By Tony Attwood
I have always loved this song, not least for the rhythm and the sudden change in the melody line with “comes up to the top” and “series of screams”
Yellowbirds don’t add to much to Bob’s original however apart from a fairly obvious opening using an attempt at abstraction in the music as it builds from silence. It’s ok, and I imagine if one had not heard Bob’s original version one might be quite intrigued.
And at this point, for once my musical memory failed me, and that is worrying, because I am used to every other aspect of my memory failing me, but NOT my musical memory. So I had to play Bob’s original version again, and because I want to carry you along on the journey I am following, and because it is just possible you might not have heard it for a while here it is
And I’d like to point out the way that this builds so gradually while that rhythm goes on and on.
Now I obviously don’t know if you ever get that feeling of shivers and temperature change just from listening to a piece of music, but as I write this while I am listening to Bob’s version for the first time in years, I am getting exactly that.
It’s not so much because hearing the music again takes me back to buying the Bootleg 1-3 series, and just wondering what on earth I was going to get, and then finding this track, and thinking that whatever it was I paid for that album, was worth it just for this.
So having established the original, now back to the point of this article: the covers.
I am sorry to say I am not familiar with this band, but I’m informed they are a Belgian indie rock group. And having reminded myself of every nuance of Bob’s immaculate version this is quite good fun. The sort of cover that can be enjoyed because of the way they change the original and give new insights and nuances.
It really is a magnificent song! Bob did play it 10 times in the 1990s, but that low number makes me think that it was there just to help promote the sales of Bootlegs 1-3.
Zita Swoon’s version isn’t one that I want to go back and play again, but a pleasant enough variation on a great original.
Up next came Gallon Drunk, a 1980s English band. It’s a performance where I think the producer or maybe the band came up with a sound, taking of course the dominance of the percussion from the original, and then see where they can take it. It’s certainly worth a listen, but in the end, I’m not sure it gives us any further insights into such a brilliant composition.
The song has appeared in languages other than English as well – here is Mimmo Locasciulli – whose “proper job” is as a primary care physician – which I think is what in the UK we call a GP (General Practitioner). I really must ask my local GP if she’s recorded any Dylan songs.
I utterly love this performance, and although of course it is always possible that I am the only person in the Dylanverse who has not heard this before, maybe if that is not the case this little article can establish this version a little more in the English speaking world.
OK it takes the original in its original form and doesn’t try anything radical, but nevertheless it adds something for me, which makes me want to play it over and over again.
And in fact it is the foreign language versions that I find the most satisfactory perhaps because the performers don’t feel they have to do much to the music because they are translating. What happens here is that the background is kept where it ought to be.
I really do wish some English or American bands had tried to do this – take it as it is, and add just a little difference rather than a complete re-write.
But more than anything else, on a weekend when I have been screaming at my computer because of a series of failures (which are my own fault for allowing it to become too full, and while I am waiting for the new machine to be fully set up) I take great comfort in going back to this old favourite.
According to the all-seeing Wiki (which I have to use here since I don’t speak Italian) his title in Itlay “Il Principe dei cantautori” means “The Prince of the singer-songwriters”), and that this comes about because of the “elegance of his lyrics.” The article adds “He is often referred as singer-songwriter and poet, although he prefers to be identified simply as “artist”.” If you want to hear more, just let the video above run. Up next is “I shall be released”. It is interesting, but doesn’t compare to “Series of Dreams”.
But please don’t leave thinking that anyone can make a decent version of this song because of the excellence of the raw material. Bobby Sutliff managed to destroy it, and I’m really not going to put a copy of his version here. If you want more, go back to Bob at the top, and maybe just once when listening, forget Bob himself and listen to the accompaniment. It is a masterpiece in its own right. I really cannot explain how much I adore this composition and performance.
The Dylan Cover a Day series
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- Heart of Mine
- High Water
- Highway 61
- I am a lonesome hobo
- I believe in you
- I contain multitudes
- I don’t believe you.
- I love you too much
- I pity the poor immigrant.
- I shall be released
- I threw it all away
- I want you
- I was young when I left home
- I’ll remember you
- Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- If you see her say hello
- Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- I’m not there.
- In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- It ain’t me babe
- It takes a lot to laugh
- It’s all over now Baby Blue
- It’s all right ma
- Just Like a Woman
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- Lay down your weary tune
- Lay Lady Lay
- Lenny Bruce
- That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
- Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- License to kill
- Like a Rolling Stone
- Love is just a four letter word
- Love Sick
- Maggies Farm!
- Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
- Mama you’ve been on my mind
- Man in a long black coat.
- Masters of War
- Meet me in the morning
- Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
- Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
- Most likely you go your way
- Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
- Motorpsycho Nitemare
- Mr Tambourine Man
- My back pages, with a real treat at the end
- New Morning
- New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
- Nobody Cept You
- North Country Blues
- No time to think
- Obviously Five Believers
- Oh Sister
- On the road again
- One more cup of coffee
- (Sooner or later) one of us must know
- One too many mornings
- Only a hobo
- Only a pawn in their game
- Outlaw Blues – prepare to be amazed
- Oxford Town
- Peggy Day and Pledging my time
- Please Mrs Henry
- Political world
- Positively 4th Street
- Precious Angel
- Property of Jesus
- Queen Jane Approximately
- Quinn the Eskimo as it should be performed.
- Quit your lowdown ways
- Rainy Day Women as never before
- Restless Farewell. Exquisite arrangements, unbelievable power
- A Dylan Cover a Day: Ring them bells in many different ways
- A Dylan cover a day: Romance in Durango, covered and re-written
- Dylan cover a day: Sad Eyed Lady of Lowlands, like you won’t believe