Category Archives: Bob Dylan songs

Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell – 4 decades 4 versions

Dylan 1983

Kurt Loder: I heard an outtake from the Infidels sessions called Blind Willie McTell. Is that ever going to come out? It’s a great song.
Bob Dylan: I didn’t think I recorded it right. But I don’t know why that stuff gets out on me. I mean, it never seems to get out on other people.
~Bob Dylan (Kurt Loder interview 1984)

[Blind Willie McTell] He was just a very smooth operating bluesman. His songs always reminded me of… As trains, but that ‘s just my hang up, you know, trains. And his vocal style, and his sound seems to fit right in with that lonesome sound. His kinda, you know, Ragtime… kinda thing on a 12 string guitar, so it made everything he did sound, you know, give it a little higher pitch. You know, you could probably call… You could probably call… you could probably say he was the Van Gogh of Blues. You could probably say he was the Van Gogh of the country Blues.
~Bob Dylan (Eliot Mintz Interview, March 1991)

I thought it would be interesting to see how the song has changed over the years. I believe I have found 4 fantastic versions, and my favourite is still the electric studio version from May 1983.

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Bob Dylan performing 9 different versions of “Boots Of Spanish Leather” (videos & audio)

bob dylan boots of spaish leather

Oh, I’m sailin’ away my own true love
I’m sailin’ away in the morning
Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I’ll be landing?

Studio version released in 1964 on his album The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Released January 13, 1964
Recorded August 7, 1963
Genre American folk music
Length 4:40
Label Columbia Records
Writer Bob Dylan
Producer Tom Wilson

No, there’s nothin’ you can send me, my own true love
There’s nothin’ I wish to be ownin’
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean

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Bob Dylan: 5 versions of “Cold Irons Bound” (videos & audio)

bob dylan 1997

I’m beginning to hear voices and there’s no one around
Well, I’m all used up and the fields have turned brown
I went to church on Sunday and she passed by
My love for her is taking such a long time to die

I’m waist deep, waist deep in the mist
It’s almost like, almost like I don’t exist
I’m twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

‘Cold Irons Bound’ was another case of Dylan trying ro throw off the shackles of sound Lanois was ever seeking to impose. Unhappy with anything uptempo, Lanois sought to dissuade Dylan from recreating his live sound, leaving ‘Cold Irons Bound’ as the one occasion when core elements of that live sound were allowed into Criteria.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)

Facts from wikipedia:

Released September 30, 1997
Recorded January 1997
Genre Blues rock
Length 7:15
Label Columbia
Writer Bob Dylan
Producer Daniel Lanois

Cold Irons Bound” is a Grammy Award-winning song written by Bob Dylan, recorded in January 1997 and released on September 30, 1997 on his critically acclaimed album Time Out of Mind.

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Bob Dylan’s best songs: The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears
~Bob Dylan (The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll)

The story I took out of the newspaper and I only changed the words. It’s, er… ..Well, I changed, er… the reporters view into… I used it I used it for something I wanted to say, er, and I used his view, the Maryland reporters view to get at what I wanted to say and turn it that way. And I used a true story, that’s all. I could have used a made-up story.
~Bob Dylan (to Steve Allen – Feb. 1964)

audio from the interview:

“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” is an extremely moving song that has stood the test of time better than any of Dylan’s other early topical songs of this sort (retellings of real events, usually tragedies, usually with a moral attached or implicit). Dylan sings it from the heart; he really cares about the woman who
died-her dignity and the value of her life come through in the song, it is a memorial to her and a tribute to people like her as much as it is an attack on her killer and people like him and the system that coddles them.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan Performing Artist I: The Early Years 1960-1973)



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Bob Dylan’s best songs: Changing Of The Guards


Sixteen years
Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves
Desperate men, desperate women divided
Spreading their wings ’neath the falling leaves
~Bob Dylan, Changing of The Guards

They do. Changing Of The Guards is a thousand years old. Woody Guthrie said he just picked songs out of the air. That means that they were already there and that he was tuned into them. Changing Of The Guards might be a song that might have been there for thousands of years, sailing around in the mist, and one day I just tuned into it. Just like Tupelo Honey was floating around and Van Morrison came by.
~Bob Dylan (to Jonathan Cott, September 1978)

… the title is brilliant, as is the phrase that leads into it (“Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards”). The rhythm and melody are original and powerful; and Dylan’s use of the back-up singers to echo his words at strategic moments throughout each verse is a marvelous device, effective and haunting. The fade-in at the start, followed by the first words of the song-“Sixteen years,” intriguing in any case and neatly self-referential to those listeners who know how many years it’s been since Dylan’s first album came out, since he started his publicjourneypromises something really special; the storytelling structure of the song, mixing political and romantic intrigue, rich imagery, and fascinating setting, singer slipping neatly between first and third person narrative, seems more than adequate to deliver on the promise.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

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