When I got troubles: Bob Dylan finding no direction home

By Tony Attwood

Aaron Galbraith kindly pointed out to me that I’d missed out a few songs of Dylan’s recently, so we’re carrying on always trying to play catch up.

“When I got troubles” was recorded in 1959, and appeared on “No Direction Home” – that is to say Bootleg 7.

Dylan plays a 12 bar blues in classic style, but without any form of rhythm from the guitar for the most part, just stumming the major chord on each beat.  That sounds pretty dull, and yet he managed to get something out of it because of the softness of the voice.  There’s no technique in the guitar player – and yet if you listen to any of the cover versions that turn up on You Tube (just type in Dylan’s name and the song title) you’ll hear that it is not as easy as it may seem.

I can’t find a Dylan version that I can put up within the article and which has decent sound quality, so you’ll need to go to Spotify, which obligingly has the whole album, and of course can be accessed for free.

So it is a straight classic 12 bar blues which seemingly anyone could play, but it has a past…

The phrase “Trouble in mind” or “Trouble on my mind” is a consistent theme in the blues – there is a very famous version by Lightning Hopkins.   But it goes back even further, certainly to the days of spirituals and then was modified over time.

Here is a stunning version by one of the all time greats…  It was written by the jazz pianist Richard Jones and was a huge, huge hit, and amazingly a copy of the original version is available.  And boy is it worth listening to.

After this everyone got in the act of singing and/or playing this song including the greats like Louis Armstrong and although the song often changed over time the line of hope about the sun on the back door was the one that everyone remembered and everyone sang.

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause I know the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday

Some of the versions however are appallingly bleak, and the suicide contemplations of the singer were often included

Sometimes I feel like livin’
Sometimes I feel like dyin’ 
I’m gonna lay my head
On the lonesome railroad line
Let the 2:19
Satisfy my mind

Dylan of course goes his own way but the simple sounding of the chord reminds us to some extent where the song came from but his solution is certainly not to lay down on the railroad track, but instead to swing your troubles away.

Well I got trouble
Trouble’s on my mind
Yep, when I got trouble
Trouble’s on my mind
Well, I’m gonna forget my trouble
Leave my trouble behind, behind

I’m gonna swing it up
Swing it down
Got the fever, then wham, wham wham!

Well, swing your troubles
Swing your troubles away
Yeah, well, swing baby
Swing your troubles today

It’s Dylan, so it’s a different approach and a different style.

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.

The index to the 500+ Dylan compositions reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.  It contains reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

We also have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

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.



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