Other people’s songs: From “Take me as I am” all the way to “Baker Street”

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

In this series (of which there is a full index at the end) Aaron selects a song that Dylan has recorded but which he did not write, and looks at the Dylan version and other artists’ versions of the song.   Tony (on the other side of the Atlantic) then adds his comments.

Take Me as I Am (Or Let Me Go) is another song written by Boudleaux Bryant (see also Take a message to Mary) and was first recorded and released by “Little” Jimmy Dickens in 1954.  He was a Country musician known for his novelty songs and short stature — 4 feet, 11 inches.

Tony: As with so many of these songs there is not much by the way of lyrics, and some of those that are there really do stand out as, well, what do I say?… unusual…

Why must you always try to make me overTake me as I am or let me goWhite lilies never grow on stalks of cloverTake me as I am or let me go

I’m a Londoner by origin, and one brought up in a flat (apartment) without a garden and thus the attributes of lilies and clover are not something I have considered much in my life, (although I do have one now, and indeed look out onto it when writing these little articles) but maybe there is a hidden gardening message there.  I did look the words up in case I had missed something in my urban education but all I found was “Lily and Clover were two experimental floating airfields tested towards the end of the Second World War by the British Admiralty.”  Not quite what I was looking for.

To me it is a sweet, short, country song that says “I love you why don’t you love me?” and I’m sorry to say I can’t find anything more in it.  But that is probably just me.

Aaron: Dylan’s version came from 1970s Self Portrait (I think this is the last song from this album to look at in this series, so we will move on to another album in the next one).

Tony: Actually, I really like this, and always have done, since the release of the album.   I’ve never thought about the lyrics but just considered the overall sound – including excellent vocals by Bob.  Certainly, as a way of saying to the critics that he could sing in the conventional style, this is a perfect riposte.   I do wonder however what the female chorus thought of sitting through the whole recording to sing two lines and (I think) do a bit of background humming).   But it’s a nice sound… what else can one say?

Aaron: Here is a version by Scottish singer Rab Noakes, he was a founding member of Stealers Wheel and was a member of Lindisfarne in the early 70s.

Tony: Rab Noakes also appeared on “Fog on the Tyne” which relates to the river that flows through Newcastle in north west England, but I’m not really moved to put up a copy of that not least because this on-line conversation has led me to recall one of my absolute all-time, all-time, all-time favourite recordings, which I will leave to the end.   But I would say that for me this is one of the utter joys of these articles written from Aaron’s notes and ideas (apart from fostering Anglo-American goodwill!) and that is that it reminds me of earlier times and earlier joys, as well as introducing me to songs and recordings I didn’t know.

But let’s keep going:

Aaron: After a long hard look there doesn’t appear to be many versions of this song worth listening to so here is Rab Noakes doing some Bob Dylan covers instead,


Tony: Rab Noakes was (and indeed with his recordings still is) incredibly important in the world of Scottish folk music and he really did help deliver a knowledge and understanding of Scottish folk music both to Scots and to English people like me who had been brought up with the understanding of Cecil Sharp’s work in collecting English folk, but knew nothing of music beyond the borders.

This recording of Mississippi is not one that I have heard before, and I really do like it.  It is incredibly hard to take a song as long as this, and one that we all know so well, and then stay true to the original but still give something new, and for me, Rab did this.  Even if the whole recording doesn’t strike you as beautiful, just listen to those occasional harmonies.

Gorgeous.   Thank you for that Aaron.  It goes on my playlist.

Absolutely Sweet Marie

Tony:  Rab does the song straight, with no particular innovations, but it is still (for me at least) highly enjoyable.  And oh yes, there is that line, “To live outside the law you must be honest”.  Great short harmonica solo too.  Four minutes of fun.

Aaron: I Shall Be Free

Tony: An interesting song to choose, and a hard piece to put a new interpretation into.  It’s one of those covers that takes me somewhere but I am not quite sure where – the fact that musically it is the same line over and over makes it hard to hold together in a four and half minute piece.   No, I’m not sure….

But now, I’m going to add another song, a song that immediately came to my mind through reading through Aaron’s notes, listening to the music and adding my thoughts.  The connection is Gerry Rafferty who was also a Scottish musician, and a member of Stealers Wheel.

