By Tony Attwood
A list of past articles is given at the end of this piece.
If you have dipped into this series in the past you’ll possibly have come across a note which says that the point of a cover version is, or at least should be, the offering of a new arrangement which gives new insights into the song. Just copying what Bob did in the original doesn’t count.
Now since it is generally considered that Bob’s lyrics are sacrosanct (after all, no one goes around mucking about with the text of TS Eliot) that leaves us with the melody, chord sequence, timing, accompaniment and rhythm (although as we shall see in these renditions, repeating a line is acceptable too).
But those artists who do nothing new with any of those fundamentals don’t get my vote for inclusion by and large, because, in my view, we might as well listen to the original.
The Carolyn Wonderland version of “Leopard skin pill-box hat” really takes this command seriously, and the singers and instrumentalists do play with the music, while retaining what is instantly recognisable as the Dylan song. It just is great fun, which of course is what it is meant to be. After all, if it were not written as fun, why call it “Leopard skin pill-box hat”? (Incidentally, I love the name of the album too).
Moving on, if you are a regular reader of this rambling series you will perhaps have noted that I really do enjoy the music of Old Crow Medicine show, whose version of “Visions of Johanna” I rate as by far the best rendition ever and certainly in my top ten of Dylan covers.
What I like is that the band never take any of the original as unchangeable – to them everything is up for grabs – including in this recording the chord sequence, adding a silly dance routine, and playing with just about everything else.
(Sorry I can’t get the link to pop up into a screen).
Contrast is of course everything, and sonow I move on to Michael Chapman. You will know from the introduction that this is going to be different again. The feeling that this laid back approach is exquisite, especially coming after the raucousness and overt fun of Old Crow.
Even the instrumental break is gentle and calm – a total contrast but still so enjoyable and again something that I find myself absolutely wanting to listen to.
In fact for me, it is all rather strange. This has never been one of my big favourites of Dylan’s compositions, it sort of just is, but each of these versions of the song really makes me love the piece more and more.
I could go on and on and on with versions of this song, but I’ll finish with another total transformation. I was tempted to put this one up first, just to make sure that any readers who happen onto this page do get to listen to it.
But no, that is pandering to those who think they can judge the whole tenor of this little article by the first cover. And that would be silly. Indeed it would be like judging this wonderful rendition by the first ten seconds and not getting anywhere near the instrumental break.
Indeed so revolutionary is this cover version that it is the easiest thing in the world to forget that it is a Dylan song. I really do love this. Please listen.
- Here’s a list of most of the articles from this series…
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- 42 Heart of Mine
- 43: High Water
- 44: Highway 61.5
- 45: Hurricane
- 46: I am a lonesome hobo
- 47: I believe in you
- 48: I contain multitudes
- 49: I don’t believe you.
- 50: I love you too much
- 51: I pity the poor immigrent.
- 52: I shall be released
- 53: I threw it all away
- 54: I want you
- 55: I was young when I left home
- 56: I’ll remember you
- 57: Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- 58: If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- 59: A Dylan cover a Day: If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- 60: If you see her say hello
- 61: Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- 62: I’m not there.
- 63: In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- 64: It ain’t me babe
- 65: It takes a lot to laugh
- 66: It’s all over now Baby Blue
- 67: It’s all right ma
- 68: Just Like a Woman
- 69: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- 70: Lay down your weary tune
- 71: Lay Lady Lay
- Dylan Cover a Day 72: Lenny Bruce