A Dylan cover a Day: (Sooner or Later) One of us must know

By Tony Attwood

There are some songs where I simply don’t want to go searching for multiple cover versions, because even before I start writing I know where the works of artistic genius are, and I don’t think I can go any further.

So I start in the obvious place, because I do have a very soft spot for Emma Swift’s work, and since this is also one of my favourite Dylan songs of all – as it has been since I first heard it upon its release – the combination of favoured song and favoured artist is overwhelming.

Ms Swift takes it slowly as her exquisite, perfect voice demands, and thus  I listen to this and believe every word.   And that is before we get to the chorus where without going over the top she utterly distinguishes verse from chorus in a way which I can’t imagine could be improved upon.

And I must add a word about the accompaniment – delightfully done so that the chorus and verse are instrumentally as well as vocally and lyrically distinguished from each other.

In many ways the verse accompaniment should not work – it uses the plink plink plink technique combined with a simple emphasis on each beat. But it works and it contrasts so elegantly with the chorus in every way.    Indeed if I were asked I’d give an award to this recording for “best accompaniment to a Dylan song ever”.

It is stunning it is gorgeous and it tears my heart apart even now as I am taken back to every breakup in a life that seems to have been full of break ups.

But I must tear myself and my tears away, and what better way than to move to Old Crowe.  With their live performances, there is the inevitable chat before the music starts, and if you want to skip it, jump the first 40 seconds.  But it is part of the show.

For me the amazing thing about this version is that having played the overwhelming Emma Swift version, this now takes me off to a different land and again I can be overwhelmed but in a different way.  Those harmonies in the chorus are wonderfully executed so that even though, by the start of verse two, we know what the arrangement consists of, it still engages totally.

Old Crowe of course have the strings (violin/s and double bass) at the heart of their arrangements, and yet I never ever feel I have had enough of their style of reworking.   Indeed listening, and listening and listening to Old Crowe I often find myself wondering how they work these violin parts out.   Are they originally improvised, or carefully worked out step by step?  I’d love to know.

And whoever would have thought of two pizzicato violins as an accompaniment?  Well, maybe lots of people, all better musicians than I, but certainly I could never have imagined it.   It takes me back to when I first heard it, it brings me forward to today, it brings tears to my eyes, it makes me marvel at what can be done when musical imagination is let loose.

My final choice is one that I owe to Jochen who highlighted the Chip Taylor version.  Jochen wrote “The most attractive cover, by far, is on Mojo’s 2016 Blonde On Blonde Revisited tribute, on the occasion of the monument’s fiftieth anniversary.”

And I must admit I am including it not because I personally value it alongside the above two renditions but because I respect Jochen’s opinion, and because even if it doesn’t appeal to me as the above two versions do, it is an extraordinary rendition, and the fact that emotionally it takes me in the wrong direction, is my problem, no one else’s.

The harmonies in the second verse are indeed delightful, but somehow with this song this isn’t at all where I want to be although I must admit this takes the notion of recording a Dylan cover to a new level.

I think for me it is the old problem of knowing the song so well that by the time we get to the moment in the song it starts snowing, musically I know what is happening, and emotionally this version makes me feel I am too far gone to be able to take any more.

And that’s always my problem: maybe because I started out my working life as a musician or maybe because there is far too much emotion in my world, the combination of the feelings expressed here combined with the fact that I know the song totally off by heart means I just can’t bear the pain.  And maybe that is why I love my two choices above:  Emma Swift makes the emotions bearable and Old Crowe makes them fun.  Chip Taylor however digs the knife into my heart, and that’s more than I can take.


