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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 03:00 GMT 

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The MEZ loves this tune. I like the slow versions of the NET or the early "Broadside Ballads". But by far the best or The MEZ's favorite is the MTV unplugged version. In any case, what a story a minor or unheralded masterpiece. Thoughts, comments, posts, Rec dates MEZ


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 07:33 GMT 

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I like it as well, especially the Unplugged version. Melody is from on old folk song by the way, 900 Miles to be specific, but the lyrics are really good. Despite a few clumsy moments, I like the dramatic opposition between the mother's pride and the reality of war, and the last line about the medals works perfectly in this. Besides that, I really love how Dylan sings the penultimate verse in the Unplugged version:

And I couldn't help but think, through the thunder rolling and stink,
That I was just a puppet in a play.
And through the roar and smoke, this string is finally broke,
And a cannon ball blew my eyes away.

I always felt the repititions in the gaslight performance to be a bit awkward, but perhaps others disagree?


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 10:52 GMT 

Joined: Mon January 8th, 2007, 19:59 GMT
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The music is derived from "Reuben's Train"/"900 Miles" (these are two different songs that are often conflated), first recorded in 1927 as "45 Train" by Grayson & Whitter
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgjUXNupmwA

also by f. ex. by Woody Guthrie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EelmqMgqBU8

I can't find Fiddlin' John Carson's "900 Miles From My Home" (1924) at the moment to check if it's the same melody or not.

Traditional Ballad Index:
Reuben's Train
http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/ballads/Wa133.html
Nine Hundred Miles
http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/ballads/LxU073.html


The lyrics owe a lot to "Mrs McGrath"
see Traditional Ballad Index
see Wikipedia

One set of lyrics:

Now, Mrs McGrath, the captain said,
Would you like to make a soldier out of your son Ted?
With a scarlet coat and a big cocked hat,
Now Mrs McGrath, wouldn't you like that?

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
Too-ri, oo-ri, oo-ri-aa
Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
Too-ri, oo-ri, oo-ri-aa.

Now Mrs McGrath lived on the seashore
For the space of seven long years or more,
Till she saw a ship sail into the bay,
Says, It's my son Ted, will you clear the way,

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

Oh captain, dear, where have you been,
Have you been sailing in the Meditereen,
And have you any news of my son Ted,
Is the poor boy alive or is he dead?

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

Well, up comes Ted, without any legs,
And in their place he's got two wooden pegs.
She kissed him a dozen times or two,
Saying, Holy God, it isn't you,

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

Now was you drunk, or was you blind,
When you left your two fine legs behind,
Or was it walking on the sea,
Wore your two fine legs from the knees away?

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

No, I wasn't drunk, and I wasn't blind
When I left my two fine legs behind,
But a big cannon ball on the fifth of May,
Took me two fine legs from the knees away,

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

Oh Teddy, my boy, the widow cried,
Your two fine legs were your mammy's pride.
The stumps of a tree won't do at all,
Why didn't you run from the big cannon ball?

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

All foreign wars, I do proclaim,
Between Don Juan and the King of Spain,
And I'll make them rue the time,
They took two legs from a child of mine,

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa
...

Well then, if I had you back again,
I'd never let you go to fight the King of Spain,
For I'd rather have me Ted as he used to be,
Than the King of France and his whole navy,

Wi your too-ri-aa, folly diddle-aa



A precursor of "Mrs McGrath" from the 19th century was called "Teddy O'Gra"
Here's a broadside, printed sometime between 1833 & 1851


But "John Brown" may also be related to "They're All Out Of Step But Jim", a WWI song (published in 1918) by Irving Berlin (a spoof on parents who are boasting about their son who is in the army):


[1st verse:]
Jimmy's mother went to see her son
Marching along on parade
In his uniform and with his gun
What a lovely picture he made
She came home that ev'ning
Filled up with delight
And to all the neighbors
She would yell with all her might

[Refrain:]
Did you see my little Jimmy marching
With the soldiers up the avenue?
There was Jimmy just as stiff as starch
Like his Daddy on the seventeenth of March
Did you notice all the lovely ladies
Casting their eyes on him?
Away he went
To live in a tent
Over in France with his regiment
Were you there, and tell me, did you notice?
They were all out of step but Jim

[...]


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 12:12 GMT 
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I agree, the Unplugged Version is my favourite too. And along with Shooting Star, is my favourite song of the performance.
The realism of it is brilliant, he really holds nothing back. This HAS to be the most thought provoking protest song, poem, story, film - the whole damn lot!


But the thing that scared me most, when my enemy came up close,
I saw his frightened face looked just like mine.


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 13:31 GMT 

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Thanks for that background info on the lyrics. Seems to make sense to compare Dylan's song to these two and perhaps there were some direct influences.


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 13:38 GMT 
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The best ever version of this song is by the recently deceased Jim Dickinson on his album Dixie Fried - so good that Dylan used it as intro music to his own gigs for quite a while! If you aint heard it do yerself a favour - jim boy nails it on the head with voodoo magic


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 13:42 GMT 
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Dylan seems to have a fixation with the surname Brown... why is he so entranced by the name?


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 13:53 GMT 
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thickboy wrote:
Dylan seems to have a fixation with the surname Brown... why is he so entranced by the name?


I heard it was to do with Marlon Brando


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 18:19 GMT 

Joined: Wed April 11th, 2007, 04:15 GMT
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An anti-war song that was not written with the broad stroke that Masters Of War was written with, which may be to its benefit. This story is quite plain & specific in its telling. At times, the writing is crude and the rhymes are not all there, but again, that is part of its effectiveness. Like MOW, this is a generational song. The mother's perception of the pomp & glory of war gives way to the son's horror and despair of the reality of war.
I can't help but be reminded of Ron Kovic when I hear this song. His brutal time in Vietnam & the aftermath following his return came years later but in many ways paralleled John Brown's tale in an almost eerie way.

