I was invited by old friend, Jim Sampas to contribute a cover of a Bob Dylan song as an exclusive iTunes bonus track for a tribute to Dylan's LP, Bringing it All Back Home. Jim is the kind gent who put together the Lost Songs of Lennon and McCartney LP on which I got teamed up with the spectacular Graham Parker and Kate Pierson. What started out as rock & roll fantasy camp, sharing a microphone with one of my heroes, Graham, and a spectacular band of Duke Levine, Dave Mattacks, and Paul Bryan, bunking and working at the dreamlike Longview Farm studio, eventually led to one of the most enjoyable rock tours I have ever been on, with yet another backing band behind Kate, Graham, and me.
On this Dylan tribute, they already had all the official tracks from the BIABH LP covered, as well as outtakes from the sessions that were eventually released on the Bootleg Series. I wanted to therefore come up with an inspired choice, a song that has not been covered to death. I chose "Rock Me Mama," an outtake from the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions. I love that score for the film, But to call "Rock Me Mama" an outtake is actually misleading; it was only a rehearsal tape, recorded live, of what seems to be a spontaneous burst of inspiration, with Bob leading a few musicians and singers through a song with just a few barely decipherable verse lyrics, seemingly off the top of his head, solidified by a more concrete chorus. There is no arrangement; Bob just repeats the chorus a bunch of times in a row to teach the musicians and see if the song sticks. But it was never released in any official way. It seems to be recorded only with a live mic. Sounds like a campfire recording.
Well, a band called the Old Crow Medicine Show took the Dylan bootleg and Ketch Secor of the band supplied his own verses, titling the song "Wagon Wheel" and crediting the song as "Dylan, Secor." I have heard this version a few times, from a friend playing it on his iPod on a few of our poker nights. While I really dug the Old Crow version, I wanted to sort of go back and reclaim the original as much as possible, filling in the gaps with my own lines and trying to stick to the theme, however vague, in Bob's original recording.
Jim had asked me on really (really) short notice to come up with something and he loved this version I recorded overnight. I am pretty sure, though, that Old Crow had to jump through some hoops to get the approval needed from the Dylan camp. So I raised this thorny issue a few days later, i.e. how to credit the song. My idea was Dylan, arranged by Bill, with additional lyrics from Bill. Or to just leave it as Dylan. Needless to say, this will bring on a roadblock to the project, so we are going with something else from the official catalog. More details on that to follow.
So, in the meantime, here is my version of the song, given sort of a freewheeling, almost "Sweet Virginia" vibe. I like the idea of this found song, with different artists interpreting, adding, editing -- as in the folk music tradition. Of course, it just adds headaches from a legal perspective. Not sure how long I will be able to keep it up here on the site. So hopefully you will enjoy it, now and for a little while.
Rock Me Mama mp3