Bob the sideman: playing with friends in the 80s

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: Bob was pretty busy as a sideman in the 80s and beyond but we have already covered several of these in other articles in the past.

Bob’s session work for Stevie Nicks, Lone Justice, Carlene Carter and Nanci Griffith are discussed here.

Other sessions for Tom Petty (Jammin’ Me), U2 (Love Rescue Me), Kurtis Blow (Street Rock), Gerry Goffin (Tragedy Of The Trade & Time To End This Masquerade), Ronnie Wood (King Of Kings) and Mudbone (Home) have been discussed on their respective articles for each song.

One thing you’ll notice about all these mentioned above is that Bob is the writer or co-writer on each piece.

So, this piece will concentrate on the remainder of his session work from these decades where he was not the writer of the song. The first three in this list really show where Bob’s head was at during the early 80s. They are all over the place!

First up, Bob plays harmonica on the Keith Green track “Pledge My Head To Heaven”. This appears on his 1980 album So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt.

Now to be honest, the music is ok, but I absolutely HATE the lyrics! Although in Green’s favour this was the album were he adopted the “pay what you want” policy for albums and concerts – so you could get it for free if you wanted. Bob was good friends with him at this time and maybe he shared similar views, such as this horrendous little nugget:

Well I pledge my wife to heaven, for the Gospel,
Though our love each passing day just seems to grow.
As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead,
Than to love her more than the one who saved my soul.

Green was killed in a plane crash in 1982.

Tony: Just to explain a little further, 1979 was the one and only year in which Dylan wrote a collection of songs, every single one was on the same subject.  Where he normally meandered from blues to love to lost love to moving on etc etc, in this one and only year every single song was on the subject of his religious faith.  From Gotta Serve Somebody, via When you gonna wake up and When He Returns onto What can I do for you? and See by faith

Aaron: For the second piece I couldn’t find the version with Bob’s playing online anywhere. But here is a version of the track without Bob so you can get the idea. It’s The Cruzados with Rising Sun.

The alternative version has Bob on harmonica. Recorded in 1983 but not released until 2000, on the album “Cruzados – Unreleased Early Recordings”. It was also released as a bonus tracks on the Dylan tribute album “May Your Song Always Be Sung – Vol 3”. The Cruzados shared several members with The Plugz, who backed Dylan on the Letterman show performance in 1984.

Tony: Frustratingly although part of “Unreleased Early” is on Spotify this song is not included, so if you want to hear it the only way is to buy a copy of the single track from Amazon.

Aaron: Next up, in 1985 Bob played harmonica on Sly & Robbie’s track No Name On The Bullet.

Sly and Robbie had played on Infidels and Empire Burlesque so this is Bob repaying the favour.

The last few are more renowned artists so I’ll just rattle through these ones quickly.

Bob plays harmonica on the Warren Zevon track The Factory, from 1987.

Tony: Here is one I really like, as it sounds like Dylan and what he does fits exactly into the music and meaning of the song.  It’s not a great piece of music and the lyrics are pretty obvious, but at least it is a bit of fun rebellion.

Aaron: Bob plays organ on the U2 track “Hawkmoon 269” from the 1988 Rattle and Hum album, which also includes Love Rescue Me.


Tony: Quite a brave move to say to Bob, come and play the organ on our album, as you know he’s going to do something unusual.  But again it really works.  My kind of music – and Bob gets it just right listen to it around 3 minutes 25 seconds… you wouldn’t normally even notice the organ, but it plays its part in continuing the drive forward without it being repetitious.  Simple but very effective background.

Aaron: Last one for this article is Bob’s second contribution to Ronnie Wood’s 2001 album, “Not For Beginners”. He plays guitar on the track Interfere.

Tony: An interesting choice of track for Bob to be asked to play on.   And I wonder how they get Bob there on the right day.   Could it really be that Ronnie phones Bob and says, “Hey Bob you doing anything this afternoon?”

Aaron: Bob also contributed vocals (and appears in the videos) for the two charity singles by USA For Africa (We Are The World) and Artists United Against Apartheid ((Ain’t Gonna Play) Sun City).

Next time, we’ll move back to the 70s and take a look at some of Bob’s work with Doug Sahm.

Previously in this series…

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 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 8000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link    And because we don’t do political debates on our Facebook group there is a separate group for debating Bob Dylan’s politics – Icicles Hanging Down

One comment

  1. Green’s (RIP) put down of others’ beliefs is not appealing, but it can’t be sluffed off as taking on a ‘persona’ as Dylan in some of his songs on ‘Slow Train’ in retrospect can be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *