Dylan Cover a Day: New Morning

by Tony Attwood

The truth is I am disappointed that so many of Dylan’s songs have no cover versions recorded, or if they do, just one or two which don’t really take us any further forward in our understanding of the song.  Just a different voice and a slightly different accompaniment, and one wonders, really, was it worth it?

Thus were my feelings as I meandered through the alphabetical listing of Dylan’s songs and looked today at “Neighbourhood Bully” (the one song on which I’ve virtually had to ban all commentary from readers because the abuse level got so high), but no, nothing in terms of insightful re-invention.

I also had a very, very tiny hope that some daredevil might have had a go at “Never Say Goodbye” – the one song Jochen and I have utterly and totally disagreed on, and yes there is one version but it doesn’t add anything.  (See also here).   (Maybe my next series could be “The 10 Dylan Songs I love that Everyone Else Hates”)

Thus sadly I must pass that extraordinary song by and head on to New Morning,  And also sadly I don’t seem to be able to find anything extraordinarily insightful.  But maybe you’ll find additional merit in these.  Or maybe I somehow missed the one great work of genius and insight in relation to this song.  If so, do say.

Darren Criss and Chuck Criss of Freelance Whales certainly showed inventiveness in their entire handling of the song, both in the vocals (particularly the harmonies) and the instrumental break and yes it is really worth hearing – a good choice for the album.    Gentle, restrained, insightful – it’s all these, but the one thing that it can’t do is cover for the fact that the original song is quite light.

With the next piece you might be put off by the opening seconds, but do stay with it – personally, I think that the opening is a mistake, but the rest is a very decent reinterpretation.    The incessant piano chords are a bit of a pain, unless you happen not to notice them, and given the inventiveness of the vocal harmonies, I would have thought someone at the recording could have come up with something else.   Lovely treatment for the middle 8 though – beautifully restrained.

The Grease Band take us down a totally different route – and it is a good reminder that the song is one that is open to re-interpretation.  It’s just that no one has really found a really exciting and wonderful way of doing it.  The band try giving it quite a bounce, and in a sense that works, but not quite enough to make me want to hear it again.   Maybe the bass is just a bit too prominent and repetitive.

The middle 8 is fun, but the problem is that in this version it seems to have very little to do with the rest of the song.

And then onto a reggae version, and having said that, that is what it is: a reggae version of “New Morning.”   Not really too much else to say.

I think that to be successful a cover of New Morning needs to be restrained and the opening of the Michael Henry Martin is just that at the start, but then the vocalist comes in determined to dominate (and well, yes, he’s the star, so of course he would) but really that takes away the delight of the simple song.

So, no, not for me.  I can’t find a cover of this song that for me does it justice.  But as ever I guess that is just me.  Still, you can’t win them all.

The Dylan Cover a Day series



  1. In “Never Say Goodbye” what is rough and tough be juxtaposed with the smooth …
    Jochen focuses on the way lyrics carry the song, and mentions the odd line about standing on sand while waves roll over while Tony focuses on the way the music carries the song, and mentions the odd change in key.

    The solution to any perceived problem is to have Tony play the piano while Jochen sings the lyrics.

    I’ll be the judge, of course, on how things go.

  2. In any event, I don’t really discern any big disagreement at all between Tony and Jochen in regards to “Never Say Goodbye” …you can be standing up on a sandy bottom while the planet’s sea waves roll over you.

    Seems much to do about nothing.

  3. We all know that it’s the Sound that really counts – nothing to do with contrasting cloudy and bright times and all such silly artistic motifs that one can find here, there and everywhere.

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