By Tony Attwood
One of the few Dylan songs that I re-arranged myself for the band I was in at the time was “I am a lonesome hobo” and I recall adding a descending bass which across the first line of the song would move down from D almost totally chromatically until reaching G at “friends”.
So I was wondering if anyone who actually turned a cover version into a recording had followed that route… but no. This either suggests my idea was rubbish and explains why I became a writer not a musician, or it suggests that even after all these cover versions have been made, there are still other options available for any upcoming band that wants to go further.
Anyway, you’ll recall perhaps that the original version of “hobo” stays resolutely on one chord for the first three lines with the bass playing the same note over and over through the first 12 bars, and only then giving us variation.
And indeed, trying to give a variation to that remorseless one chord approach is the main issue here and that’s what I have been listening to, to see if anyone did find a good solution.
The Duke Robillard Band clearly recognise the meaning of the words: the desperation of loneliness, failure and nothingness. And so the musical background gives us a soundtrack to an awful life, which Bob doesn’t do at all, as he prefers to leave the lyrics to do it all.
The trouble with this approach for me is that after a moment or three I’ve got the idea, and with this much desperation there really isn’t anywhere else to go.
So moving on to Thea Gilmore, you might just recall that I have in the past raved over some of her arrangements on her complete JWH cover album.
She too sticks to the single chord approach, but the introduction of the banjo, and the stretching of certain words in the lyrics challenges the rhythm in a very interesting way.
And the approach keeps up the interest throughout. Indeed, the way she takes it all down with the “Kind ladies” verse reignites the feeling, and there is just a faint change of melody near the end to give a feeling that the little track was worth listening to. Of course she found herself able to do so much more with The Drifters’ Escape on this album, but I still find this version enjoyable enough.
Now the likes of Steve Gibbons and Dave Pegg know infinitely more about performing Dylan than I ever could in a dozen lifetimes, but I am sorry to say I just don’t feel inspired here, even by the instrumental break.
And so I go searching further afield, and yes the Triffids do take me further on the journey that I have been following as I seek the perfect version of the song. Here it is the percussion that leads the way with the unexpected emphasis. Quite why it is so unexpected is because it is on the quarter beat before each bar starts – which given the way Dylan performs the song is utterly unexpected.
As indeed is the end!
And that could be the end of my meander through the covers today, however there is one more and I have left what for me is the best until last. It’s in Swedish, but that’s neither here nor there, since we all know the lyrics, for the key point is the orchestration.
The contrast between the repeated three lines of each verse with the final line is exactly what this song needs to give it life again over 50 years since the piece was written.
I still think there is something else to be taken from this song, but I’m way past the age of working with a band to put what I can hear in my head onto a recording, so it will have to wait for someone else to come along and give it a try. And anyway what I hear in my head often doesn’t really work out when played out loud.
A list of previous songs reviewed is given below.
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- Dylan cover of the day: Number 1. The song with numbers in the title.
- Dylan cover of the day. No 2: Ain’t Talkin
- Bob Dylan cover of the day No3: All I really want to do
- Dylan cover of the day No4: Angelina
- Dylan covers of the day No 5. Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- Cover version of the day No 6: As I went out one morning
- Dylan cover of the day No 7: Ballad for a Friend
- Dylan Cover of the Day No 8: Ballad in Plain D
- Dylan Cover of the Day No 9: Ballad of a thin man
- Dylan cover No. 10: The stunning reworking of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- Dylan cover of the day No 11: The ballad of Hollis Brown
- A Dylan cover a day No 12: Beyond here lies nothing
- Dylan cover of the day No 13: Blind Willie McTell
- Dylan Cover of the Day 14: Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- Dylan Cover of the Day 15: An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Dylan Cover of the Day 16: Blowin in the wind as never before
- Dylan Cover of the Day 17: Bob Dylan’s Dream
- Dylan Cover of the Day 18: You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Dylan cover of the day 19: Boots of Spanish leather
- Dylan cover of the day 20: Born in Time
- Dylan cover of the day 21: Buckets of Rain
- Dylan cover of the day: 22 Can you please crawl out your window
- Dylan cover of the day 23: Can’t wait
- Dylan Cover of the Day 24: Changing of the Guard
- Dylan Cover of the Day 25: Chimes of Freedom
- Dylan cover a day 34: Country Pie
- Dylan Cover of the Day 33: Crash on the Levee
- Dylan cover a day 35: Dark Eyes
- Dylan Cover of the Day 26: Dear Landlord
- Dylan cover of the Day 27: Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Dylan cover of the Day 28: Dignity.
- Dylan Cover of the Day 29: Dirge
- Dylan Cover of the Day 30: Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Dylan cover a Day 31: Don’t think twice
- Dylan cover a day 32: Down along the cove
- Dylan cover – recovered 33: Drifter’s Escape
- Dylan cover a day 34: Duquesne Whistle
- Dylan cover a day 35: Farewell Angelina
- Dylan cover a day 36: Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Dylan cover a day 37: Fourth Time Around
- Dylan cover a Day 38: From a Buick 6
- Dylan cover a Day: 39 “Gates of Eden” as never before
- Dylan cover a Day: 40 “Gotta Serve Somebody”
- Dylan Cover a Day: 41 Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- Dylan cover a day: 42 Heart of Mine
- A Dylan Cover a Day 43: High Water
- Dylan cover a day 44: Highway 61.5