Thursday, 7 April 2011

Dylan in China: The First Song

You probably know that Bob Dylan played his first ever gig in China last night in front of 5,000 fans at the Worker’s Gymnasium in Beijing. You also probably know that the Chinese government only granted Bob permission to play if he stuck to an approved set list (The Times They Are A-Changin' seems to have been vetoed).

In my experience Bob puts some thought into what song he starts a gig with so I was particularly intrigued to see what he played first in Beijing.

He kicked off with Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, a fairly obscure track from his first Christian album Slow Train Coming, and one he'd previously only played 64 times before*, mostly during his Born Again phase in the late 70s and early 80s. A deliberate choice then.

MP3: Bob Dylan - Gonna Change My Way of Thinking

Buy Slow Train Coming at Amazon

Although the Communist censors put the kibosh on his early protest classics it's still interesting that they did approve a song that mentioins Jesus, God and a "kingdom called Heaven". And Gonna Change My of Thinking does contain lyrics that can be interepretd as anti-establishment. It starts:

Gonna change my way of thinking
Make myself a different set of rules
Gonna change my way of thinking
Make myself a different set of rules
Gonna put my good foot forward
And stop being influenced by fools

So much oppression
Can’t keep track of it no more
So much oppression
Can’t keep track of it no more
Sons becoming husbands to their mothers
And old men turning young daughters into whores

Here's the full set list from Beijing.

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Tangled Up In Blue
Honest With Me
Simple Twist Of Fate
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Love Sick
Rollin' And Tumblin'
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Highway 61 Revisited
Spirit On The Water
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower

Bob's got another concert in China tomorrow before he heads to Vietnam. Let's see if the set list changes.

*By comparison, according to Bob Dylan's website he's played Like A Rolling Stone more than 1800 times.

Related Links
Bob Dylan - official site
Expecting Rain - hundreds of Dylan-related links


James said...

Yes, that opening tune is a statement. Both for Bob and it also says something about The Ministry Of Culture; perhaps more open than we in the West like to give them credit?

Seriously Joyful said...

It was a great opening song, and a great set list. Bob has actually been singing this song very recently, as recently as his last concert tour. He is using the new lyrics, however, as recorded by Bob Dylan & Mavis Staples on the compilation Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan (2003 Sony/Columbia). They are quite different from the original lyrics.

Doug Fox said...

If you would like to see a detailed analysis to those "quite different" lyrics check out the following blog:

Nigel Smith said...

Thanks for your comments. I've listened to the Bob 'n' Mavis version. Not sure about the comedy intro but otherwise it's a great performance and interesting lyric change.

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