Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Top 50...

 Bob Dylan's Top 50 Songs...
(in my opinion, hopefully yours will be different - if not then we do live in a strange old world)
Please comment what you think, some choices will be obvious, some not so obvious. Some glaring omissions - hey it's personal taste folks.

Also - please click on the follow blog button above, i'm just starting out and will be doing lots of music blogs, on gigs I go to, and stuff similar to this on other artists (The Band, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Springsteen etc) and spread the word.
So here we go, my top 50 Bob Dylan songs (either written or recorded by the man at some point).
And believe me, it was hard to get it down to fifty - if you know me, you know my obsession with the bloke. I tried to get a good mix in of new and old.
This is in no way a greatest hits list, if you want that, get the CDs. This is pretty much, if I was told i could only listen to 50 Bob Dylan songs ever again... It was really hard too - to leave out such gems as Blowin in the Wind and Knockin on Heaven's Door.

So i've listed them here, I tried not to waffle on too much. Maybe it's a nice introduction to those unfamiliar. For those who are experts, i'd love to hear what you think and i'll happily explain in more detail my choices and why things were left off.


50. Someone's Got a Hold of my Heart - The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 - 1991 (rec 1985)
So in at fifty, never released on an album, and an early draft for what become Tight Connection to my Heart. I just prefer the lyrics so much, and stripped back feel.

49. Romance in Durango - Desire - 1976
One of many Dylan songs that could have been made into an entire film. Scarlett Rivera's violin and gypsy beat - absolute quality. Also check out Dylan performing it in 2003 in London, the first time it was revived since the Rolling Thunder Revue in 76.

48. Silvio - Down in the Groove - 1988
Perhaps pre-eminating one of the greatest TV characters in history, Silvio Dante (Little Steven) in the Sopranos. Its a fast paced fun song with the great line 'Silvio, I gotta go, find out something only dead men know.' Like with most Dylan lyrics, I'm not intelligent enough to know or even conjecture what it means ( usually nothing) while self professed 'Dylanologists' ponder endlessly. (self ordained professors maybe?)
I just know it sounds freakin cool.

47. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You - Bootleg Series Volume 5 - 2002 (rec 1975, written 1969)
Ok sure most of you will know that this song first appeared on Dylan's country outing Nashville Skyline in 69, however the version I love it this raucous re-interpretation from the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour.
With some great lyric changes, the crashing drums.... Get Ready!!!!

46. You're a Big Girl Now - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
The first song on the list from my favourite album of all time. Not going to get into which version is better, then New York or Minnesota. Dylan's voice here is fantastic. 'A change in the weather, is know to be extreme. But what's the sense of changing horses in midstream'

45. Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Bringing it all Back Home - 1965
The lyrics in this. Once again 'My love is like raven, at my window with a broken wing'. Just sounds great, no idea what it's meant to mean, dont really care.

44. Sara - Desire - 1975
Probably one of the most personal of Dylan's songs, sung directly to his (soon to be ex) wife.
The imagery here gets me everytime.

43. Sign on the Cross - (Unreleased) - Rec 1967 (Genuine Basement Tapes)
Ok, this one has never had an official release. Recorded in the basement of Big Pink with the Band after the infamous bike crash. Dylans voice and Garth Hudsons organ make it a kind of spooky hymn. If you dont know this one - try and get yourself a copy. Or ask me!

42. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands - Blonde on Blonde - 1966
Epic 11 minutes of thin wild mercury sound. A great story from Al Kooper on the sessions, where the band thought it was just a four minute song, so every chorus after that point was played like it was the climax and Dylan kept going.

41. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Freewheelin Bob Dylan - 1963
Apocalyptic genius. Still as relevant today.

40. When I Paint My Masterpeice - Greatest Hits Vol 2 - 1972(?)
Ok the definitive (opinion) version here is that by The Band on Cahoots (1971), with the european sound. Love the 'dirty Gondola' line.

39. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Highway 61 Revisited - 1965
The organ makes it. Always a good live one too.

