All Along the Watchtower

"All Along the Watchtower" is a song written by folk-rock singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, which is notable for the number of times it has been covered by different artists in different genres.

Bob Dylan has indicated that the events in the song's lyrics are "in a rather reverse order", beginning logically in time with the "All Along the Watchtower" verse, describing the approach of the horsemen, and ending with the now-famous opening lines, "'There must be some way out of here,' said the Joker to the Thief."

The song was recorded by the artist as a quiet, menacing three-chord folk song, featuring only an acoustic guitar, bass guitar, harmonica and drums for release on his equally quiet and menacing album John Wesley Harding, which was released on December 27, 1967. (According to some sources, it had originally been intended to add a full backing later).

Dylan, recovering from a motorcycle accident which had marked a shift in his career, had been seen reading the Bible on a daily basis. As with many of the lyrics to the songs on this album, the words to "Watchtower" contain biblical and apocalyptic references. The Watchtower is a term used several times in Old Testament and is the name of the official magazine of Jehovah's Witnesses. In Minneapolis, where Dylan spent time in his younger years, it is often claimed that the inspiration for "The Watchtower" is a famous local landmark in Prospect Park, Minneapolis.

The song depicts a conversation between two people, a "joker" and a "thief", about the difficulties of getting by in life ("There's too much confusion"). The joker is concerned about losing his property, while the thief observes that some individuals among them aren't taking life as seriously as they should: "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke." It has been said that Dylan was complaining about record company executives cheating him out of royalties and making themselves rich with the lines "Businessmen they drink my wine/Plowmen dig my earth". The joker then suggests that time is running out, which may hint of their own mortality or foreshadow a change in society. In the last verse the viewpoint of the song switches abruptly. The ruling princes stand guard in a watchtower over their women and servants as an unnamed pair approach amid ominous sounds.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded the definitive cover version of this song. Hendrix heard the track after being taken to a party by Traffic's Dave Mason. Hendrix, a longtime fan of Dylan's work, commented he would love to cover the track. Due to Noel Redding's absence over the tension created by Hendrix in the studio during the recording of Electric Ladyland, Hendrix played the bass himself with a righthand, shortscale Fender Mustang bass guitar. Dave Mason initially played the 12-string acoustic part, but was unable to satisfy Hendrix's growing perfectionism and was moved to bass, then completely off the track, as Hendrix played everything except the drums. While Dylan's version had been minimalistic and menacing, Hendrix's spared nothing—his wailing electric guitar and vocal delivery were wholly different from Dylan's quiet folk performance. Hendrix rearranged the song to include several electric guitar solos, where the harmonica solos were in Dylan's version, and included it on the Electric Ladyland album (1968). The longest solo on the song (in between the second and final verses) features slide guitar, done with a cigarette lighter rather than a more traditional tube of glass or metal. Hendrix settled on the lighter after frantically trying other objects to get the exact sound that he had in his head for that portion of the solo.[citation needed]The solo also features a wah-wah line, and an echo effect in its middle section (from the 'slide' part to the end of the wah-wah part). Overwhelmed by the reinterpretation, Dylan himself has since based his own performances of the song on Hendrix' version.

Released as a single, it was an immediate hit—the only US Top 40 single Hendrix would release in his lifetime. Dylan's subsequent live performances of Watchtower also used an electric guitar, like most of Dylan's contemporary live performances do.[citation needed] Hendrix's version was featured in the movies Withnail and I, Rush, Private Parts, Forrest Gump, A Bronx Tale, Vegas Vacation and Tupac: Resurrection and also in television shows such as The Simpsons, in episodes "Mother Simpson" and "My Mother the Carjacker". This version of the song appears at number 48 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs ever.

Irish rock band U2 first played a cover of the song during the Boy Tour in 1981. Years later during the Joshua Tree Tour in 1987, the cover was played for a second time, in San Francisco, CA, with an additional verse added by Bono. This special performance was later included as a scene in U2's 1988 rockumentary film, Rattle and Hum, and also as a track on the album of the same name. The song was played as a homage to both Bob Dylan and The Jimi Hendrix Experience,[citation needed] and was later followed up by making its way into almost 50 live shows during the band's 1989 Lovetown Tour. The song has since faded from the band's live performances, but has made brief comebacks as it was snippeted by the band at two shows during the Zoo TV Tour and Elevation Tour.

Dave Matthews Band has played the song since the band's inception in the early 1990s. Their rendition of the song maintains Dylan's three chord structure and key signature but differs in style. Vocalist and guitarist, Dave Matthews, typically begins the song slowly with just vocals and acoustic guitar. The band members come in after the line "the hour is getting late" and the song tempo and intensity picks up. This is then followed by extended solos taken by the band members culminating with the line that the band chooses to highlight, "No reason to get excited." The song is often chosen to feature a guest performer since it is a well known rock standard. Watchtower, as it is often referred to by fans, is a concert staple, often performed as a concert closer or encore. Total performances of the song, including those performed solo by Matthews or with guitarist Tim Reynolds, have totaled over 500 to date. The group has released the song on over a half dozen live albums but has never released a studio recording of the song. Both Pat McGee and Howie Day have performed the song in the style of Dave Matthews.

During the halftime show for the National Football League's Super Bowl XLI (2007) game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, Prince performed a cover of "All Along the Watchtower".

Greek singer and composer Dionysis Savvopoulos's album "Ballos" (released in 1970) included a version of this song. The lyrics are adapted into Greek. The Greek name of the song is "Paliatsos kai listis", which is a Greek translation for the phrase "the joker and the thief".

Neil Young performed a version live, and was joined onstage by The Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde. This version later appeared on Young's live album Road Rock Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives.

The Grateful Dead performed Watchtower 123 times, firstly in 6/20/87. This adds to a lengthy repertoire of Bob Dylan covers by the Dead.

Television composer Bear McCreary wrote a version of All Along the Watchtower for use in the final scene of the Battlestar Galactica Season 3 finale Crossroads, Part 2. The lyrics had been written into the screenplay by Ronald D. Moore.

The song has been covered by many other artists, including:

* B-Real
* Brewer & Shipley
* Bryan Ferry
* Calvin Russell
* Damien Rice
* Dave Mason
* Dream Syndicate
* Elton John
* Eric Clapton
* Everlast
* Funkstar De Luxe
* Giant Sand
* Gov't Mule
* Howie Day
* The Indigo Girls
* Jeff Healey
* John Mellencamp
* Keller Williams
* Kenny Wayne Shepard
* Kronos Quartet
* Lenny Kravitz
* Michael Angelo Batio
* Michael Hedges
* Nancy Wilson
* Nashville Teens
* Nine Days
* P.O.S.
* The Paperboys
* Pat McGee Band
* Paul Weller
* Pearl Jam
* Phish
* The Presidents of the United States of America
* Richie Havens
* Rik Emmett
* Robin Trower
* Rusted Root
* Shawn Lane
* Taj Mahal
* Träd, Gräs och Stenar
* Wide Mouth Mason
* Widespread Panic
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Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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