A Dylan Cover a Day. Subterranean Homesick Blues

By Tony Attwood

I found it hard to think of too many cover versions of this song that actually seemed to take us somewhere both new and interesting, but then on getting into the subject a little, I realised how wrong I was.

Willie Nile just gives it a rocking beat and the band shouting out occasional lines to bring us a version that is just plain fun.  It’s the sort of thing that I loved to play on stage; it really just allows the band to enjoy what they are doing.   The shouting out of the occasional words at the end of lines is just amusing rather than carrying any meaning, and that’s what the song should be.   I love this version.

So then by total contrast The Golden Gate Strings.   Which raises the question, how on earth do you write an orchestration for a song that has hardly any melody?   And here is the answer – which amazingly they keep going all the way through the performance; and it holds my attention throughout.

Actually what I think is really wonderful is that they do it without varying the original song too much.  Yes there is a key change which isn’t in the original of course because Dylan doesn’t do that, and it is under two minutes long, but even so, it’s a fantastic response to an impossible challenge.

With Theo Hakola we have a fine, controlled voice, which only once or twice stumbles over the impossibility of the constant stream of words that have nothing to do with the beat.  Not at all sure about the video; if I were the musician behind such a performance and found this was what they created, I’d have objected in the strongest terms.   It doesn’t do justice to the inventiveness of the music.

There are of course so many covers of this song I’m avoiding those that simply take Dylan’s version and replay it.   So much more can be done with this song, as Koby Israelite shows.  And please don’t listen to a few seconds and then think “OK got that, time to move on.”  Really, you have to listen to this all the way through.

I am really puzzled by the album cover though, but then I’m not an art critic – in fact I’m just about the last person in the world you’d ask to comment on visual art.   And on this version, I’m happy to do that.  As I said above, do listen to the end: the coda is short but worth staying awake for.

Still looking for the unusual and the unexpected here is Hal Aqua, and here my musical knowledge lets me down, so time to quote from  their web site: “Hal Aqua and The Lost Tribe play klezmer fusion music — an exuberant musical experience, rooted firmly in traditional Jewish modes and melodies and driven by contemporary rhythms and danceable grooves.”

OK got it.

And to round it all off, Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin.  One of my favourites, because they so successfully keep so much of the original while creating something that really does give me a whole range of new insights into the song.

Leave a Reply

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