Untold Dylan.