Bob’s oddities: What I go through to find an astounding work of genius!

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…

Abandoned Love

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.

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.

12 years of Untold Dylan

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9 Responses to Bob’s oddities: What I go through to find an astounding work of genius!

  1. Larry fyffe says:

    On the 1971 TMQ ‘Picnic Massacre’ bootleg Dylan performs Joe Williams’ short 1935 version of the traditional ‘Baby Please Don’t Go”(’61 Minnesota Tapes) – not the longer one given above.

  2. Larry fyffe says:

    But there was one than one session in 1961.

  3. Larry fyffe says:

    *more than one

  4. Larry fyffe says:

    But where the long version of ‘Please Don’t Go’ comes from I do not know

  5. Larry fyffe says:

    The above’Please Don’the Go’ is not the version(though similar to the shorter one) that Dylan sings on the Cynthia Gooding Show in 1962

  6. Larry fyffe says:

    At the Bank Arts Centre 2003 Dylan only plays guitar with the Heartbreakers’ encore on ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go.’

  7. Tim says:

    Blind Willie Johnson’s If I had my way I’d tear this building down, is the original?

  8. TonyAttwood says:

    Tim, Blind Willie Johnson was the first person to record “Tear this building down” – although it is normally classified as a traditional song, rather than a song he wrote. I don’t know if he recorded it more than once though.

  9. Soundguy says:

    T-Bone Burnett performed a version of Tear this Building Down.

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