13 Dylan Tunes

by Peter Saint-Andre


Continuing the 13 theme, here are my 13 favorite Bob Dylan songs in (I think) chronological order of recording:

  1. He Was a Friend of Mine. Recorded in 1962 and first officially released on The Bootleg Series, Volumes I-III in 1991. A lonesome lament for a lost friend. Haunting.
  2. Mama, You Been on My Mind. Recorded in 1963 and also first officially released on The Bootleg Series, Volumes I-III in 1991. The lyrics are quite poetic and I absolutely love the way he rhymes "mirror" with "near" by pronouncing it "meer" -- "When you wake up in the mornin', baby, look inside your meer. You know I won't be next to you, you know I won't be near..."
  3. Boots of Spanish Leather. A sad song in a powerful yet understated kind of way. That last stanza cuts to the quick.
  4. It Ain't Me, Babe. Stickin' up for yourself, circa 1964.
  5. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. From Bringing It All Back Home (1965). Moving on after a failed romance. "Strike another match, go start anew..."
  6. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). Wow. One of the most intense songs I know. I play and sing this one once in a while and it takes over your body and mind. Also from Bringing It All Back Home (1965).
  7. Like a Rolling Stone. Sure, it's ever-popular, but it's got such kick, right from jump street with that snare drum sounding like a pistol shot. Pow!
  8. If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Gotta Stay All Night). A rollicking, fun, wry tune, but sensitive too ("I am just a poor boy, baby, lookin' to connect. But I certainly don't want you thinkin' that I ain't got any respect.") Also from The Bootleg Series, Volumes I-III.
  9. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. From the 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, this song is just plain silly, which is why I like it so much. That last stanza is too funny.
  10. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. A long song, but I like long songs. This one unfolds like a dirge and provides a fitting end to Blonde on Blonde.
  11. Tangled Up in Blue. Sure, it's a sad tale of busted romance and busted lives, but it's got a positive core ("keep on keepin' on..."). I prefer the alternate version released on The Bootleg Series, Volumes I-III to the version they play on the radio (from 1975's Blood on the Tracks).
  12. If You See Her, Say Hello. Another sad but gorgeous song, also from Blood on the Tracks.
  13. Blind Willie McTell. One of the most powerful blues songs I have ever heard. Sends shivers up my spine every time I hear or sing it. I often re-play it three or four times in a row. Recorded in 1983 but not released until The Bootleg Series, Volumes I-III (1991).

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