Well, I ride on a mailtrain, baby Can’t buy a thrill Well, I’ve been up all night, baby Leanin’ on the windowsill Well, if I die On top of the hill And if I don’t make it You know my baby will
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” is a song written by Bob Dylan that was originally released on his seminal album Highway 61 Revisited, and also included on the compilation album Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits 2 that was released in Europe. An earlier, alternate version of the song appears, in different takes, on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 and The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home.
October 17: Bruce Springsteen released The River in 1980
But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true Or is it something worse?
~Bruce Springsteen “The River”
Put on your best dress baby
And darlin’, fix your hair up right
Cause there’s a party, honey
Way down beneath the neon lights
~Bruce Springsteen “Out In The Street”
Living on the road, my friend,
Is gonna keep you free and clean,
Now you wear your skin like iron,
Your breath as hard as kerosene.
You weren’t your mama’s only boy,
But her favorite one it seems —
She began to cry when you said goodbye,
And sank into your dreams.
“Townes van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”
Townes Van Zandt
Kevin Eggers, Jack Clement
“Pancho and Lefty” is a song written by country singer and songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Often considered his “most enduring and well-known song,” Van Zandt first recorded it for his 1972 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. Emmylou Harris then covered the song for her 1977 album, Luxury Liner and the song became a number one country hit in 1983 when Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson adopted it as the title track of their duet album Pancho & Lefty. Steve Earle performs “Pancho and Lefty” on his 2009 album Townes, which is composed of songs written by Townes Van Zandt, Earle’s friend and mentor. Canadian country artist George Canyon recorded a version of the song with Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy on Canyon’s album Classics II, released in November 2012.
Steve Earle: “Was Townes Van Zandt Better Than Bob Dylan? …I’m kinda famous for something I said…I was asked for a sticker for a Townes record that came out in the 80s, I said, Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy-boots and say that. … It wasn’t that I thought that Townes was better than Bob Dylan. I just knew that Townes really needed the help.”
Well, I love both Van Zandt and Dylan, and so does Steve Earle. He has done songs by both on several occasions, and he did an entire album with Townes Van Zandt songs.
In this post we pick the best interpretations we can find of Steve Earle singing Bob Dylan’s songs.
Steve Earle – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright at Johnny Brenda’s Philadelphia,27 Feb 2011:
The first two things I wrote were Guitar Town and Down the Road, because I was looking for an opening and an ending. So I wrote ’em like bookends, and then filled in the spaces in the middle. And the album’s kind of about me. It’s kind of personal.
~Steve Earle (to Alanna Nash – May 1986)
Guitar Town was his first shot at showing a major audience what he could do, and he hit a bull’s-eye — it’s perhaps the strongest and most confident debut album any country act released in the 1980s.
~Mark Deming (allmusic)