The Dylan Cover a Day series

  1. The song with numbers in the title.
  2. Ain’t Talkin
  3. All I really want to do
  4.  Angelina
  5.  Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
  6. As I went out one morning
  7.  Ballad for a Friend
  8. Ballad in Plain D
  9. Ballad of a thin man
  10.  Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
  11. The ballad of Hollis Brown
  12. Beyond here lies nothing
  13. Blind Willie McTell
  14.  Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
  15. An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
  16. Blowin in the wind as never before
  17. Bob Dylan’s Dream
  18. You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
  19. Boots of Spanish leather
  20. Born in Time
  21. Buckets of Rain
  22. Can you please crawl out your window
  23. Can’t wait
  24. Changing of the Guard
  25. Chimes of Freedom
  26. Country Pie
  27.  Crash on the Levee
  28. Dark Eyes
  29. Dear Landlord
  30. Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
  31. Dignity.
  32. Dirge
  33. Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
  34. Don’t think twice
  35.  Down along the cove
  36. Drifter’s Escape
  37. Duquesne Whistle
  38. Farewell Angelina
  39. Foot of Pride and Forever Young
  40. Fourth Time Around
  41. From a Buick 6
  42. Gates of Eden
  43. Gotta Serve Somebody
  44. Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
  45. Heart of Mine
  46. High Water
  47. Highway 61
  48. Hurricane
  49. I am a lonesome hobo
  50. I believe in you
  51. I contain multitudes
  52. I don’t believe you.
  53. I love you too much
  54. I pity the poor immigrant. 
  55. I shall be released
  56. I threw it all away
  57. I want you
  58. I was young when I left home
  59. I’ll remember you
  60. Idiot Wind and  More idiot wind
  61. If not for you, and a rant against prosody
  62. If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
  63. If you see her say hello
  64. Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
  65. I’m not there.
  66. In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
  67. It ain’t me babe
  68. It takes a lot to laugh
  69. It’s all over now Baby Blue
  70. It’s all right ma
  71. Just Like a Woman
  72. Knocking on Heaven’s Door
  73. Lay down your weary tune
  74. Lay Lady Lay
  75. Lenny Bruce
  76. That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
  77. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
  78. License to kill
  79. Like a Rolling Stone
  80. Love is just a four letter word
  81. Love Sick
  82. Maggies Farm!
  83. Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
  84. Mama you’ve been on my mind
  85. Man in a long black coat.
  86. Masters of War
  87. Meet me in the morning
  88. Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
  89. Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
  90. Most likely you go your way
  91. Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
  92. Motorpsycho Nitemare
  93. Mozambique
  94. Mr Tambourine Man
  95. My back pages, with a real treat at the end
  96. New Morning
  97. New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
  98. Nobody Cept You
  99. North Country Blues
  100. No time to think
  101. Obviously Five Believers
  102. A Dylan Cover a Day: Oh Sister
  103. On the road again
  104. One more cup of coffee


  1. The original song can be construed as one of those murder ballads, a failed one where the victim is merely left blind.

    However, there’s lots of room for the song to be considered a hyperbolic expression of a love affair that’s gone wrong.

    Slowing down music and emoting of the words too much takes that ambiguity out of the song….

    No need for the victim to wonder sooner or later about the violent reaction that results from his unintended behaviour, no need to sweat the farm thing – she literaly claws out his eyes – he can still hear, but no longer see.

    It’s absolately clear that Structuralist Jochen doesn’t like ambiguity.

  2. Who just disappears:

    I was a madman
    To have stayed away
    One more minute
    Than the appointed hour
    (Rod McLuen: A Cat Named Sloopy)

  3. BTW: Tony by now must surely realize it’s YOUNG not ‘in love’ that’s sung in “Sooner or Later” …with such clear vocals, even in the original, how such a mishearing could occur is beyond me.

    While I’m picking nits, Jochen ought to be wiser than to assert he knows what garbled words are …best to make no comment than substitute words he thinks Dylan could be singing …

    Or to suggest others got them wrong or right when they were only making suggestions to help him down a path that’s better not taken…

    Claims “It’s deciphered with 99% certainty” in reference to a variant of
    “Crossing The Rubicon” – to hell, it is!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *