Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower – The Best Dylan Covers
“I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way. Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.”
– Bob Dylan (Biograph liner notes)
“It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”
– Bob Dylan (Fort Lauderdale Sentinel Sun, 1995)
“All Along the Watchtower” is a song written and recorded by Bob Dylan. The song initially appeared on his 1967 album John Wesley Harding, and it has been included on most of Dylan’s subsequent greatest hits compilations. Since the late 1970s, he has performed it in concert more than any of his other songs. Different versions appear on four of Dylan’s live albums.
Covered by numerous artists in various genres, “All Along the Watchtower” is strongly identified with the interpretation Jimi Hendrix recorded for Electric Ladyland with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Hendrix version, released six months after Dylan’s original recording, became a Top 20 single in 1968 and was ranked 47th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
It is almost too obvious, but it has to be included in this series of the best Dylan covers. It is after all, maybe THE best Dylan cover ever done!
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower (audio, album version):
“Dylan’s folky, foreboding original version—from his stripped-down John Wesley Harding album—is an interesting character study of two men living outside the law, on the fringe of society. But from the opening notes of Hendrix’s otherworldly cover, the whole tune comes alive, seedy but enlightened protagonists the Joker and the Thief jolted to life like hobo Frankensteins by Hendrix’s supercharged guitar playing and desperate vocal delivery.”
– Paste Magazine
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower (Live, Atlanta,7/4/1970):
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower (Live, Isle Of Wight August 30, 1970):
The Jimi Hendrix Experience began to record their version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” on January 21, 1968, at Olympic Studios in London. According to engineer Andy Johns, Jimi Hendrix had been given a tape of Dylan’s recording by publicist Michael Goldstein, who worked for Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. “(Hendrix) came in with these Dylan tapes and we all heard them for the first time in the studio”, recalled Johns. According to Hendrix’s regular engineer Eddie Kramer, the guitarist cut a large number of takes on the first day, shouting chord changes at Dave Mason who had appeared at the session and played guitar. Halfway through the session, bass player Noel Redding became dissatisfied with the proceedings and left. Mason then took over on bass. According to Kramer, the final bass part was played by Hendrix himself.
Hendrix’s friend and Rolling Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones played the various percussion instruments on the track. “That’s him playing the thwack you hear at the end of each bar in the intro, on an instrument called a vibraslap.” Jones originally recorded a piano part that was later mixed out in place of the percussion instruments. Kramer and Chas Chandler mixed the first version of “All Along the Watchtower” on January 26, but Hendrix was quickly dissatisfied with the result and went on re-recording and overdubbing guitar parts during June, July, and August at the Record Plant studio in New York.
Engineer Tony Bongiovi has described Hendrix becoming increasingly dissatisfied as the song progressed, overdubbing more and more guitar parts, moving the master tape from a four-track to a twelve-track to a sixteen-track machine. Bongiovi recalled, “Recording these new ideas meant he would have to erase something. In the weeks prior to the mixing, we had already recorded a number of overdubs, wiping track after track. [Hendrix] kept saying, ‘I think I hear it a little bit differently.'” The finished version was released on the album Electric Ladyland in September 1968. The single reached number five in the British charts, and number 20 on theBillboard chart, Hendrix’s only top 20 entry there. The song also had the number 5 spot on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.