“All Along the Watchtower” by DMB and Jimi Hendrix

21. Song Nos. 145-150: “All Along the Watchtower”
Dave Matthews Band: The Central Park Concert, 2003; Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 2012 (rec. 1995); Listener Supported, 1999; Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95, 1997; Recently, 1994; Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience, 1992 (rec. 1968) (orig. by Bob Dylan, 1967)

Okay, here’s another instance of encountering a cover version—or several, really—before finally meeting the original song.

Despite building my musical taste on a pretty healthy classic rock foundation, I didn’t give Bob Dylan much of a chance until my husband and I started dating. Plenty of folks swore that his songs were better as covers anyway so I didn’t feel like I was missing much.

But my gateway to “Watchtower” wasn’t the Jimi Hendrix version, either. It was my second Dave Matthews Band CD, “Listener Supported.” Hendrix’s absolute shred of a version was in there somewhere, but also along with, like, four other live renditions of DMB’s take on it as I accumulated more and more of their concert albums.

And a range of ever-evolving live versions is exactly how 48 minutes of the same song six ways avoids interminably slogging along and, instead, is just a fun-as-hell way to spend some time on a summer afternoon. Even without a whiff of the original–sorry, Bob, you know I’ve come to love your idiosyncratic stylings in their own right but this just one of the time the students bested the teacher.

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