Dylanesque: The Alpha Band


By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

This series looks at performances of songs that were not written by Dylan but which clearly have a Dylan influence within them.  As ever, Aaron selects the theme and the works, and Tony endeavours to write something moderately relevant while listening to the selections for the first time.

Aaron: Let’s look at another one of the albums that spun out of the Rolling Thunder Revue. This time it is The Alpha Band’s self-titled debut.

From Wikipedia: “The Alpha Band was an American rock band, formed in July 1976 from the remnants of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Band members were Rolling Thunder alumni T-Bone Burnett, Steven Soles, and David Mansfield, plus sidemen who differed from record to record and included: David Kemper (later drummer for Bob Dylan) and Ringo Starr. The band produced three albums, particularly notable for their intelligent cultural critique. The members of the band, especially Burnett and Mansfield, are known for their important roles as producers of other people’s albums subsequently.”

Aaron: Here are just a handful of my favorites from the album.   Interviews… some great lyrics in this one I thought

The first interview was out of a wrestler
Who's the maitre d' at the Bucks Owen Show
In the basement of the Empire State Building
And he's wearing his bronze and grey belt
With an atomic arm lock
On a lounge lizard at the Spanish Steps

And there were Ferrari automobiles
Sitting in the ground fifty million years ago
And there were James Brown records
Sitting in the ground fifty million years ago
And there was acrylic paint
Flying through the air fifty million years ago

The next interview was out of a gambler
Who keeps all his money in fifty dollar bills
And floats between Dallas and Vegas and Los Angeles
And he's standing outside the real motel
By a '68 Coupe Deville with his pool cue
And he's high on bullets and afraid of cobwebs

Tony: Oh my goodness, how have I missed this song?   The lyrics are, to me, (and perhaps it is just me) very hard to distinguish so I rushed off to find the lyrics of whole song – if you feel the same way they are here.

I absolutely love this – the rhythm is hypnotic and the way the two parts of the song work together is fantastic.  If I’m putting my producer hat I’d say, cut the synthesizer – I don’t feel it adds anything, and for me it gets in the way of understanding the lyrics, and it takes away from the pounding insistence of the 50 million years ago chorus section.   But that’s just me.

Brilliant – including the extra beat at the end.

Aaron: The Dogs

Tony:  I really didn’t know what to expect next; again it is fascinating.    In case you are interested the lines in Spanish mean 

The dog is not howling, it is laughing
I was crying and now bleeding

Goodness; what an amazing set of lyrics: a song that doesn’t have to have a meaning but just has to be there…

I never had a French girl outside of France
I never tasted foreign love, I never had a chance
With the finance and romance
Romance and finance

Aaron: Arizona Telegram

Tony: As I have said I don’t know this album – but of course I will get to know it.  And here’s a funny thing – I wanted to look up the lyrics of this song and there are half a dozen websites that claim they have the lyrics therein, but don’t.   What naughty chaps these fellows are!

Another good song – not so immediately taken by it as with the songs above; it seems more mainstream than all that has gone before, but I guess one can never be completely far out all the time.  (As it were).   Superb coda to the song too.

Dark Eyes

Tony:  But we are now back with the amazing originality and quality of the earlier songs.  I really must have lived a very sheltered life never to have come across this album before.  What on earth have I been doing all these years.    This is brilliant.  I do hope you are still with us here.    Of course, you may have known this album for years, but if you are a hopeless case like me, I hope you are simply smiling as much as I am listening to this for the first time.

Last Chance to Dance

Tony:   Oh what a wonderful time I have just had.   And I have just seen that the whole album is on Spotify so I can keep playing it through as I continue working.  Aaron I am always in your debt for articles on this site.   But now more than ever.

And I have just seen that they made two other albums.  Well, that’s my day’s work gone then.   Although actually I am going to add a track of my own, as I have just started playing the series of Spotify.  My life is changed.  It now includes the Alpha Band.



  1. I just can’t envision Bob Dylan twrilling his silver cane and dancing all over the stage in his tux and tails as the Alpha Band loudly beats without mercy any meaning that might be in the lyrics to a quick death!

    Sure it’s fine upbeat music to listen to, to dance to too, but I’m positive the words do not create any state of enlightenment at all that a listener’d be tempted to refer to later on ….

    … far from it.

  2. I’m not so sure about Dylan though (or his persona)…

    He doesn’t very often get that far from shore …

    Irony abounds in the following lyrics:

    I’m in the wrong town
    I should be in Hollywood
    Just for a second there I thought I saw something move
    Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag
    (Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

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