38. Changing of the Guards - Street Legal - 1978
The wild organ, the backing vocals, the lyrics. Again could be a film. (theres gotta be a blog about songs that could be entire movies soon).

37. Every Grain of Sand - Shot of Love - 1981
Perhaps the greatest song to come out of the 'Gospel' period. I ain't gonna preach, just listen to it.

36.  Ain't Talkin - Modern Times - 2006
So modern Bob, if you can get past the voice (i love it), this is a wierd story - with end of the world, kind of religous elements. The misty garden etc. Another live stalwart, saw this live in Birmingham UK in 07, best song of the night.

35. Things Have Changed - Wonder Boys Soundtrack - 2000
Oscar winning soundtrack (If you see him live, he always has his oscar statue on top of his amp), see the great video with Bob and Michael Douglas (and Katie Holmes!). I used to care, but things have changed. I know how ya feel Bob.

34.  Can you Please Crawl Out Your Window - (Single) - 1966
Recorded for the Blonde on Blonde sessions with the Band (then the Hawks). Just way cool.

33. With God on Our Side - The Times they-are a Changing - 1964
I just love the MTV Unplugged version. It's hard to think lyrics like these were written by a human (were they?). And did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?

32. The Times they are a Changing - The Times they are a Changing - 1964
Era defining, I must have heard this song thousands of time. Timeless and as valid as ever.

31. I Feel a Change Comin' On - Together Through Life - 2009
Bob's latest album, released just after Obama moved into the White House. Possibly social commentry from a guy who hasn't done for a while (maybe). Or just a cool song. His voice sounds great IMO. (ed. Just listened to this back, wow - some lines here. 'I'm listening to Billie Joe Shaver, and i'm reading James Joyce. Some people they tell me, I got the blood of the land in my voice.'

30. It's All Over Now Baby Blue - Bringing it all back Home - 1965
I can remember the first time i heard this song, and actually listened to the lyrics. I was 14. The rest is history. (IMO Them's version of this is the best Dylan cover of all time - yeah that's right better than Hendrix doing Watchtower)

29. Simple Twist of Fate - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
Simple love story - maybe. Chillingly tender. Just awesome.

28. Workingman's Blues #2 - Modern Times - 2006
Another live classic, if it wasn't for number ??? this would be the best Bob live song i ever saw. Phrasing, melody, its got the lot.

27. Mr Tambourine Man - Bringing it all back Home - 1965
Predictable yeah. So what. Surprised it's not higher, yeah maybe you're right. All versions of this, from Live 66, to Budokan to the Byrds.

26. Blind Willie McTell - Bootleg Series Vol. 3 - 1991 (rec 1983)
One of life's biggest mysteries. Why the hell was this left off Infidels. Ah well, just be glad we have it. Also check out The Band doing this one on their 1993 album Jericho.

25. Brownsville Girl - Knocked out Loaded - 1986
Arguably the best thing to come out of the 80s for Dylan ( some would say not that great a title). But still, this is another epic story. Gregory Peck would have made a great (not) Henry Porter.

24. I'm not There (1956) - (Soundtrack) - 2007 (rec 1967)
Another basement tape classic, remained unreleased for forty years. The quality isn't great, but there's definitly something special going on here.

23.  High Water (For Charley Patton) - Love & Theft - 2001
This ominous banjo tune, on the album released September 11th 2001. I just love the line - 'I ain't no pig without a wig I hope you treat me kind.'

22. Cross the Green Mountain - (Soundtrack) - 2003
Another epic, a civil war song. See the cool video for Dylan wearing a wig as a civil war general. From the Gods and Generals film.

21. Not Dark Yet - Time out of Mind - 1997
The highlight of the wonderful comeback album. Daniel Lanois produced. Pretty special.

20. Visions of Johanna - Blonde on Blonde - 1966
What can I say, surely nothing that hasn't been said better elsewhere.
'The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face' - is this the greatest lyric of all time - discuss.

