By Tony Attwood
I started out to do another in the series of Bob’s rarities – performances only heard once or twice on the Never Ending Tour. But I got rather sidetracked, and rather than just delete all the blind alleys I followed this time, I thought I’d share them with you, if nothing else than to show that writing the “Once only files” and “Rarities” is not quite as easy as it looks.
But this is not just all academic meander – because at the very end is one of those fantastic one-off Dylan performances I stumbled on by chance. And when you get there please do play the recording of Samson and Delilah all the way through; the guitar solo is just so beautifully poised within the context of the music. I’ve just played it a dozen times while putting this little article together, and it is still a great performance.
So, here’s the whole thing that I meandered through on my way there…
The official Bob Dylan site has a list of all the songs Bob Dylan has written, and those played live. Except it seems on occasion not to be quite right.
Take the wonderful Abandoned Love. That, according to the official site has never ever been played live. And yet on our first review of the song we did indeed find it and dutifully put it on the site. Amazingly it is still there for all to hear.
Now I thought that was the only live version – the other one being the Biograph version. But then along comes another. This isn’t the Biograph for sure – but is it the original one and only live version?
My musical ear at once says no, this is in a different key – performed a tone higher to be technical. (Imagine you played the first note on a guitar, but then moved your finger up two frets and played that as the starting note. That’s the difference – one tone.)
But no, the performance is the same as the one and only other live version – someone has been digitally playing around somewhere. There are only two versions, one is live. The official site remains wrong, but only by one, not two.
Speaking of songs that the official site doesn’t recognise Bob has performed, one of these is “Baby Please Don’t Go”. But I think he has…
According to the SetList site this was performed at the PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ on August 10, 2003, but I don’t think this was recorded then. (You see the tangle I am getting in today). But really, it doesn’t matter too much – it’s a great recording. (I know I will be told off for being so inept as to not know the source of this, but I’m happy to accept this in return for being able to introduce it to one or two readers who might not know this recording).
Here’s another one that is not on the official site list of songs performed.
“Glad I got to see you once again.” This does have a page to itself on the official site, but does not turn up in the list of songs performed. The recording comes from 4 August 1988 at the Greek Theatre, in LA.
On this song Bob has travelled quite a long way. Here’s Hank Snow with the same version
I’m not sure about that performance of Bob’s – we all know that some people in the audience are going to shout and scream and make strange noises, and his rendition is not suited for that. But of course it’s Bob, and Bob knows best.
There is a compilation on Spotify of “I Still Miss Someone (Original Country Songs Bob Dylan Covered 1949 – 1954)” which has this listed, but it is the one song on the selection that (at least on my system) won’t play. Very curious.
One more, and this is the one it was all worth waiting for: Samson and Delilah. I do hope you are sitting down and paying full attention, because this is fantastic.
Samson and Delilah
This was performed on 11 June 2004 at Manchester TN, in the Bonnaroo Music Festival. This is listed by the Bob Dylan project as Traditional, Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Gary Davies. I am not sure that Willie Johnson had anything to do with this song, but there is a general recognition that Gary Davies wrote it.
Here are the lyrics
If I had my way If I had my way If I had my way I would tear this old building down Well Delilah, she was a woman fine and fair She had good looks, God knows and coal black hair Delilah, she came to Samson's mind The first he saw this woman that looked so fine Delilah, she set down on Samson's knee Said tell me where your strength lies if you please She spoke so kind, God knows, she talked so fair 'til Samson said 'Delilah, you can cut off my hair You can shave my head, clean as my hand And my strength 'come as natural as any a man' If I had my way If I had my way In this wicked world If I had my way I would tear this old building down Talk, Yeah Yeah, Talk to me Yeah, Yeah, talk to me Yeah, what happened then? If I had my way If I had my way If I had my way I would tear this old building down Yeah you read about old Samson, told from his birth He was the strongest man that ever had lived on Earth So one day while Samson was-a-walkin' along He looked on the ground and saw an old jawbone He stretched out his arm, God knows, it broke like flint When he got to movin' ten-thousand was dead, Mmm If I had my way If I had my way in this wicked world If I had my way I would tear this old building down Well old Samson and the lion got attacked Samson he jumped up on the lion's back So you read about this lion had killed a man with his paws But Samson got his hand in the lion's jaws He rid that beast until he killed him dead And the bees made honey in the lion's head Good God! If I had my way If I had my way If I had my way I would tear this old building down If I had my way If I had my way in this wicked world If I had my way I would tear this old building down Good God1
If you have been, thanks for reading. And listening.
Songs that Bob Dylan has only ever performed once or twice live.
- Bob’s live rarities, from a bottle of bread to mountains of Mourne (and rock n roll)
- Bob’s live rarities: As I went out, Billy, Get out of Denver.
- Bob’s once only songs: 12 gates; one morning; Viola Lee
- Bob’s once only songs: Boom Boom Mancini & Farewell to the Gold
- Bob Dylan’s once only file: B-Thang, Blue Bonnet Girl and Blue Monday
- Dylan’s once only file: I defy you not to play this song twice. Or more.
- Dylan’s once only file: You’re too late and the Old Rock n Roller
- Dylan’s Once only file “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” “Blue Moon” “Weeping Willow”
- Dylan’s “Once Only” File: 10,000 men and 20/20 Vision
- Bob’s Once Only File: Elvis, Tom, Shadows and one by mistake
- Hang Me Hey Joe Heartbeat
Dylan’s once only file: the concert. Aaron has created a Youtube file of the songs Bob has played once only and which we have reviewed.
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