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Monday, November 27, 2006

Episode 22 - All Along the Watchtower

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Episode 22 – All Along the Watchtower

This is another one of the shows that decided to write itself, and I'm just along for the ride. I'm a regular listener of Brian Ibbott's Coverville podcast, which I commend to your attention if you haven't heard it. As the name implies, Coverville focuses on cover music, sometimes centered around a particular artist or band, sometimes just a hodge-podge of different covers that have caught Brian's ear.

Back in October, in one of those hodge-podge shows, Coverville 'casted a stark, spooky cover of Dylan's All Along the Watchtower played on ukulele – yes, ukulele - by a musician named Kimo Watanabe. I finally got around to listening to that podcast in November and when I heard it, the music literally made me pull over to the side of the road so I could focus on listening.

It's what radio is all about, and doesn't happen often enough anymore. Thanks to the wonders of these here internets, I was able to track down Kimo – who has a Myspace page – sent off an email, and he responded with not only a new version of All Along the Watchtower, but several other pieces of music from the album he's currently working on, Backyard Music. Here's Kimo Watanabe with All Along the Watchtower.

[All Along the Watchtower]

Dylan recorded All Along the Watchtower in 1967, releasing it on John Wesley Harding, his first album after the famous motorcycle accident. At least 30-odd – and probably many, many more than that - bands and musicians have covered the song ; everyone from Elton John to the Kronos Quartet's semi-classical take on the song, to, of course, probably the most famous cover of them all, Jimi Hendrix's version. In fact, the cover may be better-known than Dylan's original. Many people on first hearing it – including my then 13-year-old self – assumed Hendrix had written it.

As the story goes, Hendrix heard the song at a party and the same night went into the studio to record it, backed by Traffic's Dave Mason. Released as a single, it was Hendrix's only U.S. Top 40 hit, making it to #20 in 1968.

I've always thought of All Along the Watchtower as an October and November song; an end of days song, characters trying to stay warn on a bleak wind-whipped tower, snow falling around them, the watchfire embering, and in the distance two figures on horseback approaching, their purpose unknown. Friends? Heralds of an approaching disaster?

These days All Along the Watchtower is a regular war horse in Dylan's encore stable; at my rough count he played it over 60 times during his 2006 tours, thundering it out at the encore close of his shows, the reverse side of the cynical optimism of his other regular encore song, Like A Rolling Stone. If Like a Rolling Stone has become something of the anthem for `60s survivors, All Along the Watchtower may be their elegy. No one is being asked how they feel at world's end.

This is Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast, occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, occasional commentary on other things Dylan-related. If you're listening to Dreamtime through iTunes or an RSS Reader, please come by and visit our home page Just put Dreamtime podcast in Google, Yahoo, or whatever your favorite search engine, and we'll be number one on your hit parade.

And if you can't get enough of that good old Theme Time music, take a look at the left-hand column for the Dreamtime Store, where you'll find Amazon links to the music and artists featured on "Theme Time." I have three sections up – Flowers, Mothers, and Weather – and will be creating more as soon as I can.

Closing us out is another cover from Kimo Watanabe, his take on that jazz classic, "The Way You Look Tonight."

[The Way You Look Tonight]

Podcaster or listener, you can find even more of Kimo's music for your pleasure at the Podsafe Music Network.

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1 comment:

Kimo said...

Just listed to the show. Mahalo for playing the songs. I'm back in the studio again next week and am about 4 songs away from releasing the first of two albums I've got in the works.

Again though, Mahalo a nui loa "Thank you very much" for playing the music. I enjoyed the show and look forward to hearing more.