You probably think I’m going to write about the famous William Shatner cover of this tune. But it is not to be. I’m talking about a live version of this song, found on the album “The Byrds Play Dylan” (it’s track 18 on the 2002 reissue).
I was in a nostalgic mood last week and decided to download some dusty relics. I went with this album along with “The Best of Buffalo Springfield” to keep me company on a 7 miler.
So. Back to this particular recording. I have always enjoyed the trippy sound of The Byrds, with their tortured high harmonies and chiming Rickenbacker guitars. This live version of the Dylan classic (and one of the Byrds’ biggest hits) starts out normally enough. You hear the first few twangy notes, the audience goes crazy with recognition, and the song swings into full form.
And then something odd happens. In your left ear, you begin to hear a raunchy, growly guitar come in, playing riffs in a counter tempo. It sounds as if someone has accidentally overlaid a single guitar track from some other song. The playing is so aggressive that it sounds almost punk. The effect is disconcerting, the sound anachronistic. It’s confusing.
Just as you’ve finally accepted that there was actually someone playing this on stage, the guitarist undergoes a rapid personality change. Suddenly, the playing sounds like…it sounds like…can it be true? It sounds like Chet Atkins! Bendy, sugary notes, fast fingering up and down the frets playing rockabilly, C&W bar fare. What the…?
That guitar is so distracting and so demented that it’s difficult to focus on any other aspect of the recording. It’s actually funny — like someone’s loony cousin slipped onstage to take over the show.
Now I find that I can’t listen to the standard version of this song. I have to listen to this one, because the studio version sounds so conventional by comparison.