The Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour Part 8: My own version of you


I don’t know what it means either: an index to the current series appearing on this website.

The recording starts at around 35 minutes 40 seconds.

My own version of you is one of those Dylan songs which most of will know immediately from the first bar – those four descending notes appear throughout the song, over and over again, three times in every four lines.   Although to be fair we do get an extra accent at the start of each descending bass line later on as the performance does pick up a lot of extra energy.

It does have what I take to be one of the great latter-day in-jokes of popular music with the line “You can bring it to Jerome” line.

If you are of a certain vintage and musical background as yours truly, you’ll surely get the line: Jerome Green, occasional songwriter but mostly known as Bo Diddley’s maracas player on the tours when he was really becoming known as one of the fathers of R&B,  – the guy who really didn’t want to be hassled by carrying the drum kit around so persuaded Bo that all he needed was two maracas in each hand.

As such he had an easy life, although I think he was actually an accomplished percussionist.  But opting out was very much Jerome’s lifestyle.   He was a pal of Bob Diddley from the early days, being the man who went around with the hat when they played on the streets.   Then in 1955 the little band of street musicians suddenly had a number one hit, with Jerome acting as co-writer on some songs, and of course writing “Bring it to Jerome”.

Jerome played and recorded with Bo Diddley until late 1964, by which time he had something of a reputation as a very solid drinker.  He got married but died some time around 1973, lost to the world of music, and to his family.  He deserves to be remembered far more than he is, and Bob’s mention of him here is more than welcome in my house.

I actually interviewed Jerome when I saw Bo Diddley play on stage as a teenager when the band toured England and came to play in Bournemouth near where I live.  It was my first-ever interview of a famous musician.  I was shaking like a leaf.

But back to Bob.   Although the song sounds utterly repetitive it does have built-in variations, starting out with four lines the same line before the final two lines which vary the theme.  Then the verses get longer and the ending varies.

Yet despite the changes it is the atmosphere of the song that carries it through to the crescendo at the end of each verse.  But as for the “bring it to Jerome verse” does it give us a clue as to what is going on?

You can bring it to St. PeterYou can bring it to JeromeYou can bring it all the way overBring it all the way homeBring it to the corner where the children playYou can bring it to me on a silver trayI'll bring someone to life, spare no expenseDo it with decency and common sense

For thereafter we have the sudden accent at the start of each line for the extended final verse with his gory details and additional weight on the beat and then a strangely slowing down, down-beat ending.

Is it the descent of mankind?   Is it the ever slower plod of footsteps as one gets older?  I don’t know, but I do find the “Bring it to Jerome” line fascinating.  It is a direct quote, and this reference to how Jerome Green, a lively, fun, talented musician just suddenly withdrew from music and passe away so young.  Is that part of telling us “the history of the whole human race” as something that plods along step by step?

Indeed I move toward such thoughts as in moments of being downcast and worried about life, or myself I think I have often felt like shouting out

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?Can you tell me, please?

And I am tempted to stay with the vision that this is the clue to it all, this life moving from a rhythm and blues man who died far too young to the “Trojan women and children were sold into slavery”

Reddit has a long detailed discussion following on from lines such as

Mr. Freud with his dreams, Mr. Marx with his axSee the raw hide lash rip the skin from their backs

but upon reflection I think that as so often this misses the point: this is as much about the sound of the words as the individual disconnected images.  Yes it can be explained with convoluted thoughts such as ” the axe comes to refer to an obsolete technology that Marx rejected,” or as saying something about the sadness of Jerome Green’s early death, as I have suggested, but it can also just be a set of images over a rather spooky sounding repeated accompaniment suggesting the world plods along, and we are just ants scampering around on the surface.

And indeed that is what this performance shows me.  It is a set of random lines that spring to Bob’s mind as he surveys the world he has known.  There’s no significance in each line; it is the overall feeling of those constant downward steps in the accompaniment that is central to all this.

Forget the meaning and this is as moving and worrying as a walk along an empty dark corridor where just one light bulb is occasionally flashing off and on.  It is a reflection of a troubling world which we can’t fully understand because of itself it is not comprehensible.  Just keep taking the steps one after another, and try not to fall over.

I utterly adore this performance as it really does seem to me to be reflecting the world Dylan sees and portrays.  A world that just keeps on moving on, without us being any more signficant than a bunch of ants upon whom someone might stand at any moment.

Yes Jerome left music and passed away so young… and he could have done so much more.  Did he have a great life after leaving the band?  I fear probably not, and that’s the horror of it all.  This is, I fear, nothing other than the story of our discontent.



  1. To forget the meaning that’s found in with much of his music is not doing Dylan any great service ….

    There’s the biographical level, and on another level -in a religious context, up jumps Saint Jerome who gets the credit for burdening all mankind with the dogma of ‘original sin’.

    Over- concentrating on the the sounds of words – they’re just random space-fillers, and not that important – commits the sin of hubris

  2. Well done! Big fan of your site.
    Jerome is also mentioned in The Animals/ Eric Burdon song ” the story of Bo Diddley” 1964.

  3. Hubris I believe is defined normally as overconfident pride combined with arrogance. I don’t think I have ever been accused of that before. As for words being random space-fillers and not that important, in Dylan’s writing, is something I have not seen before, as far as I can remember. But I suppose if I am accused of forgetting the meanings within Dylan’s work, that does at least suggest that at one time I knew it, so I suppose there is hope for me there: I could go back and refind it.

  4. Words have meanings attached to them as well as sound …that is the point that shouldn’t be forgotten …. perhaps “ignored” is a better choice of words.

    Telling Nobel-winner Dylan how he, or others, might improve a number of Dylan’s songs is surely an act of hubris.

  5. I’m tempted to say that the song itself is about hubris, the blind arrogance of the Frankenstein figure who believes he can create life ‘from limbs and livers and brains and hearts.’ But no spirit. This song is a dramatic monologue featuring one of the most unreliable narrators in Dylan’s oeuvre. Ultimately his ambitions are blasphemous. He’s a scurrilous, scungy creature.

  6. Watched the movie “Poor Things” last night and it occurred to me that Dylan might have had the plot in mind when he wrote “My Own Version Of You.”

  7. Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein, hubris personified, for sure.

    Nullified ??? The ‘that'( ? ) in the above generalized if-then comment by Attwood needs clarificatiojn as to what is specifically referred to, and what is meant thereby.

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