OK so that is not that much of a connection I know, but of course if you just want Dylan connections then you don’t have to read on and you don’t have to listen to the next and final track, which in effect is miles away from where Aaron started this piece.  But it is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music and was one of the first pieces of music I choreographed (although that probably is far too formal a word for what my dance partner at the time and I did all those years ago).  And Gerry Rafferty did say in one interview that he was a Dylan fan.   Anyway, because you don’t have to play anything I choose to put up, I’m including the song.

But before I do I want to add something else.   What I try to put across in this series in which I respond to Aaron’s selections, is that our response to music is always incredibly complex.  It might be that we are taken by the beat or the melody or the instrumentation, or the artist in question, but also there will be other musical memories and personal associations in there too.  What we come to like and not like is caused by a whole plethora of past events, memories and even false memories.   Here, I’m picking up on a moment maybe 25 years ago; who knows how accurate that memory is…. but even if I’ve embellished the recollection over the years, it is still a wonderful song, and those memories still make me smile.

As it happens, and by pure chance, I am planning to be back at the dance venue where the two of us worked on our dance to accompany this song.  Maybe that’s what makes me embellish my memories at this moment…

Another great journey Aaron – thank you.  I really do enjoy these meanders.  And dare I add, I hope that occasionally it might encourage you, my reader, to treasure your past musical memories too.  They really are worth keeping.

Other people’s songs: the series

  1. Other people’s songs. How Dylan covers the work of other composers
  2. Other People’s songs: Bob and others perform “Froggie went a courtin”
  3. Other people’s songs: They killed him
  4. Other people’s songs: Frankie & Albert
  5. Other people’s songs: Tomorrow Night where the music is always everything
  6. Other people’s songs: from Stack a Lee to Stagger Lee and Hugh Laurie
  7. Other people’s songs: Love Henry
  8. Other people’s songs: Rank Stranger To Me
  9. Other people’s songs: Man of Constant Sorrow
  10. Other people’s songs: Satisfied Mind
  11. Other people’s songs: See that my grave is kept clean
  12. Other people’s songs: Precious moments and some extras
  13. Other people’s songs: You go to my head
  14. Other people’s songs: What’ll I do?
  15. Other people’s songs: Copper Kettle
  16. Other people’s songs: Belle Isle
  17. Other people’s songs: Fixing to Die
  18. Other people’s songs: When did you leave heaven?
  19. Other people’s songs: Sally Sue Brown
  20. Other people’s songs: Ninety miles an hour down a dead end street
  21. Other people’s songs: Step it up and Go
  22. Other people’s songs: Canadee-I-O
  23. Other people’s songs: Arthur McBride
  24. Other people’s songs: Little Sadie
  25. Other people’s songs: Blue Moon, and North London Forever
  26. Other people’s songs: Hard times come again no more
  27. Other people’s songs: You’re no good
  28. Other people’s songs: Lone Pilgrim (and more Crooked Still)
  29. Other people’s songs: Blood in my eyes
  30. Other people’s songs: I forgot more than you’ll ever know
  31.  Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  32. Other people’s songs: Highway 51
  33. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  34. Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  35. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  36. Other people’s songs: Highway 51 Blues
  37. Other people’s songs: Freight Train Blues
  38. Other People’s Songs: The Little Drummer Boy
  39. Other People’s Songs: Must be Santa
  40. Other People’s songs: The Christmas Song
  41. Other People’s songs: Corina Corina
  42. Other People’s Songs: Mr Bojangles
  43. Other People’s Songs: It hurts me too
  44. Other people’s songs: Take a message to Mary
  45. Other people’s songs: House of the Rising Sun
  46. Other people’s songs: “Days of 49”
  47. Other people’s songs: In my time of dying
  48. Other people’s songs: Pretty Peggy O
  49. Other people’s songs: Baby Let me Follow You Down
  50. Other people’s songs: Gospel Plow
  51. Other People’s Songs: Melancholy Mood
  52. Other people’s songs: The Boxer and Big Yellow Taxi
  53. Other people’s songs: Early morning rain
  54. Other people’s Songs: Gotta Travel On
  55. Other people’s songs: “Can’t help falling in love”
  56. Other people’s songs: Lily of the West
  57. Other people’s songs: Alberta
  58. Other people’s songs: Little Maggie
  59. Other people’s songs: Sitting on top of the world
  60. Dylan’s take on “Let it be me”

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