A Dylan cover a Day: Motorpsycho Nitemare

by Tony Attwood

A song that Bob has never performed in public, and one that I didn’t expect to find any cover versions of, and lo and behold there is one.  Or actually two, although only one in English.

And that English language cover is damn good too.   For here we have performers who understand the essence of the original, and then make their own adjustments to the song to turn it into… well not something new, but rather the same scene as Dylan set out, but looked at from a totally different angle.

I must admit I haven’t listened to the original version in years but the lyrics are still in my head, and that of course makes the job of a cover version harder – the musicians have to work harder to keep one’s attention since there is a temptation for the listener to think, “I know this”.

The chord change (just one extra chord) is subtle, the lead guitar’s little solo romp after every other verse is perfectly placed and is novel but not intrusive.

But above all it is the whole laid-back approach that really works – the opposite of the frantic insanity of the lyrics and which is conveyed in Dylan’s original.

I am of course limited to recordings that I can legally put online for you to contemplate, and although there are one or two other recordings of the song around I have only found one more that is available on the internet to share.

I include it because it is the only other one, and I wouldn’t think normally it was worth putting in, because the musicians don’t add that much to Dylan’s original.  But it is an interesting example of this problem: just recording Dylan’s music is not enough, because, well, Dylan has done that.  The musician/s also need to move the whole thing on and give us something else, something new.  A new perspective or insight, ideally.

And at least we have one version that does this.  Here’s the only other one I have found.

The Dylan Cover a Day series


  1. Unless considered an obverse burlesque, Stangelove’s emoting Dylan’s song as if it were a dark (laid-back??)Gothic song (about milking a cow) doesn’t work at all.

    The very essence of Dylan’s song is light-hearted humour.

    Otherwise, Stangelove’s perspective of “Nightmare” is an abomination thereof.

  2. Even with a D in French, I liked Aufray’s version because he at least emits and maintains the mood of the song by sheer tempo and wit. Strangelove’s version could’ve been any song in a JJ Cale album.

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