Bob Dylan And Lord Buckley

by Larry Fyffe

Often overlooked is the influence of the  ironic humour of pre-Beat scat-singer Lord Buckley on the song lyrics of Bob Dylan;

Don’t want no danglin’ wanglin’ around here
Keep everybody tight
And tell dem two cats come in here want to get some money
I ain’t givin’ no money away
“Dey messin’ with Scrooge” ……
And he got on the ghosts wing, and -brrt- they took off
And he’s flyin’ old Scrooge over top of da mountain
Da wind is blowin’, da wind is partin’ his way
And he’s lookin’ down and seeing all dese crazy scenes goin’ on

(Lord Buckley: Scrooge)

Dylan takes the above Mark Twain-tinged burlesque on Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”, and gives it a just-a-minute Dylanesque twist:

 Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle of the morning, I’ll come followin’ you

(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

Then Dylan picks up on Buckley’s critique of materialism unbound:

 How many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea …..
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

(Bob Dylan: Blowin’ In The Wind)

Lord Buckley records a version of Joseph Newman’s (Paul Newman’s uncle) anti-racist poem:

“Well, there’s a lot of good ways to be wicked”
And they hung Hezekiah as high as a pigeon
And the nice folks around said, “Well, he had it comin’
Cause the son-of bitch didn’t have no religion”

(Lord Buckley: Black Cross)

Dylan performs ‘Black Cross’ under the title  ‘Hezekiah Jones’ on the bootleg  “Ode For Barbara Allen” (1974).

The influence of Lord Buckley’s ‘The Nazz’ (a burlesque on fiery money-seeking religious sermons that preach the teachings ofJesus the Nazarene), is detected in Bob Dylan’s songs about distorted social values:


 And the Nazz step away a little bit
And he put a glorious sound of love on …..
He said ‘Dig infinity’, and they dug it
And when they did, Whap!, there was a flash of thunder
And they looked in one hand
There was a great, big, stuffed, sweet, swinging, smoked fish
And in the other, a long, gone, crazy loaf of
That southern, home-made, honey-tasting, sweet bread
Why, these cats flipped
The Nazz never did nothin’ simple
(Lord Buckley: The Nazz)

Below, a Buckley-like humourous snap at religion with a Dylanesque spin:

Well, I rapped upon a house
With the US flag upon display
I said ‘Could you help me out
I got some friends down the way?’
The man says, ‘Get out of here
I’ll tear you limb from limb’
I said, ‘You know they refused Jesus too’
He said, ‘You’re not him’

Bob Dylan : 115th Dream)

Quite serious at other times is Dylan at the hypocrisy of religious leaders and followers concerning the plight of the poor:

People starving and thirsting, grain elevators
 are bursting
Oh you know it costs more to store the food
than it do to give it
They say lose your ambitions, follow your ambitions
They talk about a life of brotherly love
Show me someone who knows how to live it

(Bob Dylan: Slow Train)

There are a couple of Dylan recordings of Barbara Allen on You Tube:


What else is on the site

1: 500+ reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines and our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews


  1. I would imagine Lord Buckley would be rather surprised at seeing “The Nazz” described as a ‘burlesque’ of a sermon. It IS a sermon, pure and simple. Lord Buckley was a preacher. He entered through a different door, true, but a preacher none the less.

  2. I appreciate your comment but whether you consider Buckley a comical hipster ‘preacher’ or a burlesque ‘preacher’ in a speakeasy, I fail to see any significant difference.

  3. Buckley said stuff like “I don’t know about that Jehovah guy…I can’t reach him….I think people should worship people.”

    He greatly influences the so-called Beat Generation – poets, and musicians like Ginsberg, Corso, and Dylan too. Buckley is noted for making black-humoured fun of the H-Bomb.

  4. In ‘Scrooge’ – Buckley: “with jingle-jangle bells all over” –
    alluded to by Dylan in ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’.

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