Bad Bob Dylan Covers

Bob Dylan is the go-to man for cover songs.  Especially if an artist wants to achieve some credibility.  Most of the Bob Dylan covers are decent, but nothing spectacular.  There are exceptions – Van Morrison’s version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” gives depth and darkness that Dylan’s original only hinted at.  Jimi Hendrix’s amped up “All Along the Watchtower” set the standard for covers of any artist. Geogre Harrison adds beauty to  “If Not For You”.  Then are Bob Dylan covers that are not only embarrassing, but simply just an insult.

Here are some of the worst that I’ve come across:

Sheryl Crow – Mississippi. One of Dylan’s masterpieces (of which he has four different released versions – all of them great) Crow turns in a slick country-pop version.  The Dixie Chicks also did a cover of this song, and their version is only slightly better.

Guns N’ Roses – Knocking on Heaven’s Door. A song about death is turned into a party anthem along Axl’s over-emphasis on the word door (“dwoooo-awww-wwoooor”).

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Subterranean Homesick Blues. While you could argue  “Subterranean Homesick Blues” had an impact on what would become rap, the Chili Pepper’s version of this song is misguided and utterly forgettable.

The Grateful Dead – Ballad of a Thin Man. The Dead take one of Dylan’s nastiest lyrics and turn into a snooze-fest.  That makes the chorus – “you know something is happening but you don’t know what it is” – somewhat ironic, and was probably lost on most of the audience.

U2- All Along the Watchtower. U2’s version found on Rattle & Hum, is bad for several reasons.  Usually I’m all for Bono ad-libbing on stage, but his announcement of “All I got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” in the middle of the song is not one of his finer moments. While Bono tagged “rock and roll stops the traffic” on a fountain during “Pride” in the movie Rattle & Hum is shown during “All Along the Watchtower” adding even mores woes to an already failed attempt at the song.

Karen O & The Million Dollar Bashers – Highway 61 Revisited.  Dylan’s version is a warped, nightmare of a song disguised with absurd lyrics.  Karen O just seems to think it’s silly.

My Chemical Romance – Desolation Row. Another of Dylan’s masterpieces, My Chemical cut out 9 minutes of the song and scream through some of Dylan’s best lyrics.  Up there with Crow for having the worst Dylan cover.



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17 responses to “Bad Bob Dylan Covers

  1. I am with you most of the way through the list, but I think that My Chemial Romance actually did a good job of trying to move Desolation Row from the 60’s to today and make it interesting to a young audience.

  2. Good shooting! Bullseye with every one. There are indeed many appalling versions, and many of them are from artists who should know better. Bryan Ferry’s Dylanesque was a particularly awful set of duds. But I disagree about the dearth of spectacular cover versions. With so many Dylan cover versions in existence, it’s almost a mathematical certainty that a sizeable number of them are going to be great, even though they may still only represent less than 0.1% of the total. I’ve been building up a list of the great ones for years and I reckon there are about a hundred out there. I agree with your choice of Them and Hendrix as particularly brilliant, but let me add When I Paint My Masterpiece (The Band), Like A Rolling Stone (Spirit), She Belongs To Me (Rick Nelson) and at least 3 or 4 Covers by the Byrds. I’ve put a link to my personal list of favourites, if you want something to argue about.

  3. Alan Patterson

    How can you omit William Shatner’s desecration of “Mr. Tambourine Man”? That is truly the worst Dylan cover of all time!

  4. Chuck Naudie

    I agree with the Watchtower version on the actrual record, but if memory serves me correct in concert on that tour Bono often brought up a fan from the audience who could play a modicum of guitar and had them play the three chords, which seems pretty cool to me. Not sure who provided the truth, but I’m fairly certain Bono *thought* he was.

  5. Matt Satterfield

    I forgot about William Shatner’s version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

    @ Chuck – U2 did do a better version of “All Along the Watchtower” on that tour – I have bootlegs of it. Since the performance from R&H was an impromptu concert on which they used the Dead’s equipment, U2 said that was one of the reasons why it didn’t turn out as good. I don’t know about “that truth”.

  6. ragman88

    I agree with most of Matt’s choices too. I’ve been collecting Dylan covers for many years. I’d add Jerry Garcia’s version of “Senor” to my list of favorites.

  7. T. Ruth

    Well said my Man!!


  9. Matt Satterfield

    I also forgot Black 47 doing “Like a Rolling Stone”.

  10. ragman88

    Did you ever hear Johnny Thunders version of “Joey” ?
    It’s so bad, it’s kind of good.

  11. rairearondemy

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

  12. Pingback: Idol Does “Hallelujah” Again « Leading Us Absurd

  13. Hi
    I saw this thread and couldn’t help diving in!
    Nice one

  14. If only more than 72 people could read about this.

  15. rairearondemy

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  16. If I had a greenback for each time I came to… Incredible post!

  17. whalespoon

    Nothing beats Dino, Desi, and Billy’s version of “Like a Rolling Stone” from their mid ’60’s LP “I’m a Fool.” It can curdle milk. They also desecrate “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “It Ain’t Me , Babe,” and the Stones’ “Satisfaction” on the same album. WAY beyond awful…

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