A Dylan cover a day: Romance in Durango, covered and re-written

By Tony Attwood

If you have been lurking around Untold Dylan for a few years you’ll perhaps remember that the notion of a Dylan Cover a Day came about when lockdown hit England, and I was shut up on my own day after day with just the computer and phone for company.

With lockdown very much a thing of the past I am now allowed out again (although I think quite a few people reckon that is not quite such a good idea) so it’s no longer “a day” but maybe “once a week” or so.

Anyway this is episode 123, and I mention that because I think this might be the first time I have brought in covers not just of the song in question (Romance in Durango) but re-writes of that song under different names.   Hopefully, I’ll be able to explain myself in a moment.

But first a straight cover: Els miralls de Dylan is described on Secondhand songs as “A duo project dedicated to Bob Dylan songs in Catalan, mainly translated by themselves. Temporarily also integrating other artists.”   Except much of this is in English, so I remain as confused as normal.

I love the song, and find this a rather jolly version, and one worthy of a listen but not one that suddenly gives me that insight into the music which deepens my appreciation, or which really draws me back to it.  But as I say, in my view, worth a listen.

The next example, from Nicole Stella, does however give me something extra.  There’s more emotion here, which I always feel is what this song needs.  Not over the top emotion, but just more than Els miralls de Dylan gave us.  Somehow, because of the fractional delay of certain words and the fractional speeding of others, I believe in the song more.   The harmonies work for me as well.

In fact it is one of those frustrating pieces that I can say, yes I really do appreciate this music, but I find it hard to explain exactly why.  Maybe it is the way the accompaniment is always held back with no temptation to get above itself.   Maybe it is because I don’t understand the language – and in fact that is interesting, because there is nothing in my head that is translating the lyrics into English – I am in fact enjoying the sound of the lyrics without trying to remember the English.

The video ends with a note to the effect that if you enjoy the video please share it, so I have.

This next one is Fabrizio De André, but now not just with a language I don’t speak and a totally different accompaniment, and indeed what seems to me inappropriately fast moving pictures (which I find distracting) I am less inclined toward this version.   But I don’t think it is the music that is putting me off, it really is the video.  These pictures just fly past too quickly, and the timing of that movement is so out of keeping with the music.

Indeed it is a thought I do get sometimes – that the video makers really don’t have any appreciation of what the music is doing.  How could anyone think that the music requires a new picture (one without association to the next) every two or three seconds?   It just seems utterly bizarre and self-defeating to me.  If by any chance you feel the same, try closing your eyes.  I most certainly found it helped.  (Mind you as I get older I often find that helps).

And now for something different.   Because this is one of the songs that Dylan didn’t just write once, but wrote again and again.  And that’s not just me trying to be clever with a bit of musical memory – as many others have noted he really did use the same music in different songs.

Try this for example… and don’t be put off by the rhythm and accompaniment.  Listen to the melody.

And if that were not clear, try this version.

We’ve moved from covering to copying – but you know, it’s Bob.  He’s written over 620 songs so he’s entitled to have one or two sounding like the others, surely.


One comment

  1. Better to make a whole new song out of the lyrics,

    Doughnuts take yourself away
    Doughnuts take yourself
    To a plate where the ants can find you
    I will never again eat you
    I will forever heave you
    Into the garbage bin that’s right behind you

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