The Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There is a fascinating film, portraying different aspects of Dylan using six different actors, including a woman; Cate Blanchett steals the show with her portrayal of Bob Dylan’s twitchy peak in the mid 1960s.
I don’t find the soundtrack as captivating at the movie, and clearly some of the greatest Dylan covers, like The Byrds’ ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and Fairport Convention’s ‘Percy’s Song’ pre-date the album. But I’m Not There has its share of great moments – here are five of my favourites:
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? – The Hold Steady
“Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ was only released as a single by Dylan, and as such it’s an overlooked piece from his prime. Backed by The Band (although they were still known as The Hawks at the time), its bar band, keyboard heavy sound was a natural fit for The Hold Steady, with lots of room for Franz Nicolay’s piano and organ.
Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again – Cat Power
It’s hard to go too far wrong with this terrific song from Dylan’s mid-1960s prime. Chan Marshall’s able to stamp just enough of her personality on the song while retaining the flavour of the original.
Goin’ To Acapulco – Jim James with Calexico
The front-man from My Morning Jacket fronts Calexico on this track, which also provided one of the movie’s most memorable and surreal scenes. The ensemble capture the same world-weariness as Dylan’s original, dampening a soaring melody.
Pressing On – John Doe
If you’ve only heard his work as bassist and co-lead singer for the L.A. punk band X, Doe’s sincere version of ‘Pressing On’ is surprising. But it’s excellent, elevating a forgotten song from one of Dylan’s overlooked albums, Saved, the second installment of Dylan’s gospel trilogy.
I’m Not There – Bob Dylan
Even though 1967 was the year that Dylan retreated from the public eye, it was also his most prolific year as a writer, spawning the Basement Tapes and John Wesley Harding. ‘I’m Not There’ was recorded during the Basement Tapes sessions, but it was put to one side, and was never officially released until this soundtrack. The hook line, “I’m not there/I’m gone” seems fitting for the year when Dylan went to earth. Sonic Youth’s version on the album’s first disc is also excellent.
Have you heard I’m Not There? What are your favourite tracks?
Bob Dylan album reviews