By Jeff Symonds with additional material by Tony Attwood
I’m releasing an EP of Dylan covers and Untold Dylan has kindly agreed to help me spread the word. The album is called Tell Me, Momma and you can hear one track here
For his whole life, Jeff’s been obsessed with music and he comments, “One of my parents’ earliest memories of me is having to hold me up so I could watch the record spin around while listening to it.” That obsession has led him to write, report on, and teach music, to play hundreds of shows for dozens of bands, to put out his own single as a solo artist, and to join the podcast 50 Years of Music with friends Tim Plaehn and Ben Barton.
“The whole idea behind the podcast is to give people a roadmap through the history of the music of our lives. Now that we’ve done around 125 episodes, it felt like a good moment to look back and take a look at the hundreds of songs and bands we’ve championed,” said Symonds.
As a result Jeff chose a series of songs that the podcast has mentioned and that Jeff thought he could give some extra pixie dust. “There’s no need to cover a song unless you have something to say by the way you interpret it,” he said. “Once I put that expectation on it, a couple of dozen songs jumped out of the list.”
To start the series, Jeff headed into the studio with some Bay Area friends—James DePrato, Pie Fiorentino, Michael Romanowski, and Adam Rossi —and cut three of Bob Dylan’s “lost” songs from 1966 all in one day.
As we know 1966 is considered by many to be the peak moment in Dylan’s career. He wrote 20 songs that year that we know about, and when we consider that the first two were Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands the incredible diversity of his approach is immediately revealed. The subjects range from the need to move on, to disdain for those around him, from being a rebel and doing the unexpected, to being alone, from a surreal vision of the world depression and being alone. The full list of songs of that year, can be found on our review of Dylan’s compositions of the 1960s.
As Jeff continues, “Dylan was moving so fast in ‘66 that some incredible songs got forgotten. Because Dylan is such a touchstone for the three of us, I thought it would be fun to start with him as a way to kick off the project. It also allowed me to pay homage to some music that the podcast—which starts in 1969—hasn’t covered. It feels like the perfect beginning for this project.”
The EP, being released on Blonde On Blonde’s original release date, features three Dylan songs, and deliberately highlights songs that even some Dylan fans might have missed. Track one, “Tell Me Momma,” was only performed live in 1966, as the kickoff track of Dylan’s most infamous electric set in England that May. Jeff comments, “It’s a barnburner— no wonder it shocked audiences in ’66. It’s heavier than anything the Beatles or Stones had done to that point.”
Track two is Jeff’s take on “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” from Blonde on Blonde is that “Dylan’s never played this one live, and I don’t know why. It might be the best song he’s never brought to the stage.”
Wrapping up the EP is “She’s Your Lover Now,” a Blonde On Blonde outtake long treasured by Dylan fanatics. “This song is from the Blonde On Blonde sessions. He never got a complete take—there’s a great version out there that breaks down in the last verse, and I’ve always wanted to hear it finished. So we finished it. For anyone else, it would be a career-crowning achievement.”
In his usual one-man-band fashion, Jeff plays guitars, keys, drums, and sings on the tracks, but the rest of the band took the tracks up a notch. “I’m so lucky to have been in this scene for so long, and to have so many friends to call. Without them, these tracks wouldn’t have the same magic. That these guys answer my calls is just amazing. And we’ve also had the chance to play them live, and they just cook.”
ElectraCast also recently re-released Jeff’s back catalog, including his 2020 album Riverrun. His latest single, “48 Lines About 12 Men,” was released on March 17th. A second solo album is soon to follow. And the 50 Years of Music podcast is approaching its 150th episode. “I have so much music coming, and ECR are the perfect partners. This is shaping up to be a pretty special time for me.”