A Dylan Cover a Day: No 170 – When I paint my masterpiece

By Tony Attwood

Dylan’s song “When I paint my masterpiece” got 372 outings between 2011 and 2024, but even without going through the recordings from the shows I can guarantee it never sounded liked this first cover version below – nor indeed like any of these covers (which represent around a quarter of those that I found on a quick search through the archives).

And I start here because the fact that “When I Paint My Masterpiece” actually survives the approach taken by Warboys US, tells us a lot about the song.   Delicacy and nuance is not actually part of music here.  But I also include this recording because the band have answered my plea for artists covering Dylan not to just make a straight recording of the song that we already know.

However it seems that this notion of changing the entire approach style and just about everything was not a one off.  Others have followed this course as well.  Here is the Dirty Nil…

It is interesting – why would musicians be drawn to treating this song in this way?  And come to that I wonder what Bob thinks of it all…. although I rather suspect he stopped listening to other people’s versions of his songs long, long ago.

It was almost in desperation that I went searching for something a little less, ummm… energetic (me being the age I am and all).  And actually I quite like Joshua Davis’ cover.   I must admit I didn’t know anything about this artist.  If you want to know more there is information here.

The main thing here is that it is a bit of a relief from the previous two versions.  But nice and bouncy, which seems to me to be much closer to the intention of the lyrics.

So let’s go to some guys who have a real insight into what Dylan is all about: Grateful Dead, and oh what a relief (for me if no one else).    Here is a version I can relate to.  It is relaxed – and that seems to me to be the point of the whole song.   It is a projection into the future, a feeling that if one can just relax a bit and see the world in a different way that artistic work of genius will somehow simply appear.  (That of course is a load of nonsense, and I am quite sure Bob had his tongue very very much in his cheek with these lyrics).

But environments can of course stimulate a real genius.   I’m not one of them of course, but even so, occasionally works I’ve created and actually looked at, have resulted in me thinking, “blimey that’s quite good.”  At which point it is a sense of relaxation like that below which seems in tune with my feelings, even though fewer ever agree with me.

I get similar good feelings about the Charlie Robinson version, at least at the very start, but the emphasis on the drum beat throughout removes that feeling.   I don’t think the contemplation of a masterpiece fits in with a simple repetitive beat that we have all heard a million times before.

There are many, many more cover versions of this song which you can find all over the internet if you have a mind to, but I felt the need to finish with something different.   So here it is, and even if you don’t normally listen to this type of music do give this a go.   It’s just… well, fun.


Previously in the 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
  133. Simple twist of fate
  134. Slow Train
  135. Someday Baby
  136. Spanish Harlem Incident
  137. Standing in the Doorway
  138. Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
  139. Subterranean Homesick Blues
  140. Sweetheart Like You
  141. Tangled up in Blue
  142. Tears of Rage
  143.  Temporary Like Achilles. Left in the cold, but there’s still something…
  144. The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar
  145. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  146. The Man in Me
  147. Times they are a-changin’
  148. The Wicked Messenger
  149. Things have changed
  150. This Wheel’s on Fire
  151. Thunder on the mountain
  152. Till I fell in love with you in the north of Norway
  153. Time Passes Slowly – just sit down and close your eyes
  154. To be alone with you
  155. To Ramona: unexpectedly yes!
  156. Tombstone Blues
  157. Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You
  158. Too much of nothing
  159. Trouble as you have never been troubled before
  160. Tryin’ to get to Heaven
  161.  Unbelievable
  162. “Up to Me” and a return to earlier days
  163. Visions of Johanna
  164. Walking down the line
  165. Whatcha gonna do
  166. Well Well Well
  167. Went to see the Gypsy.
  168. What good am I
  169. What was it you wanted

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