As chosen by famous fans, Dylan associates and Uncut writers
10 Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
From Blonde On Blonde (May 1966)
NICK BROOMFIELD: This song always takes me off on a trip, so atmospheric, so powerful, weaving so many different images. I’d just been expelled From my school, aged 17, and my best friend, who ended up being a really successful roadie, had the Blonde On Blond album and played it incessantly. He even looked and spoke like Dylan. We both went to that concert at the Royal Albert Hall where he turned his back on the audience: he was a whole way of talking to us, a real hero, and this is a song where you can really lose yourself in his persona and his genius.
HOWE GELB: The sound of that session, Blonde On Blonde, burns the retina of the ear forever. That song has the power to render a soothing beyond the normal healing parameters of vinyl and, yep, this one has to be heard on vinyl.
DAN BERN: It’s such a great song that he talks about writing it in another great song. “Sara” [on the 1976 album Desire]. If you had the Blonde On Blonde double LP, this song takes up an entire album side. With the tone-arm up, the song would repeat all night. There’s so many Ds and Ls in that line, “sad-eyed lady of the lowlands”, and he takes all the time in the world to sing it.
LYNDON MORGANS: Magnificent. Like “Visions Of Johanna”, it”s mysterious and beautiful and very long! I think it must have been scary to be this good, to be working at this pitch of intensity. That’s why he disappeared for a while and came back disguised as a backwoodsman: his own gift freaked him out.
9 Idiot Wind
From Blood On The Tracks (January 1975)
HOWARD DEVOTO: The track crashes in with line one straight off. And it’s off and raw as hell. His vocal phrasing pushes the track from beginning to end. I have to include this one from Blood . . ., because not only is it from the best album of all time, but it also contains – wait for it – the greatest line of all time. I’ll probably choke up just saying it out loud, “I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.” Take that in, in all its glorious ambiguity, and it just about kills every other love song dead.
MICK FARREN: If nothing else, Dylan is the undisputed master of vitriolic diatribes over the corpses of murdered relationships, and, of them all, this has to be the masterwork, and the most loaded with crashing breakers of out-of-control vitriol. “You’re an idiot babe/It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.”
EDWYN COLLINS: Blood On The Tracks was Dylan’s last consistently great LP and “Idiot Wind” was arguably the standout track from that collection – a sneering, paranoid song that completely convinces.
JAMES JOHNSTON: It’s like someone talking to you in a bar, getting gradually worse and worse and you’re dreading what he’s going to come out with next. The fact that it jumps out at you immediately with no introduction, it’s as if someone really is talking to you, trying to get something off their chest. Then veering off into vindictiveness and nostalgia – it’s really uncomfortable. It’s the sound of a man sharing his darkest thoughts with you and telling you things you really shouldn’t be hearing. It’s too personal, like someone really ranting then ending up resigned and appalled at the complete mess once his rant is over. When you first hear it, you’re not sure where the chorus is coming and it really keeps your attention. Although it sounds like a rambling rant, in a way it’s his most direct and focused song of all really.
RUSSELL SIMINS: I prefer the version on the Blood On The Acetates bootleg because it’s just really stripped down. If you listen to the songs over and over again on Blood On The Tracks, that album’s already in your head, so then to suddenly hear Blood On The Acetates, it’s amazing. There’s different lyrics, different ways of singing it. On the released version, he’s singing loud over the music – but on the bootleg he’s much more subdued. It’s much less aggressive vocalising. Growing up, I hung on to every Dylan lyric. I learnt to play guitar to Dylan. I knew those songs in my heart. To hear the works in progress is great. So Blood On The Acetates is an invaluable thing to have.
MICHAEL GRAY: Another song that Dylan has done inspiredly live, in the Seventies and Nineties, and is also, in its early unreleased form, a high point of the studio sessions for Blood On The Tracks – so of course it also stands for “Simple Twist Of Fate” and “Tangled Up In Blue”.
MARC ‘LARD’ RILEY: I remember the first time I heard this, probably 10 years after it came out I’d never encountered such unbridled venom in song. “You’re an idiot babe/It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe . . .” You can hear the bile slipping through gritted teeth.
8 I Want You
From Blonde on Blonde (May 1966)
JEFF TWEEDY: It’s a perfect love song, cos it doesn’t say, ‘I need you’. I love the nature of the recording – there’s such joy in the frayed ends of all the playing. They’re playing this melody which should become instantly sickening; it’s like the first thing that people play when they pick up a guitar they start moving their little finger up and down and pick out a melody in the D chord. But somehow it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening. In the instrumentation and recording of that record, Blonde On Blonde, nothing sounds like it’s in tune with anything else. It creates this whole different pitch centre.
NATALIE MERCHANT: It shows his versatility. He’s a great storyteller, a wry and raw protest singer, and then he’d write these songs that made you want to be in love and made you feel free and playful. There’s nothing desperate about this song. It’s really inspiring, I like any work of art that inspires you to want to live a creative life. There’s a string of blisteringly intelligent and funny lyrics in this song as well as the “I want you” lines.
ANTHONY REYNOLDS: This sounds like how I imagine it would feel to ride a stolen car over everyone that had wronged you – on the way to meet the one you love, while all around the whole shit-house goes up in flames…
NICK JOHNSTONE: When I was young and simultaneously fixated with Andy Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick and Bob Dylan, it was generally understood if you read up on Edie Sedgwick that both “I Want You” and “Just Like A Woman” were love songs that Dylan wrote for her. Even though many people have since told me it’s not necessarily so, I don’t care. l will always imagine Dylan singing these desperate, urgent, romantic lyrics to Edie Sedgwick in all of her drugged-out, wasted glory.
EDWYN COLLINS: Back in the [Postcard] day, we’d listen quite a lot to Blonde On Blonde. Grant McLennan [of The Go-Betweens] would argue that the potency of this song relied quite heavily on its lyrical juxtaposition – the purple prose of the verses contrasted with the simplicity of its title/chorus. That’s true, but I like it for a different reason. For me the devil is in the detail; was it a homage to Edie Sedgwick? Was the “dancing child in his Chinese suit” actually Brian Jones, “‘cause time was on his side”, y’know?