California by Bob Dylan. An alternative to Outlaw Blues

by Tony Attwood

I have no idea how many 12 bar blues Dylan has written in his career but I think there are quite a few of them.  Some are memorable and some are, well, not so memorable.

“California” was written and recorded on or around 13 January 1965 along with or roundabout the time of such songs as Outlaw Blues (which shares the same format but is not the same song), Love Minus Zero, Subterranean Homesick Blues, She Belongs to Me etc etc. For me, personally it falls into the less than completely memorable category.

This song turned up on NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack – Vol. 2 compilation on November 3rd.   It is said in publicity blurb that “The track has been freshly mixed and mastered for this release, and on the same day the soundtrack hits stores, the song will also be featured on an episode of NCIS.”  So I am not sure if we are listening to an original here or the remixed version.

Also apparently “Things Have Changed, also appeared on NCIS and the first volume of its soundtrack.



According to Clinton Heylonboth “California” and “Outlaw Blues” were recorded on the same day, but that is not to say that they are the same song or that “California” is an early version of “Outlaw” or indeed the other way around..

Originally considered a early version of “Outlaw Blues,” “California” itself was in fact a piano-driven number that Dylan ended up scrapping, but not before lending one of its verses to “Outlaw Blues.”

Here are the lyrics…

I’m goin’ down south
’Neath the borderline
I’m goin’ down south
’Neath the borderline
Some fat momma
Kissed my mouth one time

Well, I needed it this morning
Without a shadow of doubt
Well, I needed it this morning
Without a shadow of doubt
My suitcase is packed
My clothes are hangin’ out

San Francisco’s fine
You sure get lots of sun
San Francisco is fine
You sure get lots of sun
But I’m used to four seasons
California’s got but one

The last verse written for this song was then moved over to Outlaw Blues

Well, I got my dark sunglasses
I got for good luck my black tooth
I got my dark sunglasses
And for good luck I got my black tooth
Don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’
I just might tell you the truth

Also another verse written down but not recorded

I paid 15 cents
didn’t care if I
was right or wrong
I paid 15 cents didn’t care if I
was right or wrong
Then I saddled up a nightmare rode her all night long

And at that point I think I shall leave it.

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  1. First track on 1971 vinyl bootleg (Trade Mark Of Quality)
    entitled “Seems Like A Freezeout” is ‘California’

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