Bob Dylan: The Gospel Years, Part 4 – Best Song 1979 “Slow Train”





Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can’t help but wonder what’s happenin’ to my companions
Are they lost or are they found?
Have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down
All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon?
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

If I could keep only one performance from the Slow Train Coming album, it would have to be the title song, “Slow Train,” much as I love to listen to “Precious Angel,” much as I am in awe of Dylan’s vocal performance on all of “When He Returns” and pieces of “I Believe in You.” But “Slow Train” is it, the white-hot core of the album, the one track that can and must be listened to again and again and again, inexhaustible, essential.
-Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

Previous posts in this series:

..nothing less than Dylan’s most mature and profound song about America.
– Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Slow Train:

TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Lyrics
  3. Live versions

#78 on my list of Bob Dylan’s top 200 songs.

Facts

Wikipedia:

Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Slow Train Coming
B-side “Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)”
Released January 1980
Recorded May 3, 1979
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
Genre Hard rock, blues rock, Christian rock, gospel
Length 6:02
Label Columbia Records
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Jerry Wexler
Barry Beckett

“Slow Train” has an earlier genesis than most of the songs on Slow Train Coming. It began life as an instrumental Dylan used to warm up with on tour in late 1978. A recording of the song with some lyrics exists from a soundcheck of a December 2, 1978 show in Nashville, Tennessee, although only the chorus and a few lines from that version were retained on the ultimate recording. A studio demo was recorded in April 1979, and the album version was recorded on May 3, 1979, at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama. Dylan previously used the symbol of a holy slow train in the liner notes to his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited: “the subject matter – though meaningless as it is – has something to do with a holy slow train.”




 –

Known studio recordings:

  • Rundown demo, April 1979
  • Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, May 3, 1979 – album version.
    Produced by: Jerry Wexler & Barry Beckett.
    – Bob Dylan (guitar & vocal)
    – Mark Knopfler (guitar)
    – Tim Drummond (bass)
    – Barry Beckett (organ)
    – Pick Withers (drums)
    – Harrison Calloway Jr. (trumpet)
    – Ronnie Eades (bariton saxophone)
    – Harvey Thompson (tenor saxophone)
    – Charlie Rose (trombone)
    – Lloyd Barry (trumpet)
    – Carolyn Dennis, Helena Springs, Regina McCrary (background vocals).

Live:

  • First known:  Nashville TN soundcheck, December 2, 1978
  • Concert debut: Fox Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, California – November 1, 1979
  • It has been performed 131 times live – last performance: Messehalle 20, Hanover, West Germany – September 20, 1987
  • Top year was 1980 with 70 performances
Photo by Chris Bradford

Album:

  • Released on “Slow Train Coming” – 20 Aug. 1979

Check out: Slow Train Coming

Lyrics

Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can’t help but wonder what’s happenin’ to my companions
Are they lost or are they found
Have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down
All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon?
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

I had a woman down in Alabama
She was a backwoods girl, but she sure was realistic
She said, “Boy, without a doubt
Have to quit your mess and straighten out
You could die down here, be just another accident statistic”
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

All that foreign oil controlling American soil
Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed
Sheiks walkin’ around like kings
Wearing fancy jewels and nose rings
Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Man’s ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don’t apply no more
You can’t rely no more to be standin’ around waitin’
In the home of the brave
Jefferson turnin’ over in his grave
Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters
Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition
But the enemy I see
Wears a cloak of decency
All nonbelievers and men stealers talkin’ in the name of religion
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

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 inhibitions
Follow your own ambitions
They talk about a life of brotherly love show me someone who knows how to live it
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Well, my baby went to Illinois with some bad-talkin’ boy she could destroy
A real suicide case, but there was nothin’ I could do to stop it
I don’t care about economy
I don’t care about astronomy
But it sure do bother me to see my loved ones turning into puppets
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

 

Performing it in 1987 he dropped the third verse.

Live versions

Fox Warfield Theatre
San Francisco, California
7 November 1979

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Fred Tackett (guitar)
  • Spooner Oldham (keyboards)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Terry Young (keyboards)
  • Jim Keltner (drums)
  • Regina Mcrary , Helena Springs , Mona Lisa Young (background vocals)




Civic Auditorium
Santa Monica, California
18 November 1979

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Fred Tackett (guitar)
  • Spooner Oldham (keyboards)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Terry Young (keyboards)
  • Jim Keltner (drums)
  • Regina Mcrary , Helena Springs , Mona Lisa Young (background vocals)

Thank you. I suppose you’ve been reading the newspapers and watching the TV? And you see how much trouble this world is in. Madmen running loose everywhere. Anyway we, we’re not worried about that though — it doesn’t bother us — because we know this world is going to be destroyed. Christ will set up his kingdom for a thousand years in Jerusalem where the lion will lie down with the lamb — we know this is true. No doubt about it. So, it’s a slow train coming. It’s been coming for a long time, but it’s picking up speed.

Massey Hall
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
20 April 1980

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Fred Tackett (guitar)
  • Spooner Oldham (keyboards)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Terry Young (keyboards)
  • Jim Keltner (drums)
  • Clydie King, Gwen Evans, Mary Elizabeth Bridges, Regina McCrary, Mona Lisa Young (background vocals)

Paramount Theater
Portland, Oregon
3 December 1980

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Fred Tackett (guitar & mandolin)
  • Willie Smith (keyboards)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Jim Keltner (drums)
  • Clydie King, Carolyn Dennis, Regina McCrary (background vocals)

Sportpaleis Ahoy
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
19 September 1987

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Tom Petty (guitar)
  • Mike Campbell (guitar)
  • Benmont Tench (keyboards)
  • Howie Epstein (bass)
  • Stan Lynch (drums)
  • The Queens Of Rhythm: Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec (backing vocals)

The third verse is dropped in this brilliant version.

Check out:

Sources

-Egil

One thought on “Bob Dylan: The Gospel Years, Part 4 – Best Song 1979 “Slow Train””

  1. There is a direct connection between “Slow Train” and “Duquesne Whistle” from ‘Tempest.’ The train is longer “up around the bend.” It is here, you can see the lights. You can hear the whistle blowing and it’s an introduction to a CD of which the theme is the judgment of God on our nation.

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