Dylan cover a day: A simple twist of fate with a real twist at the end


By Tony Attwood

With a song such as this which has well over 50 established cover versions, and goodness knows how many other obscure ones, my tendency is to start by listening to some recent recordings, for musicians who take on a song that is almost 50 years old not only have the task of creating a performance that is different from the original but also of offering something new to say after so many others have had a go.

And this is the trouble with Simple Twist, for it is, in essence, a very simple song with a very recognizable penultimate line that rises.  And those first three lines are also very similar with just the descending bass differentiating them in musical terms.

Now as usual, I’ve included a range of covers, but if you only have a few moments, or you are really looking for something different, just skip through this whole piece (although it pains me to say that) and take in the Maria Pia De Vito version which is the final video in the selection.

But I’m hoping you’ll stay with me here, as I am starting by listening to more recent editions – this first by Ryan Adams is pleasant enough, and has a different sound from Bob’s original… There’s nothing wrong with it, but I don’t really learn anything new, nor do I really feel drawn to going back to listen again.  The long coda leading to the fade out which plays the same two bars over and over is a nice idea, giving a feeling of the eternity felt within the song, but, it’s not enough for me.

It is a great relief to leave the voice in the track above and come to Emma Swift whose voice is exquisite and she and her arranger and producer have done the most difficult thing of keeping the song as it was, but making me want to hear it again.  It is that combination of an elegant voice and delicate accompaniment that draws me in.  This, I feel is how this song should sound.

I am going to jump sideways now because I’ve suddenly remembered (and “suddenly remembering” is something that happens increasingly as I get older, like suddenly rembering I put a pan of milk on the cooker to boil an hour ago and the house now seems to be on fire) that I wanted to include Concrete Blond, as Jochen included it in his review of the song but the recording noted there has vanished from the internet.

Listening to that version for the first time since Jochen provided his article five years ago, I’m struck with the same feelings that I had then: that this is another interesting re-interpretation, but which also gives us through the variations in the way the singer presents the vocals, a completely new insight into the song.  I’m glad I went back – although having done so I am almost tempted to re-present more of Jochen’s choice – there are seven extant versions there – but no I will leave you to go back if you wish.

But with so many covers available it is impossible to listen to them all and draw meaningful conclusions.  However I would highlight Mary Lee’s Corvette because of the way they’ve pulled back the vocals, and let the accompaniment explore what it has got.

And of course I am eternally drawn to Judy Collins, an artist whose singing always explored different approaches.   She’s still with us, in her mid-80s, and I do hope she knows many of us are still listening.

And also I can’t avoid including Bryan Ferry.   It’s a jolly and bouncy song he gives us, but still manages to convey all the nuances of the original.    It’s 9.15am as I am writing this on a miserable August morning, and I want to get a bit of a fun into the day.  The computer has just told me my printer is low on ink (which means half an hour trying to work out how to remove the old ink and a further hour where I put the new cartridge), and I need to find some bounce.  Although first I do have to include Bryan Ferry…

If you are looking for a really, really different interpretation of the song, and perhaps feel I haven’t given you that yet, try this…. but no cheating… no stopping the recording after 15 seconds.  You’ve got to take it all in.   This is the version that gives me the lift, and makes me ready to tackle the printer ink.  Although I think a coffee is due first.

Indeed having listened to that I feel ready to take on the day, refreshed in the knowledge that there is always something new one can do, no matter what raw materials you have.

The Dylan Cover a Day series

  1. The song with numbers in the title.
  2. Ain’t Talkin
  3. All I really want to do
  4.  Angelina
  5.  Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
  6. As I went out one morning
  7.  Ballad for a Friend
  8. Ballad in Plain D
  9. Ballad of a thin man
  10.  Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
  11. The ballad of Hollis Brown
  12. Beyond here lies nothing
  13. Blind Willie McTell
  14.  Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
  15. An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
  16. Blowin in the wind as never before
  17. Bob Dylan’s Dream
  18. BoB Dylan’s 115th Dream revisited
  19. Boots of Spanish leather
  20. Born in Time
  21. Buckets of Rain
  22. Can you please crawl out your window
  23. Can’t wait
  24. Changing of the Guard
  25. Chimes of Freedom
  26. Country Pie
  27.  Crash on the Levee
  28. Dark Eyes
  29. Dear Landlord
  30. Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
  31. Dignity.
  32. Dirge
  33. Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
  34. Don’t think twice
  35.  Down along the cove
  36. Drifter’s Escape
  37. Duquesne Whistle
  38. Farewell Angelina
  39. Foot of Pride and Forever Young
  40. Fourth Time Around
  41. From a Buick 6
  42. Gates of Eden
  43. Gotta Serve Somebody
  44. Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
  45. Heart of Mine
  46. High Water
  47. Highway 61
  48. Hurricane
  49. I am a lonesome hobo
  50. I believe in you
  51. I contain multitudes
  52. I don’t believe you.
  53. I love you too much
  54. I pity the poor immigrant. 
  55. I shall be released
  56. I threw it all away
  57. I want you
  58. I was young when I left home
  59. I’ll remember you
  60. Idiot Wind and  More idiot wind
  61. If not for you, and a rant against prosody
  62. If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
  63. If you see her say hello
  64. Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
  65. I’m not there.
  66. In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
  67. It ain’t me babe
  68. It takes a lot to laugh
  69. It’s all over now Baby Blue
  70. It’s all right ma
  71. Just Like a Woman
  72. Knocking on Heaven’s Door
  73. Lay down your weary tune
  74. Lay Lady Lay
  75. Lenny Bruce
  76. That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
  77. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
  78. License to kill
  79. Like a Rolling Stone
  80. Love is just a four letter word
  81. Love Sick
  82. Maggies Farm!
  83. Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
  84. Mama you’ve been on my mind
  85. Man in a long black coat.
  86. Masters of War
  87. Meet me in the morning
  88. Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
  89. Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
  90. Most likely you go your way
  91. Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
  92. Motorpsycho Nitemare
  93. Mozambique
  94. Mr Tambourine Man
  95. My back pages, with a real treat at the end
  96. New Morning
  97. New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
  98. Nobody Cept You
  99. North Country Blues
  100. No time to think
  101. Obviously Five Believers
  102. Oh Sister
  103. On the road again
  104. One more cup of coffee
  105. (Sooner or later) one of us must know
  106. One too many mornings
  107. Only a hobo
  108. Only a pawn in their game
  109. Outlaw Blues – prepare to be amazed
  110. Oxford Town
  111. Peggy Day and Pledging my time
  112. Please Mrs Henry
  113. Political world
  114. Positively 4th Street
  115. Precious Angel
  116. Property of Jesus
  117. Queen Jane Approximately
  118. Quinn the Eskimo as it should be performed.
  119. Quit your lowdown ways
  120. Rainy Day Women as never before
  121. Restless Farewell. Exquisite arrangements, unbelievable power
  122. Ring them bells in many different ways
  123. Romance in Durango, covered and re-written
  124. Sad Eyed Lady of Lowlands, like you won’t believe
  125. Sara
  126. Senor
  127. A series of Dreams; no one gets it (except Dylan)
  128. Seven Days
  129. She Belongs to Me
  130. Shelter from the Storm
  131. Sign on the window
  132. Silvio

Leave a Reply

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