Friday, April 29, 2016

Original Versus Cover - All Along The Watchtower

Jimi Hendrix was a huge fan of Bob Dylan, as were most musical poets back in the 1960s. Dylan's strength was in the stories he told and the way he told them. Dylan's approach to music was very spartan. He used no unnecessary notes and wrote no unnecessary parts. But sometimes his stories could have really used an expansive musical background, which is what the people he inspired tended to provide.

Bob Dylan's work stands on its own, but it was his legions of loyal and talented followers who have helped to turn a great storyteller into an iconic musician. Dylan inspired generations of musicians to care about the lyrics, and that is something no one will ever take away from him. But it was the covers of his material by much more talented musicians that helped the world to see what Dylan's stories would sound like if they were put to a more entertaining soundtrack.

Bob Dylan was famous for mumbling his own lyrics and I tried really hard to find the original version of All Along The Watchtower where he actually sings it clearly.  The problem is that a video with the original recording is not on YouTube. So here is one of the best live versions I can find:

If you can get past the lousy singing, you actually get the original energy of this song as Dylan wrote it. The song, as most Dylan songs are, is a protest. The protest is more effective if the audience can understand it, but that was never a big concern for Dylan. The original of this song was actually the blueprint used by a genius to create the version that everyone now recognizes as the "real" version of All Along The Watchtower.

A master at work:

Dylan cared only about the lyrics. Jimi cared about the lyrics, the music, and the presentation. This is the version of All Along The Watchtower that all other artists copy and play live. This is the version of All Along The Watchtower that every single music fan thinks about when they think about this song. This is an example of what happens when a genius takes a song that would have normally faded into obscurity and turns it into a song that will live on for generations.

Verdict: Hendrix - not even close

George N Root III is a music fan and Jimi Hendrix follower. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at