Nov 122012

Give it away.

I didn’t know until today that Judy Collins first covered Bob Dylan‘s then-unreleased song “I’ll Keep it With Mine” in 1965. I’ve never heard her version, but whoever got the song on the road to the version that I first learned through Fairport Convention‘s chilling take had both ears and vision.

Fairport Convention, I’ll Keep It With Mine

Next, sometime in sophomore year in college, I heard the Nico version, clearly guided by the sensibilities of her producer John Cale. I believe this preceded Fairport’s version, so Mad props! to Nico.

Finally, a few years later, I heard Dylan’s demo. Like a few other Dylan demos that were turned into great covers (eg, “Quinn the Eskimo,” by Manfred Mann; “One Too Many Mornings,” by the Beau Brummels), I was stunned anyone could hear anything of great worth in the song. It’s OK, but his performance indicates little focus or drama. Can you imagine hearing this acetate and wanting to run with it the way Fairport Convention and Nico did? Check it out…

Maybe Dylan was selling this song for cheap, a Blue-Light Special, in his mind, that others turned into magic. Not every cover version, however, was as inspired. Here’s one that makes his demo sound fantastic.


  17 Responses to “Saved by the Covers: “I’ll Keep it With Mine””

  1. Sorry, but that heavy handed, melodramatic Judy Collins version sucks as much as Marianne’s reverb-saturated and croaked version…and Dylan’s half-assing-it demo is ten times better than either one. Nico (and John) win this one…and I’m not particularly a Nico fan.

  2. I wasn’t expecting much from Judy Collins. What I really want to know is who made the leap – and how – from Dylan’s demo to either of the 2 versions I consider great (Fairport) and very good (Nico, who I also think is mostly useless)?

  3. Honestly, I don’t see (or hear) it as that huge a leap. I’ve been listening to this Dylan demo version for years now (he’s said to have recorded it at least twelve times…the one I’m most familiar with is from the first Bootleg Series box to be issued), and I’ve always thought all the parts are there, it just needs fleshing out (it’s a demo, after all). Who knows how it was first presented to Judy (the first one to release it)? For all we know, he may have just sat down at a piano and played it for her. According to her, Dylan told her he wrote the song for her.

  4. Also, can it really be classified as a “cover” when the writer never issued it as a legit release?

  5. That Marianne Faithfull version has always knocked me out.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    That Fairport Convention version has nice instrumentation but I’m not a big fan of Linda Thompson’s warbly vocals. Nico’s version is too unemotive. Marianne’s is ok but doesn’t bowl me over.

    I started looking up other covers of it. Dean and Britta do a version but her vocals have too much reverb. Then I found this version, from Rainy Day, a group I hadn’t even heard of.until now but like the sound of. I don’t think you like that Paisely Underground scene but Mr. Royale and I really like Dave Roback, and I love Kendra Smith. Here is Susanna Hoffs on vocals:

  7. Couldn’t listen to either Faithful or Nico’s version. The Adobe plug in crashed,. However I think from listening to both singers I would tend to go toward the Marianne Faithful version.

  8. That’s Sandy Denny on the Fairport version, ladymiss, not Linda.

  9. BigSteve

    Yes, I like Marianne’s version too. Hers is the only one that gets close to capturing the rhythm Dylan is fumbling towards in his demo. She just doesn’t seem to have found the right vocal range for it. I think the song may still be elusive. There’s something there, but no one has really gotten it right yet.

  10. BigSteve’s description of Dylan’s rhythm as “fumbling” works for me. I find Faithfull’s rendition equally fumbling. In my NFL, fumbling is a bad thing.

  11. Slim Jade

    Does the Nico version count as a “molasses cover”?

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks for the correction, Bobby.

  13. All the better to allow a lone teardrop to smudge Gwyneth Paltrow’s eyeliner:)

  14. misterioso

    I don’t much like any of the covers. I agree, too, though, that Dylan never recorded a proper version. But if you listen to the recording from 1966 (a Blonde on Blonde outtake, not a demo) on the first of the Bootleg Series discs (not to be confused with the solo piano version on Biograph or the Witmark demo) you can hear how close he is to it. But for whatever reason he dropped it.

    I don’t follow, though, Mod, regarding “One Too Many Mornings” which Dylan recorded very nicely for Times They Are a-Changin’ but really the definitive version is the live 1966 with Hawks recording.

  15. I’ve got the live “One Too Many Mornings” from the show in England that was finally officially released about 10 years ago. I think it sucks. I also know a seemingly (hopefully) wasted duet version with Johnny Cash from the last ’60s that I like better. I don’t own Times They Are a-Changin’, so I’ll cop to possible GIANT gap in my Dylan knowledge, which is at the dedicated ungrad level. So, the 2 Dylan versions I do know don’t hold a candle to the Beau Brummels’ version:

  16. misterioso

    I don’t know what to say. The BB’s version is nice, pleasant folk-rock, I have no complaints about it. Dylan’s ’66 live version would be in my top 10 anything, ever. Majestic stuff.

    The ’76 live version on Hard Rain is quite good, too.

  17. The Dylan one from Biograph is not the Witmark demo version. The Witmark demo is performed similarly, but it is a little shakey and the recording is a little rougher. My guess by the sound of the Biograph one is that it’s an outtake from Another side. The piano recording and the casual performance are very similar to the sound of that album. I first got this on a wonderful bootleg in about 10th grade, and I’ve always really loved Dylan’s version (the Biograph one). That said, the song song does have a meandering quality that makes it really hard to pick out a structure; it always seemed a little formless. This never struck me as a weakness in the Dylan version, but it was hard for me to imagine a band doing the song. The Bootleg series versions with the Band only seemed to confirm this.

    I’m not a big fan of the Fairport version because the arrangement is still formless. If you’re going to have the whole band join in, give me some reasonably strong counter-melodies.

    Cale did a very nice arrangement on the Nico version. The strings add nice hooks that flesh out the repetitive nature of the changes and provide an clear structure that was missing from Dylan’s original. Unfortunately, Nico is singing on it and while I can take her with a touch of irony, Femme Fatale maybe, she really does nothing for this song.

    The Rainy Day album was a bunch of Paisley Underground LA folks covering 60’s recordings. My take on that version of I’ll Keep it with Mine is that it was a cover of the Nico version, virtually the same string parts but pared down to a single fiddle. The combination of the Cale hooks and Susanna Hoffs naturally appealing voice makes this my favorite version other than Dylan’s Biograph.

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