As chosen by famous fans, Dylan associates and Uncut writers
31 One More Cup Of Coffee
From Desire (January 1976)
ROBERT FORSTER: This is a really good example of Dylan in the studio. Up until 1978 Dylan hardly did any overdubs, which is amazing, so he’s very much a live performer in the studio. On this, there’s a small mistake at the start but Dylan goes on whereas other people would have stopped or a producer would have stopped him. But people respect Dylan and are intimidated by him, so no-one’s going to stop him. It’s just a beautiful track, it’s a beautiful performance and he sings beautifully. Emmylou Harris is on it, and she sings in the chorus with a scat harmony in the background. She thought it was a run-through and searches for a harmony. And it’s just beautiful, it’s unconscious and she doesn’t know it will last and Dylan kept it. That’s his genius – he kept the take and went onto the next song. I love him for that.
ROBERT FISHER: There are certain songs that get stuck in my personal CD player as I walk around town. I play them over and over on repeat and with every listen they seem to reveal something I hadn’t heard before or, if I did, I didn’t hear quite the same way. The duet between Dylan and Harris is seemingly effortless and amazing. Sweet melancholy music that suggests salvation and hope are just within reach.
KATHRYN WILLIAMS: It’s the most beautiful song and his voice is like a violin with a really reedy edge.
30 All Along The Watchtower
From John Wesley Harding (December 1967)
JACKIE LEVEN: I heard the Hendrix version first. I was a complete Hendrix nut. It wasn’t until some time later I heard Dylan’s version and it was a real surprise. Again, it’s got that ego-free quality, where the guys just start playing and the song batters along until it ends. It’s kind of very flat in a way, and I find that very exciting. The Hendrix version now sounds like it doesn’t know what it’s doing halfway through while the Dylan version sounds like what it is – a timeless classic.
ROBERT FORSTER: I love Dylan’s rhythm guitar playing on this. There’s only five things on the track, and his rhythm guitar playing is very high up in the mix, it’s very funky, it’s only three chords and the top end is really good. There’s no other guitars or keyboard distractions, you hear Dylan as a guitarist and he’s really good. It’s a very simple song, which I like. There’s no other bits – just one very quick chord sequence. A lot of other people like Lennon would have tried to write a chorus that was different. But Dylan just takes this minimal approach, as he often does. I also love the lyric; it’s a sort of biblical number. If I was going to make a biblical film, Dylan would be the first person I’d cast. He’s got that face, and he covers that time. He’s Old Testament.
THEA GILMORE: He said once that he wrote it during an electrical storm, and I think you can kind of hear thunder claps in the structure, or maybe I’m just being an anal songwriter about it!
29 With God On Our Side
From The Times They Are A-Changin’ (January 1964)
KELLY JOE PHELPS: One point of the song is that a lot of things are justified by religion that shouldn’t be at all, a lot of very bizarre and weird and horrible things are justified by God – I mean, Christ Almighty, now we have Osama Bin Laden. But also I think Dylan has the idea that there’s maybe more to religion, and there’s maybe less. I get the feeling he’s saying – which I tend to do myself – that “I wish I did understand it, but I can’t figure it out. I don’t pretend to know.” It’s quite interesting in his history that he later became a born-again Christian.
CHARLIE GILLETT: I actually prefer the version by the Neville Brothers. Cheating, I know, but the rhetoric of Dylan’s version gets exhausting long before the end, whereas Aaron Neville’s vocal holds up to the last second. The only flaw is that Daniel Lanois [who produced the Neville Brothers’ version] dropped the verse about chemical warfare.
JOHNNY DOWD: This song should be drilled into the head of every president, potentate, religious leader, little baby, etc. Art in the service of anger.
DAVE MARSH: If for no other reason than that the country I come from is called the Midwest. (He did a great version of this at his first Unplugged show, which MTV didn’t use because he didn’t do enough ‘hits’).