"I have come to believe there is nothing in the lives of human beings more terrifying than war and nothing more important than for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth." Ron Kovic

Tom Paxton wrote a beautiful song about Kovic that is strangely very close to John Brown in its weight, if not a little more.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KqvovCQxmw

The best version of John Brown by Dylan IMO is from the Gaslight (where Paxton also was a regular performer at the time) where he cries out that very terrifying refrain that hammers home the needlessness of it all:

But the thing that scared me most
Was when my enemy came close
I could see that his face was just like mine
Oh Lord! Just like mine!

October 1 1962
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrdYrw1QO2Q


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PostPosted: Tue September 29th, 2009, 21:55 GMT 
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Gaslight version is great. I think the NET has done this song pretty good. A sweet and lowdown version from Bremen 1998 for those who like the NET:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/dedsgh

For those that don't like the NET--as Dylan sings on this one--I wouldn't bother. He also plays guitar, so you are doubly warned.


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PostPosted: Sun July 17th, 2011, 22:31 GMT 
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John B. Stetson wrote:
Gaslight version is great. I think the NET has done this song pretty good. A sweet and lowdown version from Bremen 1998 for those who like the NET:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/dedsgh

For those that don't like the NET--as Dylan sings on this one--I wouldn't bother. He also plays guitar, so you are doubly warned.
The electric performances from 1989 are hot as hades. At one moment its sizzling, then contemplative as G.E. Smith does some menacing guitar work. If I remember correctly, Bob and G.E. were both playing Telecasters... OMG, two Telecaster masters... lighting up memorable performances of classics for the ages.

Those were the days... 8)


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PostPosted: Mon July 18th, 2011, 00:31 GMT 
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^
with the bump, I just gotta update that sendspace link. It's such a great version of John Brown. Starts off acapella and gradually adds instruments. I love the way his voice sounds on this...I'll have to check it out '89 style.

Bremen 1998
http://www.sendspace.com/file/psqeqe


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PostPosted: Mon July 18th, 2011, 01:21 GMT 
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Thanks Mr. Stetson. Your judgment I trust greatly and I will look for the Bremen '98 show. I have a lot of shows on unlabeled memory sticks in my briefcase so I can take them on the road when I travel. I have fears of TSA stopping me in an airport someday and interrogating me, then upon listening to one insisting I stay in their little room until they hear every show "just to make sure I'm not a security risk"... I could be there for weeks! :lol:

I have spent the last two weeks going back to '89 and '99 and refreshing my memory. I'm sorry to say I forgot how good some of these shows were. I would love to see the creativity and setlists of '89 return with his current band.


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PostPosted: Mon July 18th, 2011, 03:08 GMT 

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Enjoyed the thread, thanks. As a draftee during the war in Vietnam I know a lot more than most how accurate are the lyrics. Too true, too true...they are.


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PostPosted: Mon July 18th, 2011, 03:22 GMT 
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Everytime someone mentions the name John Brown (usually about the abolitionist extremist who raided Harpers Herry) I always think of the first few lines.

Fantastic song.


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PostPosted: Fri August 5th, 2011, 18:38 GMT 
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I enjoy the 2006 Madison, Wisconsin version. Does anyone know of specific dates of those 1989 shows?


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PostPosted: Fri August 5th, 2011, 21:15 GMT 
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John B. Stetson, thank you for uploading that version of John Brown, simply brilliant and better in my opinion than Unplugged!


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PostPosted: Fri August 5th, 2011, 22:39 GMT 
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I love this song... it's a real jaunty toe-tapper... and yet, it also carries a message that we should all heed... all in all, a wondeful, fun song.


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PostPosted: Fri August 5th, 2011, 23:58 GMT 
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A fantastic anti war song.
One of my favourite Dylan songs.


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PostPosted: Tue August 16th, 2011, 01:53 GMT 
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The second best version of this song is by Mud Boy and The Neutrons, but the very very best is by Kenny Rogers Pinky & Perky at the same time. At 78rpm. Sadly this was deleted when John Brown publishing sold Viz to Felix Dennis. How could he? Never trust beards.

"A good old fashioned war" - fine words.... like Vietnam was, Under appreciated at the time but a real corker. Not like this half baked Iraqi thing where we don't even really dislike the leaders (as the many receipts go to show). Nixon, for all his faults, wasn't actually selling guns to the Viet Cong.... was he????


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PostPosted: Tue August 16th, 2011, 02:15 GMT 
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slimtimslide wrote:
Nixon, for all his faults, wasn't actually selling guns to the Viet Cong.... was he????
Kissinger was doing it when no one was looking. Nixon was busy being paranoid about communists and traitors...


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PostPosted: Tue August 16th, 2011, 03:16 GMT 

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if a recording ever shows up for the 9th show. it would blow you away.


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PostPosted: Sat October 29th, 2011, 23:03 GMT 
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The recent Mannheim performance (October 25, 2011) with Mark Knopfler joining the band on guitar and Bob center stage with microphone and harmonica... I'm not saying its the best performance ever... but there isn't another that comes close.

And Bob shows a stage presence that was lacking from '06 through '11. He commands the song and performance in a way that was lacking for some time and this song is so well done. I hope he uses this arrangement (and line up, including Knopfler) several more times before this leg of the tour ends.


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PostPosted: Sat October 29th, 2011, 23:58 GMT 

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it's a total cop from dalton trumbo's novel johnny got his gun


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PostPosted: Sun October 30th, 2011, 00:13 GMT 
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elmer wrote:
it's a total cop from dalton trumbo's novel johnny got his gun

incorrect.


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