Other People’s Songs: (The Blooming Bright Star Of) Belle Isle

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: Marc Bolan, of T.Rex fame, had this to say about the track, ”I’ve just listened to Dylan’s new album, and in particular “Belle Isle”, and I feel deeply moved that such a man is making music in my time…

“‘Belle Isle’ brought to my memory all the moments of tenderness I’ve ever felt for another human being, and that, within the superficial landscape of pop music, is a great thing indeed.”

Tony:  The problem I have is with the music to the lines

I spied a fair maid at her labour
Which caused me to stay for a while

which Bob copied directly as the music to

Though we kissed through the wild, blazing night time
She said she would never forget

for “I don’t believe you”, and having got that in my head I find it hard to disentangle the two.

But even trying to set that aside, I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem right to me.  Why add all the strings in the background?   I could see this if the song were taken at a slower pace, but is there really any need for them here as the music trots along at this speed?  (We can hear what it is like without them, in the “without overdubs” version, which I’ll add at the end.)

I also think Bob takes it too fast – which shows I must be in a crotchety mood this morning.  Maybe it is because many centuries ago I did spend a not completely successful three weeks on Belle Île, off the coast of Brittany, France, although I am not sure it is the Belle Isle of the song.

But then, what do I know?

Aaron: Noted “song interpreter” Ed Trickett, who sadly passed away just last month, including his version on his 1972 album The Telling Takes Me Home

Tony: Now this is more like it.  I think this is a lot closer to the original version – using the modal chords and the constant running of each verse into the next really is how this song should sound.  I really love this version.  This is indeed how such a delicate song should be performed.

I know Bob Dylan claimed it as one of his own compositions, and the music is his, but really that is stretching it a bit I think.  Still, Bob’s covering of the song has led to us including the Ed Trickett version on this site and for that Bob should be thanked!

Aaron:  Ex-Pixies front man Frank Black included his version on solo album Snake Oil

Tony: Now curiously, I find this better than Bob’s version, because there is no pretending that this has anything much to do with folk music, while at the same time it keeps the old style lyrics.  I am not saying I would want to play it a second time, but it is interesting, and it does drive me back to the Ed Trickett version.

Aaron: A version without the overdubs was released on Another Self Portrait in 2013.

Tony: And I am rather glad this was done, because I do think those violins were a mistake.

I’ve just been back to check, and in constructing our list of Dylan compositions on this site, we didn’t include this as a Dylan original, and I think that was the right decision.  But it is interesting to hear the original use of the music for

Though we kissed through the wild, blazing night time
She said she would never forget

Previously in this series…


  1. Obviously Dylan refers to the only island in Belleisle Bay near Saint John New Brunswick .

    Through the fog I’ve more than once spied the ghost of the beautiful young maiden with the bright eyes standing on the banks of Ghost Island.

    I’m sure that she is waiting for me.

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