Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: All Along the Watchtower

all along the watchtowerMy DJ buddy Falcon did a weekly one hour late night show built around a theme, basically “Deep Cuts” but on the radio. He was kicking around the store one day, complaining that he didn’t have an idea for that week’s show.

“What about ‘All Along the Watchtower’?” I said.

“What about it?”

“You know, do a show that’s nothing but different versions of that song.”

“Oh, God,” he said. “I would kill myself if I had to sit through that.”

So this one’s for you, buddy, wherever you are:

Dylan’s original: Here’s how Bobby Z originally envisioned his ode to jokers and thieves.

Jimi’s version: Hendrix idolized Dylan, and it shows here.

Dylan, revised: Bob liked Jimi’s version so much that he changed the way he played his own song for the rest of his career.

Dave Mason: You probably know him as the “We Just Disagree” guy, but Mason was a friend and contemporary of Jimi’s and a great guitarist. His version is a classic rock staple.

Michael Hedges: My favorite version. Hedges was an absolutely brilliant player, and his version provides both Dylan’s folkiness and Jimi’s fireworks. Listen for the use of his ring as a percussion note.

Lenny Kravitz and Eric Clapton: It takes two to mimic Jimi, even if one of them is Gwinnie’s “man.”

Dave Matthews Band: “But James,” you’re saying. “I like Dylan’s version, but Bob’s voice is too melodic. Do you have a version that sounds even more like a constipated, braying donkey and includes a self indulgent bass solo?” I got you covered.

Eddie Vedder: “You know, James, that didn’t work for me. Can we keep the braying donkey but replace the self indulgent bass solo with self indulgent stage patter?”

Richie Havens: Let’s go out on a high note. Here’s the late, truly great, Richie Havens.


I”ve never seen the show, so I have no friggin’ clue what this is all about. Maybe you can tell me, I’m listening.

19 replies »

  1. This is not an ode to jokers and thieves. Dylan is much deeper. To get a start to understanding this song, read Isaiah 21:1-10, on which it is based. Personally, I liked Neil Young’s version which he performed at the “Bob fest” concert back in 1993 or so.


      • Thanks, James, Bob Dylan IS an experience! I am grateful to have seen the man perform.

        ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER covers are plentiful. If you put together a Part 2, I will trudge along that road with you, quite happily!

        Everyone seems to own this song, in a personal and genuine way. I just downloaded about 15 covers, in the last few minutes, on YouTube.

        I tuck them away, to watch later. I couldn’t help myself, though, and I peeked at Eddie Vedder’s rendition!

        Grateful Dead will be next to watch.

        I love the prophet Isaiah and how Bob Dylan, put down into words and song, a simple message to keep watch and take heed, of our times. Centuries old!


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