Friday, May 28, 2021

The Songs of BOB DYLAN - Part 5

During our recent feature on JIMI HENDRIX we told you that we were saving his Top 20 Hit ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER for our BOB DYLAN series ... so here it is!!!

The fact is, HENDRIX was a HUGE BOB DYLAN fan. As early as 1965, he was reported to have walked into an all black club, turned off WILSON PICKETT and put the latest BOB DYLAN album on the turntable. In fact, he often performed DYLAN's LIKE A ROLLING STONE at his earliest concerts with THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE. And the respect was mutual ... in fact, DYLAN later said that he liked HENDRIX's version of ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER so much that he adopted JIMI's arrangement for his own performances. (DYLAN first recorded the song on his JOHN WESLEY HARDING album, released in 1968.)

If DYLAN's greatest influence seemed to be on the charts of the early to mid '60's, 1968 was not a bad year for DYLAN covers: besides JIMI HENDRIX's hit with ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER, we also saw MANFRED MANN go all the way to #4 with their version of THE MIGHTY QUINN and RICK NELSON make The Top 40 for the first time since 1964 when he recorded DYLAN's SHE BELONGS TO ME for release in early 1969.

As we mentioned in our JIMI HENDRIX piece, this was JIMI's only Top 40 Hit. (It peaked at #18 in Cash Box Magazine in the Fall of 1968 and still receives quite a bit of Classic Rock airplay.)

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  Jimi's version of "All Along The Watchtower" placed at #24 in our TOP 3333 MOST ESSENTIAL CLASSIC ROCK SONGS OF ALL TIME Poll that we did in 2020, based on your votes]

DIDJAKNOW?: DAVE MASON of TRAFFIC and BRIAN JONES of THE ROLLING STONES both performed on JIMI HENDRIX's recording session for ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER. JIMI went into the studio that evening with the intention of recording DYLAN's I DREAMED I SAW ST. AUGUSTINE, another track from the JOHN WESLEY HARDING album. At the last minute, he decided that that song was too personal and elected to cover ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER instead.


Here's a little segment that I like to call 


We've spent the better part of this week covering songs that BOB DYLAN wrote that became hits for other artists. Along the way, we've seen that some of these tunes were hits for more than one artist ... and the way these artists chose to interpret the words and music of MR. DYLAN is often very interesting ... and very different.

Probably no one track had a greater discrepancy in interpretation than DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALL RIGHT, a #9 hit for PETER, PAUL AND MARY in 1963 and a #10 hit for THE WONDER WHO (THE FOUR SEASONS) in 1965, done up in full-camp style.

And, speaking of PETER, PAUL AND MARY, we featured their #2 smash version of DYLAN's BLOWIN' IN THE WIND earlier in this series ... but in 1966, STEVIE WONDER gave it a Motown soulful spin and took it back to #9 on the pop charts. (Can you image BOB DYLAN with the #1 R&B song in the country?!?!? Well, it was, for one week back in 1966!!!)

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  SAM COOKE was blown away by Dylan's song "BLOWIN' IN THE WIND" ... and wished that he had written it.  At the very least, he felt that a song this powerful should have been written by a Black Man.  He was so inspired to answer this record that he wrote "A CHANGE IS GONNA COME," perhaps the most powerful song ever written by SAM COOKE.  (The shame is it got delegated to the B-Side of Sam's 1965 Hit "SHAKE," yet still managed a #31 chart showing of its own.)  To this day, I still get chills every time I hear this record.  I can only humbly say "Mission Accomplished, Sam!" -kk]

STEVIE recorded his version in 1966 and it has a real "folky" feel to it despite his then trademark harmonica fills and classic Motown rhythm section beat. (Actually, the arrangement is pretty similar to his version of A PLACE IN THE SUN and his other hit NEVER HAD A DREAM COME TRUE, which we featured previously in FORGOTTEN HITS.)


We covered THE BYRDS' debut hit, MR. TAMBOURINE MAN, in Part One of our special DYLAN series. As we told you then, THE BYRDS cut several of DYLAN's tunes in the early years and their electric versions of some of those songs inspired DYLAN to change-up his stage act a little bit as well. Today, we've included one more great track by THE BYRDS ... the beautiful MY BACK PAGES, a #26 hit from the Spring of 1967...and apparently a favorite of quite a few folks on the list.


how many folk fans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

five - 

one to screw it in and another four to complain that it went electric. 


And, finally, we're giving you the CHER version of ALL I REALLY WANT TO DO, a song also covered by THE BYRDS back in 1965. (The two competed for chart position that summer ... according to Cash Box Magazine, whose charts were based more so on actual record sales, THE BYRDS shared this position with CHER when both versions peaked at #9 ... at the time, Cash Box listed multiple recordings of a song by a variety of artists under the song's title. However, in Billboard Magazine, whose charts better reflected radio airplay, it was CHER who had the more popular version ... in fact, it was a clear-cut victory for the young CHERILYN LaPIERRE. Her recording went to #15 in Billboard while THE BYRDS' track stopped at #40. Here in Chicago, I distinctly remember hearing BOTH versions on the radio, but only THE BYRDS version ever hit our local chart, where it peaked at #11. Although it was officially released and promoted as CHER's first solo record, there's no mistaking hubby SONNY BONO's voice trading off on some of the lyrics!

