By Tony Attwood
Reaching the end of the working day I occasionally mooch around (as my dear mum used to say – meaning, meander aimlessly), surveying Dylan facts and figures, with no particular destination in mind. And doing this yesterday I found myself chancing upon the list of songs the Bob has played once, and only once on tour.
Now the first song I tried out was “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, and playing it I felt I could see and hear why it was tried only once – it sounded to me singularly unrehearsed, and not really something I cared to share with my esteemed audience at large.
But I decided to try my luck again and so moved on to 10,000 Men which was played at Keaney Gym, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, on 12 November 2000. It’s the original song ok, but not all the verses are covered.
It’s a fun and bouncy
Ten thousand men standing on a hill Ten thousand men on a hill Some of them going down, some of them going get killed Ten thousand men dressed in Oxford blue Ten thousand men dressed in Oxford blue Drumming in the morning, in the evening they’ll be coming for you Ten thousand men on the move Ten thousand men on the move None of them doing nothin’ that your mama wouldn’t disapprove Hey! Who could your lover be? Hey! Who could your lover be? Let me eat off his head so you can really see! Ten thousand men looking so lean and frail Ten thousand men looking so lean and frail Each one of ’m got seven wives, each one of ’m just out of jail Ten thousand women all sweepin’ my room Ten thousand women all sweepin’ my room Spilling my buttermilk, sweeping it up with a broom Ten thousand men digging for silver and gold Ten thousand men digging for silver and gold All clean shaven, all coming in from the cold Ooh, baby, thank you for my tea! Baby, thank you for my tea! It’s so sweet of you to be so nice to me
It is a song from the generally forgotten “Under the Red Sky” album and came at a time when Bob was searching to find a new way to write protest songs. The songs of that time are generally appearing to be about childhood or adaptations of nursery rhymes but in the end are about something much darker. Here’s how I categorised them in the review of songwriting in 1990.
- Handy Dandy (Contradictions)
- Cat’s in the Well (It’s all over, there’s no way out)
- 10,000 men (All is not as it seems)
- Unbelievable (We are being fed a pack of lies)
- Under the red sky (Our childhood has been obliterated)
- Heartland with Willie Nelson (Capitalism is destroying us)
I think this live version goes rather well; there’s nothing wrong with it as a rocking R&B song. Good entertainment all round.
So having started with a song sung only once, which starts with a number, I then found another: 20/20 vision a song by Jimmy Martin. It was performed at City Coliseum, Austin Tx on 25 October 1991.
I been to the doctor he says I'm all right I know he's lying, I'm losing my sight He should have examined the eyes of my mind 20/20 vision and walkin' 'round blind She's gone and left I feel so alone I carry a heart as heavy as stone ? 20/20 vision and walkin' 'round blind With my eyes wide open I lay in my bed If it wasn't for dying, I wish I was dead But this is my punishment, death is too kind 20/20 vision and walkin' 'round blind You just couldn't know her the way that I do You say that she's wicked and I know it's true I know that she cheated, I knew all the time 20/20 vision and walkin' 'round blind Since she's gone and left me I feel so alone I carry a heart that is heavy as stone I know she cheated, I knew all the time 20/20 vision and walkin' 'round blind She's gone she's gone oh what will I do? I bet your not happy if she's there with you The eyes of your heart will have trouble like mine 20-20 vision and walkin' 'round blind 20-20 vision and walkin' 'round blind...
So where did it come from? A search reveals something like fifty songs that have this title, although just to make it more complex some are written “Twenty-twenty” some “2020” and some “20/20”. And then some.
But with a bit of intrepid investigation, I’ve found this…
It is an amazing transformation by Bob from this original by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. And hearing Bob’s version and the Gene Autry original really makes me think the whole notion of finding Bob’s “once only” performances is worth it.
I didn’t find too many other versions but here is one that is fun
Chris Thile and Michael Daves playing 20/20 Vision and Walking Round Blind at the Crocodile in Seattle on May 12th 2013.
But no, the original recording was by Jimmy Martin it seems. and the song was written by Joe Allison and Milton Estes. And here it is
Now you may have thought this a total waste of your time, but I quite enjoyed the searching and the music too. So I might well do another. Any suggestions of particular songs you would like investigated please do say. And indeed if you would like to contribute an article on this theme, just send it to me. Tony@schools.co.uk
As ever, thanks for reading.
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. 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 on Untold Dylan.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with around 7000 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. Tony Attwood