A Dylan Cover a Day: Love Minus Zero

An index to past episodes of this series appears at the end.

By Tony Attwood

Jochen has of course offered us a really detailed insight into Love Minus Zero (there’s a full set of links to that series at the end of this article) and within his series there are multiple examples of other people’s performances, and going back through them I felt that several of these were just this particular singer singing this particular song.  There’s no new insight to be gained, no re-interpretation, no re-imagining, just “hey that’s a lovely song, let’s do that.”

Which of course is just my view, and of course is ok, except that we all know the song so well, and have heard it so many times, I am not sure the straight interpretations are much more than background music.  And that’s a tragedy since Love Minus Zero is such a gorgeous love song.

And it is sad because when artists and their arrangers can’t find anything new within a song they start changing bits and pieces just for the sake of it, rather than because the new interpretation adds to our enjoyment and/or understanding.

Bridget StJohn falls into this category.   Maybe her version would work if just the melody was played with, but the accompaniment seems to diminish the imagery of the lyrics.  Too many twiddly bits it seems to me.

Agnes Chan however also has the idea of changing the song, and seems at first to get it right, retaining a lot of the original but with subtle rhythmic changes.  However the lead guitar gradually gets carried away with the freedom he’s been granted, and as the beat becomes clearer everyone is told to do a build-up, and unfortunately, it all falls apart and by the end it is pretty ghastly, in my view.  But at least the start really works.

Quite how any musician or arranger could think that this is a song that ought to build and build is utterly beyond me.

Now the Walker Brothers and their musical team know a thing or two about production, and how to handle the most wonderful attribute they had – those astonishing voices.  And that attribute is utilised to the full here.

Of course it is the Walkers so we are going to have the strings come in, but mostly they are kept under control and made very Walkerish.   They don’t quite fit with the lead guitar break, where clearly the guitarist has just been left to make it up as he goes along, but compared with the versions above, it’s not too bad.

Cockney Rebel with a full orchestral introduction… and surprisingly (for me at least) this is worthy of a listen.  But the problem is we all know the song so well, the slow moving strings find it hard to hold attention.   Which is presumably why they added an ever moving video, to distract from the music.

And ultimately, once again, after a minute or so I begin to wonder why I’m listening to this song which I know so well.  Maybe if it were just an orchestral piece with no vocals that would work…

Fleetwood Mac had a go too, and once again I had hope, but really?  I mean really?

Does this do justice to this delicate wonderful love song?

No, is the only answer I have.

And so to Judy Collins, who (if you have read any of my ramblings over the years) you’ll know I can always give the time of day to.

This is the best of the bunch, in my view, and her gorgeous voice holds the performance together but we really don’t need the plinky guitar behind her.

So, for once in a while, pretty mucyh a complete failure this time.  No one, does it as well as Bob.  No one finds another dimension.  No matter how hard they try.

Jochen’s series

And the Dylan Cover a Day series


  1. The Walkers find a new dimension -a corrupted happy one ~ the all-important stanza about the figurative (“like”) a raven at my window with a broken wing is left out.

    There’s an obverse Edgar Allan Poe theme in “Minus” where the scorned lover is the one who is hurt …..but she manages to cope with it –

    Whereas Jochen would have it that she’s actually a dark Poe-etic hauntress.

  2. Eric Clapton played great live version at “”bobfest”. Critique that one.

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