King of Kings: Bob Dylan’s instrumental written for Ronnie Wood.

By Tony Attwood

According to one article I have found Ronnie Wood seemed  to be expecting some lyrics from Bob Dylan when they worked together on Wood’s album “Not for beginners” which included as its final track “King of Kings” – written by Bob Dylan.

Ronnie Wood said, ‘Part of the reason we get on is that we’re both Geminis, but he’s a far more reclusive and unpredictable one than me. To give you an idea, when he came round to do his bit on my album, he refused to sing. I’m like, “What about these lyrics, Bob?” and he goes “You ain’t gettin’ no words out of me!”’

Which I suppose explains this instrumental composition “King of Kings” by Bob Dylan.  Ronnie Wood continued, “There are days – like in Kilkenny – when he’ll talk the hind leg off you, and others when the duffel coat gets put on and that’s your lot. I’ve known him a long time now but I still can’t pre-guess his mood.

Speaking of playing in Live Aid with Bob Dylan Ronnie Wood said, “Before Live Aid, we spent a couple of days in my New York house rehearsing everything in his back catalogue. I tell you, myself, Keith (Richards) and Ian (McLagan) have never worked so fucking hard in our lives. What does he do as we’re walking on? Suggest we start with the one bloody song we haven’t learned! “Does that mean we shouldn’t do it?” he says, and I go, “Yeah, it does mean that!”

Which sounds pretty much like the Bob we have got to know.  In another Woods interview about Bob, the Guardian newspaper says, “The Rolling Stones played the Desert Trip festival in California with Dylan the weekend after he was awarded the Nobel prize, and told the Guardian he had seemed happy, but sheepish about it.

“He kept calling me Sir Ronnie,” Ronnie Wood said … “and when Charlie walked in he said, ‘And Sir Charlie, too! Everyone from England is a sir, right?’ We said, ‘Yeah Bob, but it’s not like … it’s really good about your Nobel prize.’ And he went, ‘You think so? It’s good, huh?’ And we said, ‘You deserve it.’ And he said, ‘That’s great – thanks.’

“He didn’t really know how to accept it, but he thought he had done something pretty good,” said Wood.

As for this instrumental, I find it very moving, and indeed since I first discovered it earlier today I have been playing it over and over (and yes, my knowledge of Dylan’s work is not as profound as one or two people have suggested – I really didn’t know about this song until I was tipped off).

It is not so much that it goes somewhere that other songs have never been, but rather it knows exactly where it is, and doesn’t try to be somewhere else.  It is a wide shallow river rolling across a rocky river bed – a river that has just come from the moorlands, and you know that you can sit on the bank of the river and just watch it, and it will be the same now as it is tomorrow or the next day.  It is eternal and beautiful and you really don’t want to leave its shore and go back home, even though you know you can come back again, and again.

And yet only if you can keep it in your vision, it will remain and be your constant companion. If you walk away it will be lost.

Shortly after Bob didn’t go to a White House reception for the winners of the Nobel Prize arranged by President Obama.  White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at the Wednesday press briefing: “Unfortunately, for those of you wondering, Bob Dylan will not be at the White House today, so everybody can relax.”

And with this song we can relax, as the river eternally rolls.

Thank you Bob.   I love it.

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  1. Really glad you loved this track so much. I remember getting the album when it came out and thought at the time that this one would slip by unnoticed by a lot of Dylan fans. It is rather lovely though isn’t it?

    Bob also plays acoustic guitar on the track Interfere which you can hear Bob counting in at the start. It has a similar lazy river flowing feel as King Of Kings to begin with but soon the jazzy electric guitars and drums come in…perhaps not as successful as King but nonetheless a fine track, in fact the whole album is worth checking out, as is much of Ronnie’s solo work, the cd can still be picked up pretty cheaply on eBay or amazon.

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