Dylan Cover of the Day number 20: Born in Time

A list of the previous articles in this series is given below.

By Tony Attwood

The most famous cover of “Born in Time” is Eric Clapton’s, and for me the quality of that recording is overshadowed by what I, in my normal pompous manner, consider to be the ludicrous commentary on Wikipedia about this song.  I’ve just checked and it is still there.

I remember on reading it some time back that it seems to miss the entire essence of the song, and instead reduces it to points of detail about who did what.  But then maybe Wiki would argue that facts are what they are about, not musical appreciation.

Now I’m sure many people, who by chance have stumbled on my ramblings, will consider that I do much the same, although at the moment I am immune to their comments being buoyed up by a comment from Michael Lowe who (having discovered a piece of mine from around nine years ago) simply wrote “What a brilliant review”.  Nothing else, just that. That’s enough to keep me running the site for another six months at least.

Bob Dylan generally doesn’t seem at all troubled by criticism, no matter how ill-informed, and no matter how lacking in musical knowledge the critic is.  Indeed the essence of my criticisms of Heylin in my reviews of Dylan’s songs is that he doesn’t seem to have a clue about the music, and yet sets himself up as the great analyst and reviewer.

Anyway such are my thoughts for the day as I plod my merry way through the cover versions of Dylan, in alphabetical order (excluding of course those for which there are no covers which are available on the internet.  I could have put up blank pages for those, but that seemed a little too arty for this site).

And I guess I’d better start with Mr Clapton…

It is, I think, the use of the snare drum throughout that gives this version its unique feel, although the way Clapton handles the second section (“Just when I thought…”) as a set of short phrases with a chorus added, that again singles out this version.   Personally, I find the percussion gets a little waring, and that is always the problem with a song where an idea is set up at the start and the producer says, “hey that sounds good” so it is left there, no matter what.  But maybe it is just me, and no one else really minds.

“Too gooey” I think more or less sums it up for me, but I know billions of people (or at least a few who I know) rave over it.

It is interesting (for me if no one else) that when one artist has covered a song and inserted an element in the instrumentation, and which is continued all the way through, other cover artists feel the need to do the same. Not with the same idea, but with something that runs all the way through.   Indigenous does it with reverb – do it once, do it again, do it again, and, well, you get the idea.

In fact it seems to me that everyone feels the need to over-orchestrate this song, and yet it is so beautiful and delicate in reality this is the last thing it needs, for it already has everything you could ever need.  Whoever might have thought (in the version below) that suddenly we needed an accordion and a moment from a backing chorus?  Oh dear, I have become a grumpy old man.  Beware dear reader, that is what happens…  (And as for that backing chorus repeating three words every now and then…. argh!!!!)

So thank goodness for Meg Hutchinson – and indeed I’ve featured this recording before in an article.  This is how it should sound – utter elegant simplicity.  And it needs that because that is what the lyrics are all about.  OK the producer loses her/his nerve halfway through with some twiddly bits of backing which are both meaningless musically, and utterly unnecessary, but at least toward the end, we return to something closer to the opening which is so utterly gorgeous – until those horrible twiddles come in after the singing has stopped.

What makes it so difficult to let an artist with a voice as beautiful and commanding as Meg Hutchinson just deliver a song which is also beautiful and commanding?  Not being a record producer I don’t know.  So if anyone is in touch with Ms Hutchinson, drop her a note asking for a release of this song minus twiddly bits.  I’d buy it, even if no one else would.

The series so far…


  1. Tony is indeed rather pompous to think that everybody has to be a trained musician to be annoyed by a loud upfront drum beat that dominates the lyrics of a song….

    Dylan seldom if ever allows that to happen….

    A pair of ears do just fine in that regard.

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