By Tony Attwood
There are of course a number of songs by Dylan that I particularly love, but for which I can find no cover versions – for reasons that I cannot fathom.
And there are some wherein I can only find one cover which I feel is worth presenting in this series. And such is the case here with “Up to Me”.
Quite why other artists haven’t covered the song (or perhaps it should be why other artists have covered the song but I can’t find them freely available on the internet) I don’ know (although I’ll to take a guess at the end of this little piece) but if you can find other cover recordings of Up to Me which take us somewhere new, please do say – I really do like this song.
What we get here is a very different impression of the song from Dylan’s original, and in a real way the illustration above reflects this. The guitar and percussion suggest that the “up to me” is related to a fight. Not a literal fist fight, but a real demand on the singer to get things sorted out.
I guess Bob didn’t use the song on the album, (and indeed why others haven’t covered it), is because it utterly strophic – meaning to say that it is just verse, verse, verse, and that gives the recording artist a real problem. It is hard to keep attention unless the lyrics really grab the listener.
So it is worth seeing how Bob solved the problem…
What he does is emphasise the lyrics so we really can pick them up first time around – not something that is always the case. The point is that since there is only the acoustic guitar and the bass guitar providing the accompaniment, and with the lyrics being clearly sung, almost occasionally declaimed, that is where our attention has to go. There is nowhere else to listen.
There is also the point that Bob probably dropped the song because it has overlaps with the masterpiece of “Tangled up in Blue”. But we should also note that what he does here is take the song slowly and with such clear declamation that we get all the lyrics first time around.
We do have copies of several takes of the song including one which is labeled “take 2 remake 3” but the difference between the takes is small, suggesting that Bob couldn’t find any significant alternative way of re-working the piece. Here is the faster version…
And Bob’s clearly trying through these different versions to overcome the inherent issue of the song. Hence, presumably, the lack of performances. He wasn’t sure he could hold the audience’s attention through verse after verse after musically indentical verse.
The melody too is a problem, in that it is so unvaried, as the lyrics just move on and on as a set of un seemingly unrelated reflections, many of which are hard to unravel. What are we do make of….
We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex It didn’t amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects When you bite off more than you can chew you pay the penalty Somebody’s got to tell the tale, I guess it must be up to me
Well, Dupree came in pimpin’ tonight to the Thunderbird Café Crystal wanted to talk to him, I had to look the other way Well, I just can’t rest without you, love, I need your company But you ain’t a-gonna cross the line, I guess it must be up to me
So why am I bothering in a series of articles with a piece where we only have one cover? Several reasons. One is I do like the song with its incredibly dense set of images pouring one over the other, unrelentingly.
Another is that I am fascinated not only by the songs people choose to rework as cover versions but why some songs get left behind. Although here I think the answer is the same as the reason why Bob dropped the piece from the album and didn’t perform it: the audience will just get bored with verse after verse.
But just because Bob drops a song and not one else takes it up, doesn’t mean the song is not good: not at all. If you have been following my rambling series from the start [and I am overwhelmed by your kindness if you have] you will know that sometimes I have highlighted songs by Dylan which are indeed obscure and which have only one or two covers, but wherein the cover version is an utter, utter masterpiece – at least in my opinion.
The overwhelming example came early in the series with “Angelina”. And a) because I love the song so much and b) because hardly anyone else ever mentions it, and c) because I’ll jump at any opportunity to play this cover version again, here it is. Just because hardly anyone wants to cover a Dylan song, that doesn’t mean it’s a poor or difficult song.
- Previously in the series
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- BoB Dylan’s 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- Heart of Mine
- High Water
- Highway 61
- I am a lonesome hobo
- I believe in you
- I contain multitudes
- I don’t believe you.
- I love you too much
- I pity the poor immigrant.
- I shall be released
- I threw it all away
- I want you
- I was young when I left home
- I’ll remember you
- Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- If you see her say hello
- Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- I’m not there.
- In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- It ain’t me babe
- It takes a lot to laugh
- It’s all over now Baby Blue
- It’s all right ma
- Just Like a Woman
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- Lay down your weary tune
- Lay Lady Lay
- Lenny Bruce
- That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
- Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- License to kill
- Like a Rolling Stone
- Love is just a four letter word
- Love Sick
- Maggies Farm!
- Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
- Mama you’ve been on my mind
- Man in a long black coat.
- Masters of War
- Meet me in the morning
- Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
- Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
- Most likely you go your way
- Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
- Motorpsycho Nitemare
- Mr Tambourine Man
- My back pages, with a real treat at the end
- New Morning
- New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
- Nobody Cept You
- North Country Blues
- No time to think
- Obviously Five Believers
- Oh Sister
- On the road again
- One more cup of coffee
- (Sooner or later) one of us must know
- One too many mornings
- Only a hobo
- Only a pawn in their game
- Outlaw Blues – prepare to be amazed
- Oxford Town
- Peggy Day and Pledging my time
- Please Mrs Henry
- Political world
- Positively 4th Street
- Precious Angel
- Property of Jesus
- Queen Jane Approximately
- Quinn the Eskimo as it should be performed.
- Quit your lowdown ways
- Rainy Day Women as never before
- Restless Farewell. Exquisite arrangements, unbelievable power
- Ring them bells in many different ways
- Romance in Durango, covered and re-written
- Sad Eyed Lady of Lowlands, like you won’t believe
- A series of Dreams; no one gets it (except Dylan)
- Seven Days
- She Belongs to Me
- Shelter from the Storm
- Sign on the window
- Simple twist of fate
- Slow Train
- Someday Baby
- Spanish Harlem Incident
- Standing in the Doorway
- Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
- Subterranean Homesick Blues
- Sweetheart Like You
- Tangled up in Blue
- Tears of Rage
- Temporary Like Achilles. Left in the cold, but there’s still something…
- The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar
- The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
- The Man in Me
- Times they are a-changin’
- The Wicked Messenger
- Things have changed
- This Wheel’s on Fire
- Thunder on the mountain
- Till I fell in love with you in the north of Norway
- Time Passes Slowly – just sit down and close your eyes
- To be alone with you
- To Ramona: unexpectedly yes!
- Tombstone Blues
- Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You
- Too much of nothing
- Trouble as you have never been troubled before
- Tryin’ to get to Heaven