For this month’s The Original vs. The Cover, we are tackling the classic song “All Along the Watchtower” written by Bob Dylan. We are going to explore the Bob Dylan version and the Jimi Hendrix version. The two versions of this song couldn’t be more different. You have Bob Dylan’s version which is more Folk Rock and then the Hendrix version which is pure guitar rock. Each version is a classic in its own right so how do you choose. Let’s learn about each version first before we decide.
Bob Dylan wrote and recorded the song back in 1967. It was on the album John Wesley Harding which was released in December 1967. The song itself wasn’t released as a single until November 22, 1968 which was actually after The Jimi Hendrix Experience released it as they released it as a single on September 21, 1968. If we base the original and the cover based off single release date, then Hendrix’s is the original…right? No, it isn’t but one could make an argument if they so choose.
The song itself is a slow, almost ballad like for part of the song. Instrumentally, the standout is the harmonica which is the main driver of the song. The guitar and drum parts were background and their simplicity is what makes it work. The folksy sound and Dylan’s gritty voice were magical and he sings with such emotion. This is one of the few songs I actually could understand what he was saying.