A Dylan cover a day 73: that brand new leopard skin pill box hat

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).

https://youtu.be/EZV7R9FjN4c

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.

Previously

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