Dylanesque: songs inspired by the music of Bob Dylan – Young, CSNY, and Coxon

Dylanesque (comparative more Dylanesque, superlative most Dylanesque)

In the style of, or reminiscent of the music or lyrics of Bob Dylan (born 1941).


By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: For Part 3 of the Dylanesque series I decided we could look at three songs where the artist admitted the inspiration behind the music was Bob Dylan. So these tracks are musically inspired by Dylan but not necessarily lyrically similar.

First is Neil Young with Days That Used to Be from his awesome 1990 album Ragged Glory. Young revealed that the song is inspired by Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”.

Tony:  The music has a real feel of “My Back Pages” especially with the melody and chord sequence at the start of each verse.  Musically the song is very much in that vein, and there are moments throughout which remind us very closely of the origins.

I seem to remember this was actually called “Letter to Bob,” at one time although he later said the song was for all his musician  friends – including himself.  It is “the day WE used to be” not the day you used to be.

And I guess the key point is that it is a lot easier to have dreams of a land where materialism is not an issue, when one doesn’t have much money, but much harder to give one’s money away and live a life of poverty when it is there.

There’s nothing particularly profound in the lyrics, but the last verse does have a certain ring to it if one imagines it is Young talking to Dylan.

Talk to me, my long lost friend,
tell me how you are
Are you happy with
your circumstance,
are you driving a new car
Does it get you where you wanna go,
with a seven year warranty
Or just another
hundred thousand miles away
From days that used to be

Incidentally, if you are interested in more on Neil Young and Bob Dylan then Aaron’s article on Dylan and Young is packed with videos and really worth a look back.

Aaron: Next up we have Neil and his mates Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with Seen Enough from their hugely underrated 1999 reunion album Looking Forward. It uses the verbal meter and rhythm from Subterranean Homesick Blues – so much so that Stills even calls it out on the sleeve notes. It is one of Stills’ finest lyrics in my opinion.

Tony: I love this song, not least because it so obviously a re-working of Homesick Blues but because it is a huge improvement on Homesick.  Dylan’s original broke the boundaries but I always have the feeling it was a rather rushed composition, and if Dylan had had more time or taken more time, he could have delivered something as good as “Seen Enough”.

It really is hard-hitting stuff…

I lost my innocence over intolerance
All the indignities heaped on the black man
We went to church, they all prayed for the white man
The cops and the preachers were most of 'em in the Klan
What's a kid s'posed to think when the adults
Are all such hypocrites impossibly smug

The next generation, the Woodstock nation
A little bit flaky, but no hesitation
Stop the war, it wasn't worth dyin' for
The paranoia of the cold warriors
Arrogant old men with domino theories
Fractured fairy tales tryin' to kill me

And do listen to that last instrumental section.  It is gorgeous.   And yes of course I know that being gorgeous was not Bob’s intention, but really there is nothing wrong with music that has that quality.

Aaron: Lastly we have a track from my favorite guitarist from the Britpop era:  Graham Coxon is the guitarist with Blur, but this is from his excellent solo album Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, it is You & I. Coxon has described the backing track as inspired by Dylan, and for me it is very reminiscent of 1965 Bob.

Tony: This is one of those annoying videos that I can’t get to play in the UK, so here’s the version I can get

but if you have trouble with this here’s the link that Aaron provided.

I love the way the lyrics are treated musically – one of those songs where reading the lyrics gives you no idea of exactly how this might all pan out

You and I gotta think for a while
Look to the sky, gotta decide if we're gonna see tomorrow

You and I gotta look to the sky
Are we gonna die wondering why life ain't nothing but sorrow?

I really enjoyed this – and indeed if you have a moment you might like to let the recording continue to play: “In the morning” is a beautiful piece of music.  Even if Blur was not youg thing you might still be interested in the fact that since moving on he has produced albums in which he plays all the parts, as well as writing the music.   Just play the album, and the rest of his music, if you don’t already know it.

(Note to self: If Untold Dylan runs out of steam, and I am still capable of using a computer – set up a website celebrating Graham Coxon).

(Second note to self: mention of Neil Young must mean it is time to play his “Foot of Pride” just one more time).

Previously published in this series: 

Part 1: Desolation Row

Part 2: There goes rhyming Dylan


Leave a Reply

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