Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


The Inessential Bob Dylan [updated]

It’s Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday on Tuesday. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been putting together a sort of Alternative Greatest Hits. That is, a playlist of my favourite less celebrated Dylan songs. It is not my intention here simply to namecheck a bunch of obscure tracks in order to show off how much I know. In fact, some of the songs I’ve chosen are very well known indeed.

These songs just tend not to be the ones that crop up on Best of compilations. In the comments below, I’d be very interested in hearing from other people on their suggestions for Dylan’s minor masterpieces…

Maggie’s Farm Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
When The Ship Comes In The Times They Are A-Changing (1963)
Song To Woody Bob Dylan (1962)
Visions of Johanna Blonde On Blonde (1966)
Isis Desire (1976)
Mama, You Been On My Mind Live 1975 – The Rolling Thunder Revue (1975)
To Be Alone With You Nashville Skyline (1969)
Dear Landlord John Wesley Harding (1967)
Every Grain of Sand Bootleg Series 1-3 (1981)
Brownsville Girl Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
Po’ Boy Love & Theft (2001)
If You Ever Get To Houston Together Through Life (2009)

Bonus track:

Must Be Santa Christmas in the Heart (2009)

UPDATED: I notice The Guardian have done a podcast on this same subject. For the record, the song selected by the pretentious arsehole guy, Moonshiner, is one of about half a dozen Dylan songs close enough to Irish folk songs that I get away with singing them in the pub at Christmas. The others are Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie, The Walls of Red Wing and Blind Willie McTell.

May 19th, 2011.

31 Responses to “The Inessential Bob Dylan [updated]”

  1. Denise Says:

    Bit of a theme developin in therse recent blogs Eoin….

  2. Denise Says:

    *Developing in these* even.

  3. Neal Says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t just list the whole of Nashville Skyline.

  4. David Says:

    Blind Willie McTell (Bootleg Series Vol 1-3)
    Most of the Time (Oh Mercy)

  5. Fergo Says:

    Good choice, Abandoned Love would get a mention for me- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_b9jdjmoNE

  6. little gurrier Says:

    I was never one for the Best of compilations either. I wouldn’t be a Dylan completist by any stretch but Mozambique, off Desire and Lenny Bruce from Shot Of Love are two Dylan songs that really do it for me.

  7. Eoin Says:

    @ Denise – I’m obsessed, I know.

    @ Neal – that was the obvious temptation. 🙂 What’s your choice tho?

    @ David – both great tracks. I think, Blind Willie McTell is widely regarded as the great unfinished masterpiece. Lots of incredible antebellum imagery, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.

    @ Fergo – Don’t know it, will give it a listen! (P.S. Is this t-shirt Ferg?)

    @ LG – Mozambique is great, I don’t know Lenny Bruce. Will listen!

  8. sean Says:

    Idiot Wind

  9. Meanyeee Says:

    Of course it’s a subjective thing. I much prefer “As I Went Out One Morning” from JWH to Dear Landlord for example.

    Two songs from the better known albums that never get much of a look in and are among my faves are From A Buick 6 on Highway 61 and Outlaw Blues on Bringing It All Back Home.

    The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll is way up there too, but on the New York Philharmonic gig rather than TTAAC which I have never been able to get into

  10. Eoin Says:

    @ Sean – Great song, I actually considered it for my list, but I already had Isis and Brownsville Girl. So kinda figured I had enough epics at that.

    Also Ferg, I found an Everly Brothers version of Abandoned Love…

  11. Eoin Says:

    @ Meanyeee – I love everything on JWH except Wicked Messenger and Down Along The Cove (conveniently tracks 10 & 11 for ease of skipping.)

    Ditto for Highway 61: Tombstone Blues, It Takes a Lot to Laugh, Tom Thumb’s Blues et al.

    Re: Hattie Carroll there’s a great version on Live 1975 – I cannot recommend that album highly enough, if you don’t already have it.

    If memory serves me Elvis Costello once wrote a solo album for Wendy James of Transvision Vamp entitled “Now Ain’t the Time For your Tears.”

  12. Neal Says:

    I’d probably go for Tombstone Blues (Highway 61), Love Minus Zero/Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream (Bringing it all Back Home), One More Cup of Coffee (Desire), Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts (Blood on the Tracks), and pretty much anything off Blonde on Blonde.

