This went to #20 in 1968 on the US pop chart, Jimi Hendrix’s only top-twenty hit in his native country. It went to #5 in Britain, where he was much better known. It is his cover of a song by Bob Dylan (he who just won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature). Dylan did the song in a far more subdued style that sounds somewhat like Sniff’n’ the Tears’s “Driver’s Seat” (1978). It did not match the words and did not chart.
Dylan was blown away by the Hendrix cover. In 1995 he said:
“It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took licence with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”
Hendrix was a huge Dylan fan, rare among Black musicians. Thanks to Dylan’s terrible singing style, Hendrix could become more than a sideman and session musician, like he was in 1964 on the Isley Brothers’s song “Testify”.
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was to play piano on “All Along the Watchtower”, but he was so wasted that he all but fell on the floor.
- songs, the 1960s
- Jimi Hendrix
- Bob Dylan: The Death of Emmett Till
“There must be some kind of way out of here,”
Said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen – they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None will level on the line
Nobody of it is worth.”
“No reason to get excited,”
The thief – he kindly spoke,
“There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour’s getting late.”
All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants too
Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl, hey.
Source: A-Z Lyrics; “The Rough Guide to Jimi Hendrix” (2009) by Richie Unterberger.