Can a cover version of a song in rock music be better than the original performed by the author? I think so, although I often had to argue on this topic. As a rule, opponents convinced me that only the person who wrote them can convey the depth of the idea and the fullness of the emotions embedded in the text and music. In response, I used to remind them of the song All Along the Watchtower.
Bob Dylan, who composed it, admitted that Jimi Hendrix played the song better than him, and began to perform it himself in the style of the greatest guitarist of all time. And the famous Rolling Stone list included the Hendrix version of All Along the Watchtower. This fact seems to be convincing evidence that covers are not only not worse, but even better than the original versions.
However, you can express your opinion on this issue at the end of the article, but now about how the song All Along the Watchtower was born and rose to the top of popularity.
History of the song All Along the Watchtower
In the summer of 1966, Bob Dylan had an accident while riding a motorcycle. An ambulance was not called, so it is difficult to say how severe the injuries were. There is an opinion that the musician simply used the incident as an excuse to hide from the public for a long time. He spent the next year and a half in a house in Woodstock, where he could write songs in peace.
It was during this period that Dylan composed all of the songs on the John Wesley Harding album, including All Along the Watchtower. As he later recalled, she was born quickly:
There are three ways to
. You compose words and try to find a melody. Or, if you have a melody, you have to fill it with lyrics somehow. And there is a third way, when they appear at the same time. That’s when everything gets mixed up: the words become the melody, and the melody becomes the words. And for people like me, this is the perfect method. All Along the Watchtower was written that way. She appeared in a very short time.
Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, 1995
The song was recorded on November 5, 1967 at Columbia Studio A. The John Wesley Harding album was released in late December, and the All Along the Watchtower single was released on November 22, 1968, but the song failed to chart.
The meaning of All Along the Watchtower
The composition is interesting because of the structure in which the chronological order of the events described is violated, which was recognized by Bob Dylan himself:
opens a little differently, more unusual, because we have several event loops that are described in a slightly reverse order.
Sign Out!, 1968
What is All Along the Watchtower about? Let’s try to understand the meaning of the work by analyzing the text.
The words show allusions to the biblical book of the prophet Isaiah. To see this, read the beginning of the twenty-first chapter. However, a lot of versions of the interpretation of the song, which one of the critics called “a masterpiece of understatement”, were expressed: the devil’s conversation with God, drugs, life in the capitalist world, and so on. You can express your own if you wish.
All Along the Watchtower – Bob Dylan
Check out the music video of Bob Dylan performing All Along the Watchtower at the Woodstock Festival (1994).
The most famous cover of All Along the Watchtower was recorded by the legendary Jimi Hendrix. At the end of January 1968, he brought the John Wesley Harding album to Olympic Studios and invited the participants of The Jimi Hendrix Experience to play this composition.
Jimi has always had a high opinion of Dylan, so the decision to sing one of his songs does not seem strange. Here’s what Hendrix once said about All Along the Watchtower and Bob’s work:
All the people who don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs should read his poetry. They are full of joy and sorrow of life. I’m like Dylan because we both can’t sing well. Sometimes I play Dylan’s songs and they sound so much like mine that I feel like I wrote them.
I think Watchtower is a song that I could write, but I’m sure I would never finish it. When I think about Dylan, I often come to the conclusion that I could never write the words that he manages to find, but I would like him to help me, because I have a lot of songs that I can’t finish. I just write down a few words on paper and I can’t move forward.
All Along the Watchtower by The Jimi Hendrix Experience was featured on the album Electric Ladyland and was released as a single that peaked at number five on the UK Singles Chart and number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100.
All Along the Watchtower performed by Hendrix was included in the Rolling Stone list. In addition, she is ranked fifth in Guitar World magazine’s Top 100 Solos. And the British publication Total Guitar called it the best cover version of all time.
Bob Dylan was delighted with the way Jimi played his song:
She really stunned me. He was so talented. He could find something in the song and strongly develop it. He found things that other people would never look for there… In fact, I got permission to perform the song in his version and continue to do so to this day.
Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, 1995
I liked the Jimi Hendrix record, and since he died, I play it that way … It’s strange, but every time I sing it, it seems to me that this is, to some extent, a tribute to him.
Synopsis for the Biograph album
Subsequently, the song All Along the Watchtower was performed by many musicians: Carlos Santana, Neil Young, U2, Grateful Dead, Bryan Ferry and others.
First up is the All Along the Watchtower music video by Bryan Ferry.
Let’s hear how All Along the Watchtower played Eric Clapton and Lenny Kravitz.
- According to Bob Dylan’s official website, as of October 1, 2013, he has performed All Along the Watchtower over 2,150 times.
- It was Jimi Hendrix’s most successful single on the US charts.
All Along the Watchtower Lyrics Bob Dylan
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”
“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke,
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the cold distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.
Bob Dylan All Along the Watchtower Lyrics
“There must be some way out of here,” the jester told the thief. –
Everything is too confusing, and there is no consolation.
Businessmen drink my wine, and plowmen plow my land.
None of them will ever know their true value.”
“There is no need to worry,” the thief answered cordially, “
There are many among us for whom life is nothing but a joke.
But you and I went through this, and our fate is not like that,
So let’s leave feigned conversations, it’s already getting dark.
The princes did not close their eyes on the watchtower,
While the women came and went, and barefoot servants with them.
Outside the walls, in the cold distance, wild cats growled,
The two riders were approaching, and the wind was howling.
Who sang “All Along the Watchtower” better?