What’s with covers of “All Along the Watchtower”? (What’s with my Sienfeldian opening sentence?)There are better lyrics out there, there are waaay better melodies out there, there are even better three-chord songs out there, so why so many covers?
As part of Bob Dylan’s catalog its fine, but the fact of the matter seems to be that every band has to do it sooner or later, even if its just live in some club after they’re has-beens. There’s probably a version floating around by Skid Row somewhere. Furthermore, taking into consideration Bob Dylan’s catalog, and say a song like “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” which is really good and is virtually ignored as a cover song, (There actually have been covers of it, most notably by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians for the movie Born on the Fourth of July, but otherwise…) makes one wonder why All Along the Watchtower is just so ubiquitous.
I remember going with a friend to Dave Matthews a few years back and the band went into “All Along the Watchtower” and my friend freaked. Evidentally, in his mind, to actually be present when Dave Matthews did this song was one of those “I was there when…” moments. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but not nearly as good as, say, “Crash Into Me” or “Don’t Drink the Water.”
In the end the only thing I can figure is that for a jam band, like say Dave Matthews, or Eric Clapton, or Jimi Hendrix, those three chords give them a chance to do some solo-ing and showboating which is all well and good, but I’ll say it again, there are a bunch of three chord riffs that are better. And for a non-jam band like U2 to cover it? Why bother? That is, except to say that you did it.
Anyway, here’s a small sampling of versions of “All Along the Watchtower”. See how many you can make it through. Make a cd and see how long it takes your friends to strangle you on your next road trip.