New Dylan song! An absolute exclusive for Untold Dylan

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.

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17 Responses to New Dylan song! An absolute exclusive for Untold Dylan

  1. Larry fyffe says:

    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

  2. paul mueller says:

    so very good. Nick Juno brings it to life.

  3. Arthur Thornborough says:

    The lyrics WERE found.

  4. Larry fyffe says:

    ….and the {song }* was found

    * understood

  5. We are actively promoting a link to this interesting topic on The Bob Dylan Project at:
    http://thebobdylanproject.com/Song/id/3984/Dope-Fiend-Robber

    If you are interested, we are a portal to all the great information related to this topic.

    Join us inside Bob Dylan Music Box.

  6. Larry fyffe says:

    That is….The lyrics were written* in l961, and (the song) was found in a notebook left at the McKenzies( when found not stated)

    * written, not found

  7. EDLIS Café says:

    http://www.bobdylanroots.com/dope.html

    McKenzie manuscripts, Summer 1961
    first transcribed by Chris C. in “Isis”, No. 44, Aug-Sep 1992.

    Back in 1941
    I got shot from gattling gun,
    Defending your land,
    I was doing nothing else but fighting for Uncle Sam.
    They took me to the commissary room,
    They had to give me something to ease the pain.
    It was morphine, morphine
    I was doing nothing else but fighting for Uncle Sam.

    I left the Hospital in ’45
    Quite lucky to be alive.
    I’m a going home…

    Now you fixed my wounds and I am glad,
    But you didn’t fix the habit I had.
    White gold — morphine.

    It caused me ruin, 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.

    Now I don’t mean to harm no man,
    I just hope that you all understand,
    That I’m a dope fiend robber

    Now you need food to get along,
    But I need dust inside my bones,
    Cause I’m a dope fiend robber.

    I had to rob the jewellery store,
    But the cops they grabbed me at the door.

    They soon found out I took morphine,
    The papers said I was a dope fiend.
    Now there’s a gang t’ me.

    Nobody would go my bail,
    I had to break out of the jail.

    I didn’t mean to kill your man,
    But he held the keys in his hand.

    When you picked me up on the street that day,
    You beat me up an’ I was in a daze.

    I saw the headlines on the Morning Star,
    Mad dope fiend killer behind the bars.

    I was found guilty at the trail [sic],
    Judge said I’m condemned to die.

    Now I’m not asking for sympathy,
    From anybody in your society,
    Cause.

    There’s a man that keeps on pushing me,
    You’ll take my life and he goes free.

    ==========

    http://www.bobdylanroots.com/dope.html

    The song has been well known to Dylan fans since 1992, earlier to some.

    >New Dylan song! An absolute exclusive for Untold Dylan

    Better to say

    New performance of a Dylan song

    As Manfred said years ago on his site:

    “These (possibly original) lyrics (about a World War II veteran whose morphine habit turns him into a robber) remind me (in parts) of Dylan’s “The Ballad of Donald White” (“Now I’m not asking for sympathy, from anybody in your society…”).
    For another songwriter’s treatment of a similar subject (from the Vietnam War era), cf. John Prine’s “Sam Stone””

    Manfred Helfert

  8. TonyAttwood says:

    The headline referred to our list of 604 Dylan songs – it is an ongoing theme on the blog. This is the 604th song, so it is new to the list. Since I don’t think anyone else has produced such a comprehensive list, it is a matter of a little celebration among those of us who find it interesting to have a comprehensive list. Probably very nerdish of me to be enthusiastic, but we all have our special interests.

  9. Nick Juno says:

    Hi David
    Thanks for the add.
    The BobDylanProject is a fantastic resource!
    -nick

  10. Rajan Mahadevan says:

    Bravo, Manfred.

  11. Rajan Mahadevan says:

    Bravo, Manfred. The Nick Juno Version to me, by the way, is like an omelette without eggs.

  12. Rajan Mahadevan says:

    Bravo, Manfred. The Nick Juno Remake to me, by the way, is like an omelette without eggs.

  13. khematite says:

    Possibly inspired by the true story of Barney Ross, a Jewish boxer who was the welterweight world champion in the 1930s. Ross enlisted in the marines after Pearl Harbor and was a hero of the Battle of Guadalcanal. During his recovery from wounds suffered in that battle, Ross became addicted to morphine and eventually became a heroin user with a $500 a day habit.

    Ross’ recovery from drug addiction was told (in a heavily fictionalized version) in Monkey On My Back, a film released in 1957, just a few years before Dylan wrote this song. It’s certainly possible that a 16-year old Bobby Zimmerman saw the film at the Hibbing movie theater named after his great-grandmother, Lybba Edelstein..

  14. Nick Juno says:

    Terrific information. Thanks for the back story. -nick

  15. Nick Juno says:

    Tony and Aaron thank you so much for proposing this writing exercise. I learned alot that didn’t know and thoroughly enjoyed the process!
    -nick

  16. Aaron G says:

    Hi Nick

    That’s excellent! I hope you gained some further exposure from this, it really is an excellent piece of work!

    We do have some other Dylan lyrics with no music that we will post at some point in the future! Be on the look out if you are interested

    Thanks, Aaron

  17. Nick juno says:

    Hi Aaron
    Thanks again.
    Like I said this has been a good experience for me and I can’t thank you and Tony enough.
    -Nick

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