Dylan Covers Week No 14: You Ain't Going Nowhere - the Byrds
So finally we've got there, we've come to the end of Dylan covers week come fortnight. It's only right that we should finish with the greatest Dylan coverers of all time - the Byrds have recorded more classic versions of his songs than anyone except for the man himself.
In 1968, when they recruited Gram Parsons, the Byrds were one of America's top rock bands. Gram was with the group for less than six months but in that time he had what turned out to be a seismic effect on American rock music by persuading McGuinn, Hillman and co to record a country and western album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". At the time, country and western music was widely considered the domain of middle aged conservative southerners. The thought that a young, hippy rock band from California could go to Nashville and record a deliberately country album was surprising - shocking even - to both sides of the net alike. The rock fans couldn't understand why the Byrds were endorsing what they saw as "square", deeply unfashionable, redneck music while the Nashville stalwarts booed them offstage when they played their first gig upon release of the album on the Grand Old Opry radio show basically because they were a bunch of long haired hippies.
In drawing young people's attention towards the wit, beauty, melody and all round working class honesty of country music, the Byrds were ahead of their time, and a year ahead ahead of Dylan himself, who released "Nashville Skyline" in 1969. Later Parsons and Hillman formed the country rock outfit "the Flying Burrito Brothers" who included one Bernie Leadon who later formed the country influenced Eagles who's greatest hits compilation has just recently become the best selling LP of all time. To date, countless rock artists from the Rolling Stones to Tom Waits, have since dabbled in Country and Western and come out smiling.
This is the first track on the album, the more surprising because it is a Dylan cover given the full Nashville treatment. The statement is there from the start, from the glorious opening bars of Lloyd Green's steel guitar and the honky tonk rhythm through McGuinn's carefully modulated vocal to the cowbell in the chorus. And boy does it work.
The delivery turns the song into a joyous country and western celebration of inertia, the easy chair into a rocker on a southern porch, and the most exciting thing that's ever going to happen to the guy is his wedding tomorrow.
The words are as witty and lighthearted as anything Dylan has ever written though goodness knows what the bit at the end about Genghis Khan means. Maybe that to supply his worldwide array of worrying kings with sleep was so impossible it couldn't be contemplated, ergo back to the easy chair.
"Clouds so swift rain won't lift gate won't close railings froze get your mind off wintertime you ain't goin' nowhere...."