The Meaning of “All Along The Watchtower,” Lyrics by Bob Dylan


The tune “All Alongside the Watchtower,” which used to be launched through Bob Dylan on his 1967 album, John Wesley Harding, is a kind of tracks that has had many lives. Let’s dive into they all.


Dylan’s unique model of the monitor showcases the tune’s inherent drama and dread. Within the lyrics, Dylan tells the surreal tale of the joker and the thief. The 2 percentage views concerning the dire international and its perils, from shedding out on herbal assets after the wealthy have taken them to the working out of what lifestyles actually is or actually will also be with the best viewpoint.

Certainly, the tune turns out to let us know, there is not any room for callous consumerism. Fairly, lifestyles is to be understood as a poetic sacrifice. Time is each our present and the ax guy able to take us out of it.

And whilst the tune first gave the impression on Dylan’s 1967 album, it has additionally been featured on various his largest hits data and has been lined through a number of artists from Dave Matthews to Jimi Hendrix.

Dylan first recorded the tune on November 6, 1967, at Columbia Studio A in Nashville, Tennessee. That used to be the similar studio the place he’d finished his well-known report Blonde on Blonde within the spring of the yr prior. Accompanying Dylan have been Song Town vets Charlie McCoy on bass and Kenneth Buttrey on percussion.

Motorbike Coincidence

In July 1966, Dylan were given into a major motorbike coincidence. Because of this, he spent the following yr and a part therapeutic at his house in Woodstock. Doing so, he wrote tune after tune, together with, “All Alongside the Watchtower,” and the opposite tracks for his album John Wesley Harding. On the similar time, Dylan used to be venturing into circle of relatives lifestyles, with one kid born in 1966 and some other a yr later.

Hendrix’s Model

Jimi Hendrix is broadly regarded as the most productive electrical guitar participant ever. When he lined Dylan’s “All Alongside the Watchtower,” in some ways, tune hasn’t ever been the similar. His rendition gave the impression at the LP Electrical Ladyland with the Jimi Hendrix Revel in. And that model used to be launched simply six months after Dylan’s unique hit cabinets.

Hendrix’s model turned into a Best 20 hit in 1968 and it gained a Grammy Corridor of Status award in 2001.

Hendrix recorded his model on January 21, 1968, at Olympic Studios in London—and it took him 27 takes. Stated engineer Andy Johns, “(Hendrix) got here in with those Dylan tapes and all of us heard them for the primary time within the studio.” Then the paintings started of reinterpreting the tune.

In line with the mythical guitarist’s longtime engineer, Eddie Kramer, Hendrix recorded many takes at the first day of recording. Halfway throughout the consultation, bass participant Noel Redding it sounds as if turned into upset with the method and left. In line with Kramer, the overall bass phase at the recording used to be performed through Hendrix himself. Moreover, Hendrix’s good friend and Rolling Stones musician Brian Jones performed percussion at the monitor—he made the thwacck sounds.

As soon as the tune used to be jumbled together early January, Hendrix used to be it sounds as if upset with what had pop out and, thus, endured to report guitar portions throughout that summer season in a studio in New York Town. Engineer Tony Bongiovi stated, “Recording those new concepts intended he must erase one thing. Within the weeks previous to the blending, we had already recorded various overdubs, wiping monitor after monitor. [Hendrix] saved pronouncing, ‘I believe I pay attention it a little bit bit otherwise.’”


In line with creator David Stubbs, the tune’s lyrical which means is a imprecise allusion to Dylan’s then-frustration together with his control at CBS, which he idea used to be screwing him out of right kind royalties for his paintings. Stubbs wrote that the monitor “includes a stand-off between the ‘joker’ and the ‘thief’, with the joker complaining of businessmen who drink his wine, feeding off him however refusing to offer him his due.”

The Bible

Different writers have proven that the lyrics additionally resemble strains from the E-book of Isaiah, in particular Bankruptcy 21, verses 5-9, which state, “Get ready the desk, watch within the watchtower, consume, drink: stand up ye princes, and get ready the protect./ For therefore hath the Lord stated unto me, Move set a watchman, let him claim what he seeth./And he noticed a chariot with a few horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with a lot heed./…And, behold, right here cometh a chariot of guys, with a few horsemen. And he spoke back and stated, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all of the graven pictures of her gods he hath damaged unto the bottom.”

Narrative Construction

Professor of English literature Christopher Ricks has famously commented at the abnormal construction of Dylan’s “All Alongside the Watchtower,” noting that the tune turns out to really start simply because it ends.

Stated Ricks, “On the conclusion of the final verse, it’s as though the tune bizarrely starts ultimately, and as though the parable started once more.”

All alongside the watchtower / Princes saved the view / Whilst all of the girls got here and went / Barefoot servants too / Out of doors, within the distance / A wildcat did growl / Two riders have been coming near / The wind started to howl.

Others have famous the similar method, providing that because the tune ends, the listener is loose to fill within the blanks of what occurs subsequent: are the joker and the thief taken, killed? Do they live to tell the tale the possible onslaught this is most probably about to befall them? It’s as though Dylan sparks our creativeness after which leaves us sooner than he’s even in a position to mention, “To be endured…”

But whilst many be offering beneficiant reviews of the monitor, musician and longtime Dylan affiliate, Dave Van Ronk, supplied some measured grievance, pronouncing of the tune and its creator, “That complete inventive mystique is likely one of the nice traps of this industry, as a result of down that highway lies unintelligibility. Dylan has so much to reply to for there as a result of after some time he found out that he may just break out with anything else—he used to be Bob Dylan and folks would take no matter he wrote on religion. So he may just do one thing like ‘All Alongside the Watchtower’, which is just a mistake from the name on down: a watchtower isn’t a highway or a wall, and you’ll’t cross alongside it.”

Musical Composition

Musically talking, the tune is fairly easy: 3 chords and a shrieking harmonica. No less than, in Dylan’s model, this is. The ones chords proceed to copy all the way through the track.

In Hendrix’s quilt, even though, the musicality is taken to some other degree, given the guitar participant’s prowess and skill to solo and supply a common sense of distorted rock to the in the past in a different way blank tones.

Hendrix launched his model in September 1968, a month previous to the discharge of Electrical Ladyland. It turned into a Best 20 hit and within the U.Ok., the tune turned into the primary British stereo-only unmarried to land within the Best 5.

Seems like plentiful reason why to get excited, in the event you ask us.

Notable Variations

Whilst many artists have lined the monitor since Dylan’s and Hendrix’s hit the airwaves, one notable instance is through jam band frontman Dave Matthews, who would steadily shut out his widespread reside presentations with a rendition of the tune, which steadily opened with a bass solo and prolonged 10 or extra mins lengthy. Take a look at Matthews’ model beneath.