Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bob's Record Collection (again)

In the liner notes to Bob Dylan's 1993 record, World Gone Wrong, he gives a play-by-play look and commentary into it's ten songs. Well, sort of. In a few pages of a CD booklet he divulges his sources and interprets the meaning of the songs - mostly traditional folk and blues tunes, all old, and for the most part pretty dark - all the while riffing a free association into a look at something that Greil Marcus called "the old, weird America."

Here's a sample. Dylan's talking about a Civil War ballad, called "Two Soldiers."

"... physical plunge into Limitationville, war dominated by finance (lending money for interest being a nauseating & revolting thing) love is not collateral. hittin' em where they aint (in the imperfect state that theyre in) America when Mother was the Queen of Her heart, before Charlie Chaplin, before the Wild One, before the Children of the Sun - before the celestial grunge, before the insane world of entertainment exploded in our faces - before all the ancient and honorable artillery had been taken out of the city, learning to go forward by turning back the clock, stopping the mind from thinking in hours, firing a few random shots at the face of time."

The fluidity and elasticity of time is an interesting subject.

On World Gone Wrong and Good As I Been To You from the previous year, Dylan re-grounded himself by going back to songs he had heard and learned in his early days in New York, and recorded them quickly and simply (voice and guitar) in his garage studio at home. He is, in essence, "firing a few random shots at the face of time." I love these records, and while the record company was probably less than thrilled to get a couple of records of covers - from the songwriter - they serve as stark precursors to his next two records, Time Out Of Mind, and Love and Theft. Dylan, who once said, "don't look back," is without nostalgia, doing just that, and looking forward all the same.

World Gone Wrong, is a collection of murder ballads, songs about gamblers, desperate men, working women, ghosts, trains, soldiers, heartbreak, vigilantes, and essentially - America. Here we have the songwriter as curator in the museum of American Song. So, in celebration of Bob Dylan's 68th birthday, we once again take a look at Bob's record collection, and it's a pretty good one.

Here are Dylan's sources, as best as I could find them. I've made a couple of substitutions: "Jack-A-Roe", he learned from Tom Paley of the New Lost City Ramblers, It appeared on two Elektra collections of Appalachian folk songs from the 1950's, but I've been unable to find a copy. Instead we get an acoustic version from the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia, learned this probably from the same record, and also taught "Two Soldiers" to Dylan, which I've substituted for a better version by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard which Dylan also references in the liner notes.


"The World Is Going Wrong" mp3
by The Mississippi Sheiks, 1930.
available on Stop and Listen

"Love Henry" mp3
by Tom Paley, 1964.
from Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot?
out of print

"Ragged and Dirty" mp3
by William Brown, 1942.
available on Mississippi Blues & Gospel: 1934-1942 Field Recordings

"I've Got Blood In My Eyes For You" mp3
by The Mississippi Sheiks, 1930.
available on Stop and Listen

"Broke Down Engine Blues" mp3
by Blind Willie McTell, 1931.
available on The Definitive Blind Willie McTell

"Delia" mp3
by Blind Willie McTell, 1940.
available on Complete Library of Congress Recordings

"Stackalee" mp3
by Frank Hutchison, 1927.
available on Anthology Of American Folk Music

"Two Soldiers" mp3
by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, 1973.
available on Hazel & Alice

"Jack-A-Roe" mp3
by The Grateful Dead, 1981.
available on Reckoning

"The Lone Pilgrim" mp3
by The Doc Watson Family, 1963.
available on The Watson Family


There's a handful of outtakes from the World Gone Wrong sessions. These are two of the songs he recorded that didn't make it on the album. "32-20 Blues" came out earlier this year on Tell Tale Signs.

"Hello Stranger" mp3
by The Carter Family, 1938.
available on Volume 2: 1935-1941

"32-20 Blues" mp3
by Robert Johnson, 1936.
available on The Complete Recordings


Also recorded in Bob's garage at these sessions, is a version of The Duprees' "You Belong To Me," which is on the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. On the soundtrack album there is an annoying monologue by actor Woody Harrelson over an instrumental break in the song. Fluvillian resident Jesse Jarnow has provided this mp3, to which he has applied a little cut and paste to get rid of the monologue.

"You Belong To Me" mp3
by The Duprees, 1962.
available on The Doo Wop Box, Vol. 2

"You Belong To Me" mp3
by Bob Dylan, 1993.
also available on Natural Born Killers


Buy: World Gone Wrong
by Bob Dylan, 1993.
Columbia Records

top photo: by Douglas R. Gilbert, 1964.
John Sebastian, Bob Dylan, and Ramblin' Jack Elliot


Anonymous said...

Cool collection of tracks! Great work!

Garcia's "Two Soldiers" can be found on "Jerry Garcia/David Grisman" (1991).

In the case of "You Belong To Me" I think Dylan used Gene Vincent's version as his source. It can be found on Vincent's LP "Gene Vincent Rocks And The Blue Caps Roll" (1958).

Anonymous said...

Dylan's "Delia" is also very much based on "All My Friends Are Gone" by Stefan Grossman (on LP "Aunt Molly's Murray Farm", 1969). Grossman based the song on "Cocaine Blues" by Reverend Gary Davis. Confusingly the LP "Aunt Molly's Murray Farm" also includes a song called "Delia", but it is a completely different song. Furthermore there is Blind Willie McTell's 1949 "Delia" to consider.

Mr. Lee said...

Fantastic post!

flamingo said...

Wonderful! Keep'em coming, please!

ducktrapper said...

Fantastic stuff! Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, thanks for the links. There is a handwritten letter from Dylan to Jerry Garcia that came up for auction and in it Dylan writes, "Didja hear my version of Two Soldiers?" Check it out at

Scott Warmuth

bob said...

that was f'in marvelous

MF > Melbourne said...

Just noticed that Bob is holding the first Stones LP in his hand in the photo... that is just too cool!

Anonymous said...

great stuff! .....ragged & dirty's gott' a groove , WOW! turn it up.....oh yeah,.... willie brown got'r did.

skorecki said...

a friend of mine just turned me on your blog, it's a great place to listen to music, which has been my main interest in life for years (after i got tired of cinema, on which i wrote for years, even directing ten films between 1966 and 2009) ... i'll come back to you ...
if you got time, you may check my own mlusic club (