Sunday, 18 April 2010

Roy Harper's North Country

One of the many ways my life will be poorer if the BBC axe 6 Music is that as well as being exposed to less new music I won't discover as much great old music either. On Gideon Coe's show last Wednesday I heard Roy Harper's cover of Bob Dylan's Girl From the North Country for the first time. Gid played a beautiful version Harper recorded for the BBC in 1974. This is how it appears on the album Valentine.

MP3: Roy Harper - North Country

Buy Valentine: Amazon

Hearing it sung by an Englishman brings the song full circle. Dylan wrote it at the start of 1963 during his first trip to Europe. He'd recently met Martin Carthy in London who'd taught him English folk songs like Lord Franklin (whose melody and some lyrics Dylan later used for Bob Dylan's Dream) and Scarborough Fair.

Carthy recalls the first time he heard Girl From the North Country: "Bob came down to The Troubadour and said, 'Hey, here's Scarborough Fair' and he started playing this thing. And he kept getting the giggles, all the time he was doing it. It was very funny. I think he sang about three or four verses and then he went. 'Ah man ah,' and he burst out laughing and sang something else... It was delightful, lovely. 'Cos I mean he... he made a new song... I took it as an enormous compliment, to the song and, if you like, to me... It was a great thing to have done."

Girl From the North Country holds the unique position in the Dylan cannon of being the only song he's recorded for two different studio albums. It first appeared on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963.

MP3: Bob Dylan - Girl From the North Country

Buy The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: 7digital | Amazon

Second-time round Dylan recorded it as a duet with Johnny Cash as the opener to Nashville Skyline in 1969. This clip is from the first episode of Johnny Cash's TV show, filmed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, in June 1969.

Seeing the short-haired, timid Bob sat on that hokey stage, it's hard to imagine the wired and spindly Dylan that shocked English audiences with his electric guitar just three years before.

Related Posts
Some Thoughts On the Demise Of BBC 6 Music - my take on my bosses' ideas

Related Links
Roy Harper - great site, includes Roy's blog
Gideon Coe on 6 Music - hear a week's worth of shows
Love 6 Music - site opposed to closure of 6 Music
Save 6 Music - another one


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