A technical correction here ... 

The #9 placement for "All I Really Want To Do" in Cash Box was based on the combined sales of both Cher's and the Byrds' versions of the song, with Cher's being the bigger seller. Two weeks after that #9 peak, Cash Box downgraded the Byrds' version to the status of "other versions strongly reported," which indicated that its contribution to the song's chart position was minimal. 

- Randy
Thanks for explaining ... I'm not sure that I've ever been totally clear on how CASHBOX used to show shared chart positions ... sometimes in all caps (which I'm assuming meant it was a version that actually was getting PLAYED) and then sometimes up to three or four OTHER versions that nobody ever really heard of.  (kk) 

BOB DYLAN: We Salute Thee

For those who DO love the voice of BOB DYLAN, we've decided to close this series with a few of our favorites. (We started this whole thing off with his WIGWAM instrumental, for God's sake!!! It's the LEAST we can do!!!) If his nasally approach to singing turned some folks off back at the beginning of his career, it must have grown on us since. (I remember commenting a while back that if BOB DYLAN had to compete on a program like AMERICAN IDOL to have a chance at pop stardom today, he'd probably be eliminated in the very first round!) Maybe it's just aged well over time like a fine wine (or maybe it's the fact that I've gotten so used to TOM PETTY's flattering impression that I've come to appreciate the original), but we couldn't go the whole week without at least featuring BOB singing SOMETHING!!!

To my ears, the BEST that BOB DYLAN's voice has EVER sounded was on his 1969 Top Ten Hit LAY LADY LAY. When I heard that on the radio for the very first time, I was shocked to hear that that was DYLAN! It remains, to this day, one of my very favorite BOB DYLAN recordings. (In fact, it inspired me to go out and buy my very first BOB DYLAN album, NASHVILLE SKYLINE ... not a bad place to start a DYLAN album collection, btw!)

Amongst my favorites has got to be RAINY DAY WOMEN #12 and #35, a song I searched high and low for back in 1966 but never found, since I never knew the NAME of the song!!! (I figured that it just HAD to be called "EVERYBODY MUST GET STONED" and, being too young and too shy at the time to ask for a record by that name ... and never finding it in the singles bin ... I didn't get this tune till I bought DYLAN's GREATEST HITS LP!)


I loved his WIGWAM instrumental in 1970, which got a lot of soft-rock airplay here in Chicago. Then, in 1971, he captured my ear again with WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW, a #31 Cash Box hit heavily influenced by LEON RUSSELL's piano playing. We're sending along that one, too, today in our BOB DYLAN wrap-up piece.


And, finally, since we've spent the whole week spotlighting DYLAN's songwriting, here's a tune that he DIDN'T write ... a song best known as done by THE KING. Don't be fooled for a minute ... BOB DYLAN absolutely LOVED the music of ELVIS PRESLEY ... as did every other kid growing up in America at the time, dreaming of the life of a rock star. (When he left home to pursue a musical career, DYLAN wrote in his High School Yearbook that he was leaving "to follow LITTLE RICHARD.") DYLAN cut his version of ELVIS' 1959 #2 smash A FOOL SUCH AS I in 1973. (It's got a VERY country feel to it ... but is still a far cry from the HANK SNOW 1953 original.) It's also further proof of just how bad DYLAN's singing voice really is!!! 


DIDJAKNOW?: BOB DYLAN wrote LAY LADY LAY for inclusion in the 1969 Motion Picture MIDNIGHT COWBOY at the request of the producer of the film. The song was rejected and ended up on DYLAN's NASHVILLE SKYLINE album instead. His next "movie tune" would be one of the biggest of his career: KNOCKIN' ON HEAVEN'S DOOR (from PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, in which DYLAN had a featured role) went all the way to #10 ... and became his biggest selling single since LAY LADY LAY!!!

kk - 


a Bob Dylan story......
In an effort to convince Bob Dylan to write the theme for EASY RIDER, Peter Fonda gave him a private screening of the movie. Dylan didn't like the movie and wouldn't write the song. But he scribbled the words "The river flows, it flows to the sea, wherever the river flows, that's where I want to be" on a napkin and told Fonda: "Give this to McGuinn," referring to Roger McGuinn of THE BYRDS. Fonda gave McGuinn the napkin, and McGuinn immediately finished the song. But when Dylan learned that he had gotten song writing credit, he called McGuinn and chewed him out, saying he didn't want to be associated with it in any way. Dylan co-wrote the song, but McGuinn got all the credit ...

WHODATHUNK?:  If someone would have told me back in the early '60's ... while BOB DYLAN was rewriting the history and relevance of folk/pop music ... that 40 years later he'd be singing and vamping for the cameras in a VICTORIA'S SECRET television commercial ... I would have wondered just what kind of magic dragon they were puffing on! Who would have EVER thought that DYLAN would end up a rebel WITH a cause?!?!? (Or, as one magazine article I read suggested, BOB DYLAN: DO Think Twice ... It's NOT All-Right!!!)

We hope you've enjoyed this little salute to the music of BOB DYLAN ... be sure to stop back here tomorrow 'cause there's one more chapter to come!