Dylan cover a day: I’m not there and an interview with Todd Haynes

By Tony Attwood

Here the whole concept of doing a study of some of the best cover versions of Dylan’s songs (which is the point of A Dylan Cover a Day in case you hadn’t noticed) falls apart.   Because there is no definitive version of the song by Dylan with which we can compare it.

The best version we have is this one (it starts with some filming that is nothing to do with the song, so if you are of an impatient disposition, you might want to pop along to around the 25 second mark.

And if you care to follow the lyrics, they are below.  They still sound to me as if they are improvised as Bob sings, but if that is the case how on earth did he manage to take it all the way to

And the old gypsy told her, like I said, “Carry on,”
I wish I was there to help her but I’m not there, I’m gone.

which is a masterpiece of an ending given all that was said before.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on about this utter masterpiece elsewhere on this site, and there’s not much I can add to that – except to note that this original by Dylan is far better than the cover version that turned up in the movie.  Which is really the reverse of the whole point of this series – what I am normally trying to comment on are the covers that ADD something to Dylan.  Nothing adds to Dylan in this case, although I’ve had a go myself out of desperation to give the world another version of this masterpiece.


We have published the lyrics before, and looking at them again I am correcting them here

Thing’s are all right and she’s all too tight
In my neighbourhood she cries both day and night
I know it because it was there
It’s a milestone but she’s down on her luck
And she’s daily salooning about to make a hard earned buck; 
   I was there.

I believe that she’d stop him if she would start to care
I believe that she’d look upon the side that used to care
And I’d go by the Lord anywhere she’s on my way
But I don’t belong there.

No, I don’t belong to her, I don’t belong to anybody
She’s my Christ-forsaken-angel but she don’t hear me cry
She’s a lone hearted mystic and she can’t carry on
When I’m there she’s all right, but then she’s not, when I’m gone.

Heaven knows that the answer she not calling no one
She’s the way, forsaken beauty for she’s mine, for the one
And I lost her hesitation by temptation lest  it runs
But she don’t honour me but I’m not there, I’m gone.

Now I’ll cry tonight like I cried the night before
And I’m leased on the highway  but I still dream about the door
It’s so long, she’s forsaken by her faith, (where’s to tell?)
It don’t have consternation she’s my all, fare thee well.

Now when I’ll teach that lady I was born to love her
But she knows that the kingdom waits so high above her
And I run but I race but it’s not too fast or still
But I don’t perceive her, I’m not there, I’m gone.

Well it’s all about diffusion and I cry for her veil
I don’t need anybody now beside me to tell
And it’s all affirmation I receive but it’s not
She’s a lone-hearted beauty 
    but she don’t like this spot and she’ gone.

Yeah, she’s gone like the radio, the shining yesterday
But now she’s home beside me and I’d like her here to stay
She’s a lone, forsaken beauty and I don’t trust anyone
And I wish I was beside her but I’m not there, I’m gone.

 Well, it’s too hard to stay here and I don’t want to leave
It’s so bad, for so few see, but she’s a heart too hard to need
It’s alone, it’s a crime the way she hauls me around
But she don’t fall to hate me but tears are gone; a painted clown.

Yes, I believe that it’s rightful oh, I believe it in my mind
I’ve been told like I said one night before “Carry on the crying”
And the old gypsy told her, like I said, “Carry on,”
I wish I was there to help her but I’m not there, I’m gone.

This version I really like – I don’t know who this guy is, but full credit to him for taking this very difficult song on.  He even gets the breathing right, and certainly holds my attention.

And one more.  Ignore the date – that can’t be right.  I don’t think the opening works, but it improves… do stay with it – after 40 seconds they get going.   I wonder why the guys didn’t hear that this opening needs a much stronger solo male vocal if you are going to try it.

The instrumental verse however is perfect – brilliant thought out and executed even though the recording is a little rough.

Finally this is the version you’ll know from the soundtrack.

This is an utterly staggering song, and it deserves much more in terms of attention than these few versions.  But then as ever these are just my opinions.

Last up: the interview with the producer director Todd Haynes discussing “I’m not there” and the issue of cover versions.

Here’s a list of most of the articles from this series…


  1. You may meet him on a by-street, you may see him in the square
    But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there

  2. You may meet him in a by-street
    You may meet him in the square
    But when a crime’s discovered then
    Macavity’s not there

  3. She could tell at a glance
    That my heart was so full of tears
    She looked at my hand, and told me
    My lover was always true
    (Ink Spots: The Gypsy ~Reid)

  4. The lyrics above are not completely accurate …,

    Gone like the rain did go, not radio?? Mauls not hauls?? God-forsaken, not painted clown???

    It’s hard to tell!

  5. Lyrics above understandably not completely accurate ….

    Could be- Gone like the rain did go, not radio???

    Mauls not hauls???

    God-forsaken, not painted, clown???

    (Not sure)

  6. Sorry…,repetition of posts due to me initially keying in wrong e-mail address.

  7. My poor heart is wondering, no misery can tell
    He left with no warning, no word of farewell
    (Wild Woodflower)

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