A Dylan cover a day: Oh for a re-imagining of Maggies Farm!

By Tony Attwood

I am sure someone somewhere has recreated Maggie’s Farm and done something totally different with the song, but from the cover versions I’ve been listening to, the main thrust of the musicians’ ideas seems to be play it fast, play it loud, belt it out.

But imagine it as a soft lilting melody, or maybe with a multiple set of chord changes rather than that one chord that dominates most of  the song.

And maybe it has been tried like that and I’ve just not found the recording.  Or maybe it simply can’t be made to work.

Linda Gayle taunts us for three seconds with the thought that maybe this will be a totally revised version, but no, everything about apart from the in-between verse instrumental break, is much the same.  It’s a belter.  But otherwise…

Zero Prophet know the message and do vary both the vocal line and the accompaniment and I like the idea but even with the lyrical changes and extended verses… well yes it is different, but somehow it doesn’t hold me completely.

The Blues Band go back to the basics of the song much more, just changing the pulse to make it a standard driving force, then adding the guitar to manipulate the end of each verse.

That little instrumental pattern which appears at the end of each and then after a new guitar lick all add to the entertainment, and it’s fun, so the best of the versions tried so far.

There’s no mistaking the metallic feel of Chicken Diamond and they know that we know the lyrics by heart.   I’m not sure I want to play it more than once but it was fun while it lasted, even if it is minimalist.

Jimmy Vivino taunts us with an interesting instrumental introduction, and the “no no more” vocals gives us some variety.   But after a verse we’ve more or less got it, and there seems nowhere else to go.

So to David Grisman and co who do give a totally new feel.  It’s so simple – let’s use a banjo rather than an electric guitar.  It somehow feels very authentic, as if it were composed long before Bob actually wrote it.

And the authenticity is kept by not changing the delivery at all.   What could have worked is the introduction of a folk violin part after the first verse, playing a counter melody.   In the end the promise of the new sound was not delivered, and there we were, hearing the same song again.


And the Dylan Cover a Day series


  1. Zero Prophet attempts to bring out the anticapitalism aspects of the song that have almost been forgotten over time ( the song is really about hypocritical money-seeking ‘folkies’, don’t you know!)

    The song is not presented solely for its entertainment value, and not to be so judged, aimed as it is towards a particular audience with an authenic Woody Guthrie political stance – updated in time…

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