“When I get my hands on you” by Bob Dylan, Marcus Mumford and Taylor Goldsmith

By Tony Attwood

With this composition I’m starting to look at the songs on Lost on the River by the band “The New Basement Tapes” which consisted of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford.

Dylan’s input is a set of lyrics that he wrote in notebooks in 1967, and are thought to pre-date the recordings that we know as “The Basement Tapes”. The album was released in 2014.

The story is that Dylan’s publisher went to T Bone Burnett and asked if he would like to be involved in a project to make something of these notes, and gave the assurance that Bob Dylan was ok with having the lyrics used.

It is said that Burnett selected the band and gave them copies of the lyrics to see what each could come up with.  Thus there are in some cases several settings of the same lyrics.  Some songs were not worked on at all, as none of the members of the ensemble could find a way to set the lyrics.  40 songs were written, and 20 were released on the album.  Johnny Depp also became involved later and played guitar on one track and at a concert.

Subsequently five videos were released:

  • “Nothing to It”, with lead vocal by Jim James
  • “Married to My Hack”, with lead vocal by Elvis Costello
  • “When I Get My Hands on You”, with lead vocal by Marcus Mumford
  • “Spanish Mary”, with lead vocal by Rhiannon Giddens
  • “Liberty Street”, with lead vocal by Taylor Goldsmith

On “When I get my hands on you” the music is written by Mumford and Goldsmith.

Here are the lyrics

When I set my eyes on you
Gonna keep you out of town at night
When I set my eyes on you
Not gonna be outta my sight

And now you know
Everywhere on earth you go
You’re gonna have me as your man

When I get my hands on you
Gonna make you carry me
When I get my hands on you
Gonna make you marry me

And now you know
Everywhere on earth you go
You’re gonna have me as your man

When I come home to you
Gonna take you down to the riverside
When I come home to you
Hold you in my arms all night

Here is an alternative video, and this is one I particularly like.

I have to admit that it took me several play throughs of the song to really get into it, and I must say it was watching that second video that really gave me more understanding of what was going on.

Of course there is nothing complex in the lyrics – they are as simple as simple can be – which provides huge problem for the composer.   Does one match simplicity with simplicity or try to compensate for the simplicity of the lyrics with complexity in the music?

The result, musically, is I think, very deceptive – it sounds far simpler than it actually is.   And that is what makes it worth hearing.

As for the lyrics… well, I am not sure I can find anything more to say.  Except I can’t imagine what Dylan would have done with them if he had persevered.   Other tracks will be reviewed shortly.

What else is on the site

You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

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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 love this song. I don’t like Mumford & son but his voice on here is amazing. I think the simplicity of the lyrics is what makes it really work for me. If Dylan’s own version had been in any way similar in style to this it would have been brilliant. I think the lyric are beautiful, the music is wonderful and the performance captivating. A “could-have-been” almost classic !

  2. My wife calls this The Stalker Song! My take is that he tried to write from inside the minds of the “fans” that plagued the Dylan family in Woodstock, as part of a general shift away from “revealing himself” to exploring others’ motivations.

    The other impression I had of this collection of songs, was of a nascent brechtian musical on the Mississippi (focused on liberty street in one of the Kansas Cities!).

    Duncan and Jimmy would make a great theme for the Shetland tv detective series

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