Dylan’s Rarities: Hang me, Hey Joe and Heartbeat

by Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

If you have been following the “All directions at once” series you may have noticed a mention of the traditional song “Hang me oh Hang Me”

Philip Saville invited Bob to perform three songs in a live TV drama “Madhouse on Castle Street”.   “Blowin’ in the Wind” was used at the start and the end of the programme over the credits.  Dylan also performed two traditional English folk songs, “Hang Me, O Hang Me”, and “Cuckoo Bird”, and then “Ballad of the Gliding Swan” for which Saville had written the words.

Well Aaron has spotted the fact that in 1990 Bob Dylan revisited “Hang me o hang me”  and performed it on stage.  We can’t find out why Bob chose this moment to perform the song – Tony wondered if it coincided with the passing of Philip Saville who had invited Bob to work on the show with him, but that was not the case.  Maybe something just jogged Bob’s mind – or maybe Philip Saville (who was indeed very much alive at the time) was in the audience that night.

This performance from 1990 was the one and only time Bob performed it (as far as we know) after that play.

But of course the internet is full of curious things and there is an article that says “The TV show opened with Oscar Isaac, singing “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” at the Gaslight Cafe,” followed by this link.

We’re pretty sure this performance doesn’t have anything to do with the TV show – not least because a) the BBC archive recording of the song was lost, and b) the show was made in black and white.

You’ll notice the line “all around the world” in the song, which is a song the Grateful Dead have performed…

This again is a traditional song, with the earliest recording dating from 1937.   We can’t find any of the early recordings, but this one is one of a number that reflect the song in what is probably fairly close to the original approach


And now, as they say for something completely different.

Bob Dylan did once perform “Hey Joe”   It is not, to my ears, a very convincing performance, but he did it.

This was apparently recorded on 12 July at Jazz a Juan.  You will, we are sure, know all about the original…


And for something very different from that….

That from the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, 23 November 2014.  Of course what we are getting onto here are not songs actually performed in concert but in the sound checks on stage.  But clearly everyone could drop straight into the song.

That’s all for this time.  Hope you enjoyed at least one or two of  the recordings.

Songs that Bob Dylan has only ever performed once or twice live.




  1. The “post- Pinter” ‘Madhouse On Castle Street’ by Jones about a self-isolated boader named Tompkins was shown on British TV, Jan 13, 1963 – so playing “Hang Me” on Feb 8, 1990 makes sense…it’s said that Evan Jones updated the traditional ‘Gliding Swan’ (not Saville )with Dylan making some changes thereto – Saville directed a Harold Pinter TV play in which its playwright acted, and later wrote a screenplay for Conrad’s ‘Victory.”

  2. Then give me a land where the bright diamond sand
    Flows leisurely down to the stream
    Where glideth along the graceful white swan
    Like a maid in her heaveningly dream
    (My Western Home: Higley/ Kelley)

    Transforms in to “Home On The Range”)

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