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.