Friday, September 14, 2018

On This Day (1968): Jimi Hendrix charted with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”

All Along the Watchtower

Bob Dylan

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)

Released: December 6, 1967 (album cut)

Peak: 5 CL, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 5.6 video, -- streaming

All Along the Watchtower

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Released: September 2, 1968

First Charted: September 14, 1968

Peak: 20 US, 18 CB, 8 GR, 18 HR, 1 CL, 5 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 229.53 video, 637.05 streaming

Awards (Dylan):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Hendrix):

About the Song:

Jimi Hendrix is largely credited with reinventing the electric guitar and his prowess is never more apparent than on his take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” “Raging and climactic where Dylan’s had been soft-paced and relaxed,” AMG Hendrix’s version pulls off the rare feat of giving the world a cover that outdoes its original source. After hearing Hendrix tackle it, “you can’t imagine it...any other way.” BBC Dylan himself has admitted that in his subsequent performances of the song, he strove to emulate Hendrix’s version. RS500 “When I sing it,” Dylan said, “ I… feel like it’s a tribute to him.” LW

Dylan first recorded the song for 1968’s John Wesley Harding. Musically, the song is a perfect example of why Dylan songs lend themselves so easily to re-interpretation. “Aside from a few harmonica flourishes, it is a fairly basic affair,” BBC both “direct and unadorned.” LW

Lyrically, the song took the form of a conversation between a joker and a thief in “an allegorical tale about the sweeping away of society’s old guard.” BBC Peppered with “Biblical imagery and apocalyptic words,” AMG the original has “such an odd, abstract lyric that hardly anyone…could have held on long enough to spot the song hidden within,” DM but Hendrix’s interpretation does so, “obliterating the lyric’s pretensions” DM and giving the song an “urgency and edginess…far more in keeping with its apocalyptic message.” BBC

While at a party, Hendrix proclaimed to Traffic’s Dave Mason his interest in recording the song just a few weeks after its release. Just days later, the pair assembled with drummer Mitch Mitchell at London’s Olympic Studios to nail down their rendition AMG that has now become a rock standard.


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Last updated 9/5/2023.

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