19. Masters of War - Freewheelin Bob Dylan - 1963
Again, I can't tell you much about these. Expect how special they are. Some of the live versions from this year have been good. With Dylan repeating the last line of every verse. 'And i'll stand over your grave till i'm sure that you're dead'. Still sends chills.

18. Just Like a Woman - Blonde on Blonde - 1966

17. Lily, Rosemary and Jack of Heart - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
This deserves a discussion of its own. The film, who would play Lily, Big Jim, The Jack. Would love the see Jack Nicholson as Big Jim.

16. Idiot Wind - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
The imagery, when this comes on my ipod I still always have to stop what i'm doing.

15. Ballad of a Thing Man - Highway 61 Revisited - 1965
For some reason youtube doesn't have many Dylan videos anymore - so these will have to do. I guess i don't need to explain these top songs, so i'll let the songs do the talking. Or listen to the original. Tried to find Bob doing the songs where I can. Better videos appreciated if you know of any.
From the film - I'm Not There

14.  Don't Think Twice It's Alright - Freewheelin Bob Dylan - 1963
Johnny Cash Cover

13.  Forever Young - Planet Waves -1974
Here's the real Bob at the Last Waltz

12. Ring Them Bells - Oh Mercy - 1989
Sufjan Stevens

11. Mississippi - Love & Theft - 2001
Dixie Chicks (sorry!)

10. Shelter from the Storm - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
Live Bob Dylan on the 78 Tour

9. Positively 4th Street - (single) - 1965

8. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - Bringing it all Back Home - 1965
Dylan live 65

7. Hurricane - Desire - 1975
Couldn't even find a decent cover, so here's the backstory to the song.

6. I Shall be Released - Greatest Hits - (written 1967)
The best version is on the Band's debut, music from Big Pink. Richard Manuel - enough said.

5.  If You See Her - Say Hello - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
Keef himself doing his best Dylan impression - not great quality
4. Desolation Row - Highway 61 Revisited - 1965
Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead

3. Jokerman - Infidels - 1983
It won't let me embed the video, so view it here - you won't regret, the original version.

2. Tangled up in Blue - Blood on the Tracks - 1975
Dylan Live in 75, amazing version

1. Like A Rolling Stone - Highway 61 Revisited - 1966
The greatest song of all time (arguably, or possibly not). Here it is on the 66 'Judas' tour.

Well thanks, I hope that's been a fun time for you all. And if nothing else kept you from doing something boring for half an hour. Please follow the blog and share your thoughts.


  1. Great blog. Great post.

  2. Great Post.
    You took a lot of time- lots of research obviously!
    No time to listen to all of them now but looking forward. (I almost never listen to covers- I'm such a Dylan dork.)

    Good luck on your blog- will hit follow and also link to it. I also just started a blog- all Dylan- come say hi when you have a chance.
    I don't have many readers or followers yet.
    (I don't have many posts yet either for that matter. lol)

  3. PS-
    YES- "the bones of 'lectricity howl through the bones of her face" IS the best line ever written!.

  4. overall a good list but i do have a bone or two to pick. (bad thanksgiving joke)

    my main disagreement is that Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) isnae included.

  5. silvio was written by Robert Hunter

    "ghosts of lectricity"!!!

    nice blog!

  6. Silvo was co-written with RH i'm almost sure. As was all of the lyrics on Together Through Life

  7. I do NOT agree with this list at all. Poorly researched and the humour is flatter than a 3 day old soda.

    "Like a rolling stone" at number one?? Its a self indulgent shitfest. Where is "Wiggle wiggle"? I love the imagery and a song that I can clap my hands to.

    Please don't blog again, it offends my eyes and brain.



  8. I can't say which ones I'd take off, but I would add:
    Baby Stop Crying
    Chimes of Freedom
    Subterranean Homesick Blues
    One of us Must Know
    Cold Irons Bound
    Stuck Inside of Mobile
    Wheels on Fire
    Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
    Highway 61
    Lonesome Day Blues
    Seven Days
    I Believe in You