Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Queen Jane Approximately





When your mother sends back all your invitations
And your father to your sister he explains
That you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

E/E: Who is Queen Jane?
Bob Dylan: Queen Jane is a man.
-Nora Ephron & Susan Edmiston Interview (late summer 1965)

“Queen jane Approximately” is an underrated song, modest in what it tries to do lyrically and musically, brilliant in what it achieves. .. The musical achievement of “Queen Jane Approximately” is harder for me to point to – it has to do with the deceptive simplicity of its sound. The melody is sweet and appealing, with an insistent build-up and release of rhythmic tension underlying it that is striking, surprising, full of vengeance, violence, suppressed power.
– Paul Williams (Bob Dylan Performing Artist I: The Early Years 1960-1973)

Vimeo:

TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Quotes
  3. Lyrics
  4. Live versions
  5. Cover versions

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

Facts

From the 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited. It was released as a single as the B-side to “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” in January 1966.

Known studio recordings:

Studio A
Columbia Recording Studios
New York City, New York
2 August 1965

The 5th Highway 61 Revisited session, produced by Bob Johnston.

  • Bob Dylan (guitar, piano, harmonica, vocal)
  • Michael Bloomfield (guitar)
  • Paul Griffin (piano)
  • Bobby Gregg (drums)
  • Harvey Brooks (bass)
  • Al Kooper (celeste)

Take 7

Take 6:

Live:

  • First known live performance: Sullivan Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts – 4 July 1987.
  • It has been performed only 76 times live – last performance: Atlantico, Rome, Italy – 6 November 2013.
    (included in the “Live versions” section down below)
  • Top year was 2006 with 11 performances.

Quotes

The central gure in “Queen Jane” may even be the same queen bitch Bowie later portrayed in song. Andy Warhol was certainly some- one whose path crossed Dylan’s at this time. As the pop artist writes of the songwriter in Popism, “He was around 24 then and the kids were all just starting to talk & act & dress & swagger like he did. But not so many people except Dylan could ever pull o this anti-act. . . . He was already slightly ashy when I met him, de nitely not folky anymore. I mean, he was wearing satin polka-dot shirts.” By November 1965, after a year in which their supra-hip enclaves intersected at will, Dylan will- ingly sat for a silent lm portrait at Warhol’s Factory.
Nor is there a shortage of lines in “Queen Jane” that could be applied to our regal pop art exponent. May I o er up: “When . . . you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations,” “When all the clowns that you have commissioned,” “When all your advisers heave their plastic,” and so on. Written when all his songs were “city songs,” this could have been Dylan’s way of saying he was not impressed by the hangers-on Warhol seemed to like accumulating.
Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973)

..For the listener, the song is a chance to catch one’s breath, a rest stop along the way, relatively lighthearted and lightweight. Even the music sounds friendlier, kicking off with a bouncy piano riff (all instruments starting together, for once) that wouldn’t be out of place in a hotel lobby or wedding reception. .. Musically, too, “Queen Jane Approximately” stays low-key, its most distinguishing characteristic being the Spanish-inflected bass figure and plain-Jane guitar strum at each turnaround. Though some have criticized Bloomfield for being out of tune (and his playing here does flirt dangerously with its own scale), that simple, rolling strum is the part that sticks in the mind after the song has gone its unassuming way.
Mark Polizzotti – Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (33 1/3)

Harvey Brooks, who plays the bass, explained the recording process: “When I recorded with Dylan on Highway 61 and New Morning there were the minimal amount of takes. His performance and the overall feel were the determining factors of the master take. Tuning or mistakes were not as important.” 53 A focus on general feeling was actually crucial to the final result, although there is a regrettable lack of accuracy in the guitar parts. Al Kooper delivers an excellent organ part, the bass and drums are in harmony, the piano leads the song from one end to the other, and Bob himself provides an excellent vocal and a harmonica part in C. The covers by the Grateful Dead and the Four Seasons demonstrate
Margotin, Philippe; Guesdon, Jean-Michel (Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track )

