A Dylan cover a day 36: Dear Landlord

By Tony Attwood

Moving on through the Dylan songs in alphabetical order I was not especially surprised to find the paucity of covers of Day of the Locusts, which is a very personal song, but I was interested and slightly taken aback by the lack of versions of “Dead Man Dead Man”, which musically I feel has a lot of potential.

However, it’s not for me to tell artists what they ought to be putting out to the great wide public, so on we go and “Dear Landlord” turns up more.  Including an offer from Diva de Lai (Dylan at the opera).  At first, I thought it might just be an operatic voice with vibrato cashing in on the song, but no it is much more than this.   I love the harmonies later and the male chorus which also appears later.  Great fun.

I have no idea how long Thea Gilmore and her colleagues actually took to work out the arrangements for the John Wesley Harding album, but the great thing about it is that each arrangement really does start from a different position, each related to the essence of the song.  It would have been so easy to take a style (which is after all what Bob did for all the songs apart from the last two extra tracks, seemingly thrown in to make it long enough to be an album), but they resisted.  I get the feeling each and every song was considered in depth, the new arrangement always starting from scratch.

Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker in their own versions of the song have given it a regular rock n roll beat and although musically it is possible, I just don’t think it works for the essence of the lyrics.  So I move on finally to…

… Joan Baez…  I really don’t feel this bouncy rhythm works.  Ms Baez is easily adept enough to fit the lyrics and variations of the melody to this, but the rhythm behind her makes no sense in the context of her singing, nor in the context of lyrics.  Indeed you can hear the pianist getting rather desperate to fill in his/her part around it all.   Artistically it is the equivalent of taking a famous picture and saying “Ok let’s turn it upside and add a load of paint sploshes around the edges; that might work.”

It’s not Ms Baez fault – she’s not the producer, although she might have had the power to say, “let’s not put that one out”.  In that context, the picture of her (below) is just about right.


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  1. Just realised your progress is alphabetical, which begs the question: where are Jason and the Scorchers? Their Absolutely Sweet Marie is fun.

  2. Hi Jim – thanks for the comment. What is selected for showing in this series is very much a personal choice, meaning also that if I don’t know a cover version, it tends not to be included. But also it is dependent on the video being available on the internet and free for everyone to see. So it could have been missed for either reason. If you can find that cover on line please do go back to that article and paste in the link in the comments so others can share.

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