  13. Neal Says:

    I think Love Minus Zero is my father’s favourite Dylan song, actually… particularly the verse:
    “In the dime stores and bus stations
    People talk of situations
    Read books, repeat quotations
    Draw conclusions on the wall”

  14. Donal Says:

    Heres my choice for bonus track http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FISHEO3gsM

  15. sarah Says:

    I’m with your Dad. Love Minus Zero/No Limit (was it so good he named it twice??) is one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs.

    My love she speaks like silence
    Without ideals or violence
    She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
    But she’s true like ice like fire

  16. Eoin Says:

    @ Sarah – You’re with Neal’s dad? That old dog!

  17. Gill Says:

    Moonlight from Love & Theft
    Buckets of Rain from Blood On The Tracks
    I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight from John Wesley Harding

  18. mairead Says:

    Quinn the Eskimo

  19. Cathal Says:

    Delia – World Gone Wrong
    Oh Sister – Desire
    Summer Days – Love and Theft
    Dirge – Planet Waves
    Changing of the Guards – Street Legal

  20. kate Says:

    Forever young

  21. Naked Lunch Says:

    On a Night Like This – Planet Waves

  22. Ger-onimo Says:

    Foot of Pride

  23. Brendan Says:

    I think the overproduction puts me off Brownesville Girl so I’ll be trying to find this version(from Richard Williams’ top 20 in Guardian Blog):


    from The Genuine Bootleg Series (bootleg), 1984

    Sam Shepard helped him write this epic dislocated narrative ballad, later revised, retitled Brownsville Girl and released on Knocked Out Loaded. This version doesn’t have the heart-piercing line – sung in a single breath – “Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than those who are most content”, but nor does it have the overblown production, marked by a steroid backbeat and an instrusive female chorus.

  24. Eoin Says:

    @ Gill – great choices.

    @ Cathal – ditto. (Although Oh, Sister is on The Essential Bob Dylan.)

    @ Kate – Also on Essential Bob Dylan.

    @ Naked Lunch – He does a great version of that song with Los Lobos on Masked & Anonymous soundtrack.

    @ Ger – Lou Reed covered that at the 30th Anniversary Concert in Madison Square Garden. Ultra obscure, but can’t say I’ve ever seen its appeal.

    @ Brendan – A lot is made of overproduction on Brownsville Girl but I still think it’s an out and out masterpiece. So many quotable lines.

    “Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt”

    I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran

    I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t like to trespass, but sometimes you just find yourself over the line

    The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter

    People don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent

  25. Naked Lunch Says:

    He didn’t do it with Los Lobos. They did a different version of that song on the cd. But its mental i love that too.

  26. TAD Says:

    Eoin: Not that big a Dylan fan, but “One of Us Must Know” is really great. Have never figured out why it wasn’t a big hit — it’s nearly as good as “Like a Rolling Stone”….

  27. sharon kehoe Says:

    When we lived in Adak Alaska we knew a dentist who was in Dylans highschool music group in Minn. He said,” I left the group and went to dental school because I was the only one in the group who knew we did not have any talent.”

  28. Barry Says:

    House of the Rising Sun
    I was young when I left home
    Mama you’ve been on my mind (From 1st Bootleg Series)
    Nettie Moore
    Big Girl Now from Hard Rain
    Sign on the Window

    I could go on – Happy birthday Bob

  29. Sam Says:

    can’t go past these 3:

    Not for me (biograph)
    When the deal goes down (modern times)
    Winter wonderland (christmas in the heart)

  30. Sam Says:

    ps – i meant “Up To Me” for the first one here – this bad boy http://videos.sapo.pt/I9gbs0sZUz1dCbmbSLFi

    rather than “Not For Me”, Bob’s lesser-known screed against mushrooms, which he simply has no taste for

  31. gaggles Says:

    Visions of Johanna
    Love Sick
    Idiot Wind
    Going Going Gone
    Isis (Biograph live version)
    As I Went Out One Morning
    Blind Willie McTell
    Blood In My Eyes
    Boots of Spanish Leather
    Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright

    Of course, I’ll have a different list tomorrow

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