Unlike some of Dylan’s more vicious odes to stuck- up princesses, Queen Jane Approximately shoots its poison arrows with grace and an insistently singable chorus. The out-of-tune guitar somehow lends a nice touch of garage rock rawness to an arrangement otherwise dominated by the piano-organ blend his records of the period did so much to innovate. Dylan never spelt out the identity of his target, typically claiming Jane was a man. But well-known pacifist Joan Baez certainly seems a likely candidate, given the similarity of her first name and the line about the bandits Queen Jane turns the other cheek to.
Mojo Magazine (The 100 Greatest Dylan Songs)

Joan Baez once referred to Highway 61 Revisited as a “bunch of crap.” She may have been commenting on the raucous sound; she may also have been thinking of this song, a takedown of a woman cloistered by beauty and privilege. “Queen Jane” goes from caustic (“When all the clowns that you have commissioned have died in battle or in vain”) to tender (“Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?”), and the music is some of the most elegant on Highway. Is the song about Baez? Maybe. When a journalist asked him about the queen’s identity, Dylan shot back, “Queen Jane is a man.”
Rollingstone.com (100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs)




Lyrics

When your mother sends back all your invitations
And your father to your sister he explains
That you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

Now when all of the flower ladies want back what they have lent you
And the smell of their roses does not remain
And all of your children start to resent you
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

Now when all the clowns that you have commissioned
Have died in battle or in vain
And you’re sick of all this repetition
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

When all of your advisers heave their plastic
At your feet to convince you of your pain
Trying to prove that your conclusions should be more drastic
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

Now when all the bandits that you turned your other cheek to
All lay down their bandanas and complain
And you want somebody you don’t have to speak to
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

Live versions

.. Born again, the song has gone on from strength to strength. The ver- sion on the penultimate night of an October 1989 New York residency at the Beacon Theatre might even get my vote over its 1965 archetype. Though it takes time to build some momentum—and Dylan can only hold on for as long as he sticks to the song itself, and not some imagi- nary harmonica fugue he adds as a coda—those ve minutes transport his entire expressive range back in time. Its semi-acoustic incarnation at the November 1993 Supper Club shows almost rekindles the same emotional range. And these days the members of the band even usually play in the same key.
-Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973)

Giants Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey
12 July 1987

  • Bob Dylan (vocal, harmonica)
  • Jerry Garcia (guitar, steel guitar, slide guitar)
  • Bob Weir (guitar, vocal)
  • Phil Lesh (bass)
  • Brent Mydland (keyboards)
  • Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart (drums)

Hammersmith Odeon
London, England
3 February 1990

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • G. E. Smith (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • Christopher Parker (drums)

Bless Bob indeed, for going into the transcendent Queen Jane Approximately. His voice hit a high note in the song’s opening, surging over the band’s thrilling accompaniment, and then there was the totally wonderful Dylanesque-to-the-nth-degree vocalisation of the stretched-out line endings.
~Andrew Muir (One More Night)

Broome County Forum
Binghamton, New York
12 October 1992

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • John Jackson (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • Winston Watson (drums & percussion)

The Supper Club
New York City, New York
November 1993

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar & harmonica)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • John Jackson (guitar, banjo)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • Winston Watson (drums & percussion)

Leid Center
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
9 April 1994

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • John Jackson (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • Winston Watson (drums & percussion)

The Orpheum Theatre
Boston, Massachusetts
8 October 1994

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • John Jackson (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • Winston Watson (drums & percussion)


Pensacola Civic Center
Pensacola, Florida
2 February 1999

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

Scandinavium
Gothenburg, Sweden
15 October 2003

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & piano)
  • Freddie Koella (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • George Recile (drums & percussion)


Rome, Italy
Atlantico
November 6, 2013

  • Bob Dylan – piano, harp
  • Tony Garnier – bass
  • George Recile – drums
  • Stu Kimball – rhythm guitar
  • Charlie Sexton on lead guitar
  • Donnie Herron – banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel

Cover Versions

Grateful Dead – Queen Jane Approximately (09-19-1988)

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Hampton, NH Aug 4th 2009

The Four Seasons:

Sources

-Egil

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