Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Ballad of a Thin Man”

We’re in full miscellany mode for the next few days, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a bit of recording—hadn’t done any since February when I finished up a winter-long project.  There are some new songs I’ve been working on as contributions to the bands Motherland & churchmouse; contrary to expectations, I haven’t had a solo performance outing yet this spring, but it’s still early days, especially up in the mountains where the tourists will be arriving next month!

As it happens, a few of those songs are by Bob Dylan, & I also found out that yesterday was Bob Dylan’s birthday.   So perhaps you could consider this posting a belated birthday tribute to a musician/songwriter who’s been important to me both as a musician & as a poet for many years—but in all honesty, I didn’t originally conceive it as such.

“Ballad of a Thin Man” is from Dylan’s 1965 Highway 61 Revisited album, which I’ve mined for material in the past—at various times I’ve performed & recorded “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” “From a Buick 6” & the title track from this record, & I’ve also played around extensively with “Queen Jane Approximately” & “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”  I certainly consider this album one of Dylan’s very best—interestingly enough, he did too.  He told biographer Anthony Scaduto:

"I'm not gonna to be able to make a record better than that one. Highway 61 is just too good. There's a lot of stuff on there that I would listen to."

I’ve always been drawn to “Ballad of a Thin Man” not only by the quality of the lyrics, but also by the music—keyboardist Al Kooper, who played organ & piano on the album (organ on this song), called it "musically more sophisticated than anything else on the album."  I love the descending bass line, & played in E minor as I’m doing, the bass line is also a lay down on a guitar fretboard.  The guitar in this case is my Regal single cone resonator.

So here’s my humble version—it has its moments, I think—hope you enjoy it!


  1. Heh, heh! The song with one of my all-time favorite lines: "There's something happening here, but you don't know what it is/ Do you, Mr. Jones?" Back in the day we used to sing it loudly and sarcastically at people we considered clueless and out of touch (i.e. most politicians, and the YAF types on my college campus). Thanks for bringing that back, John!

  2. Hi Roy: Yes, the lyrics are great, tho I do leave out the "one-eyed midget" verse as I feel it's long enough for me without that one. Thank you--glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Good post... can't believe old Bob Dylan is 70... means I'm gettin' old too! Great tune!

  4. Hi Cheryl: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it is odd in a way to think of Bob Dylan as 70--but then, we're all headed that way.

  5. Hi Richard: Thanks! Glad you liked it.


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