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The Sincerest Form of Flattery? Really? [Special Expanded Version]

August 24, 2013

This blog is called “DJ MJD’s Back Tracks,” but I’m not actually a disk jockey (except around my house). This situation changed – at least for one day – last Sunday morning, when I had the great privilege of being the Guest Host on Lisa Finnie’s show, The Dylan Hour, on KCSN (88.5 FM) and 

DJ MJD on air

DJ MJD on air

The theme for my show was “The sincerest form of flattery? Really?” and I presented a potpourri of Dylan imitations – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lisa kindly provided me with a recording of the show and said it would be okay to post it in my blog. For this online version, I split the show into 3 parts to keep the file size manageable. I’m also including some bonus material that didn’t make it on air – and, unlike the record companies, I won’t be charging you extra for it.  

Hope you have as much fun as I had… enjoy!

Part 1

#1.  Simple Twist of Fate by Joan Baez


I have an unusual voice and an ex-girlfriend who’s a folk singer (Hi, Ellen). Luckily, I’m not famous and she doesn’t perform my songs.

Al Kooper’s autobiography is a great read – and provided the inspiration for the next set.


#2.  Halloween Mary by P. F. Sloan

In his book, Kooper describes an incident in the summer of 1965, when he and Dylan were in Los Angeles preparing to play at the Hollywood Bowl.

One day a bunch of us were congregating in Dylan’s room… Michael J. Pollard, P. F. Sloan, who was the most blatant West Coast Dylan imitator, and a few hangers-on. Dylan loved meeting lower-echelon, mirror images of himself; and it was sort of like giving them the Bad Housekeeping Seal of Approval. “Get P. F. Sloan,” he’d scream. “Let’s have P. F. Sloan up here.”

Al Kooper, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards (New York, NY: Billboard Books, 1998) p. 46.

#3.  A Public Execution by Mouse and the Traps

I couldn’t improve on Richie Unterberger’s review in AllMusic, so here it is:

#4.  If Your Monkey Can’t Get It by David Blue

david blue

Based on the photo above, his name should be David Magenta. 

Trivia question #1: David Blue is on the cover of one of Bob Dylan’s albums. Which one?

The answer, my friend, is at the end of this post.

Part 2

#5.  Lady Writer by Dire Straits

dire straits

Jerry Wexler, who produced Slow Train Coming, quotes Dylan as saying (of Mark Knopfler), “Yeah, he does me better than anybody.” 

Mark hanging out with Bob

Mark hanging out with Bob

#6.  Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel

The original album cover.

Stealers Wheel

The soundtrack album that gave the song a second life.

Trivia Question #2: How many Bob Dylan songs have the word “clown” or “clowns” in them?

The joker said, “There’s too much confusion,” but you can get relief at the end of this post. 


#7.  The Tracks of My Tears by Bob and the Dylantones

Little is known about Bob and the Dylantones, but the vocals, guitar, harmonica, and keyboards were all done by a fellow named Bob Riedel (not to be confused with Bobby Rydell).

#8.  Charles in Charge by Jimmy Fallon

blow your pants off

Hard to believe, but Fallon did an even sillier Dylan imitation:

#9.  What Seems to be the Trouble, Officer? by Michael Blessing
         (Michael Nesmith)

Somehow, I don’t think a policeman would stop this guy.


#10. Positively Wall Street by Christopher Guest (National Lampoon


I wrote about Positively Wall Street in this blog post:

#11. Persecution Smith by Bob Seger and the Last Heard


I wrote about Persecution Smith in this blog post:

Part 3

#12. Green Eggs and Ham by Dylan Hears a Who


Dylan Hears a Who was the brainchild of Kevin Ryan, a music producer and co-author of the book Recording The Beatles , a “meticulous investigation of every track, take and song the group committed to vinyl.”

#13. Bob by “Weird Al” Yankovic


The video for Bob is a parody of the Subterranean Homesick Blues segment in Don’t Look Back.

#14. A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission) by Simon and Garfunkel

1. Lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: “a desultory conversation.” 
2. Digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: “a desultory remark.”

A bitter or impassioned speech of denunciation; invective.

#15. Satire 1 by John Lennon

While preparing my set list and commentary for the show, Lisa Finnie sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic:

I’d like add one more John Lennon quote regarding Dylan’s influence on him:

“I’m a Loser” is me in my Dylan period, because the word “clown” is in it. I objected to the word “clown” because it was always artsy-fartsy, but Dylan had used it so I thought it was all right, and it rhymed with whatever I was doing.

The Beatles Anthology (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2000) p. 160.

#16. Fourth Time Around by Bob Dylan

When we did the show last Sunday, we ran long and had to fade out Fourth Time Around before the vocal ended. As they say, I “fixed it post,” so now you get to hear the entire song.

blonde and blonde

For more about the Norwegian Wood/Fourth Time Around kerfuffle, check out: 

Bonus Track #1: The People Planners by Dick Campbell

In my opinion, Dick Campbell Sings Where It’s At is the Plan Nine from Outer Space of Dylan imitations.


I first heard Dick Campbell’s album thanks to my high school buddy and freshman-year college roommate,  John Campbell (no relation). John had bought it after noticing that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (minus Elvin Bishop) was playing on the album. Yes, that’s actually Mike Bloomfield playing the guitar solo.

I had totally forgotten about the record until, while doing research for this show, I read the article “Gene Sculatti’s Top 10 ‘Next Dylans’.”

Sculatti named Campbell the #1 “Next Dylan” and proclaimed, “this intense Chicagoan produced the sole masterpiece of the fake-Dylan field, Dick Campbell Sings Where It’s At.” Masterpiece or piece of feces? Your call – but know this: Copies of the album are selling for $50 on eBay!

Bonus Track #2: Laugh at Me by Sonny Bono


Laugh at you? Don’t mind if I do. According to Wikipedia, “The song was written… by Bono after he was refused entrance to Montoni’s Restaurant in Hollywood because of his ‘hippie attire’.” Later, he would become a Republican congressman and die from skiing into a tree.

Think that sounds pretty Dylanesque? Wait ’til you hear the cover version!

Bonus Track #3: Laugh at Me by Mott the Hoople


What possessed M the H to record this and why did they slow the tempo to a dirge? Only Ian Hunter knows for sure. The organ part (which starts about 1 minute into the song) is the most blatant Al Kooper rip-off you’ll ever hear. 

Bonus Track #4: Talking New Bob Dylan by Loudon Wainwright III


This one speaks for itself and seems like a good way to end this post. 

Oh, yeah… the answers to the trivia questions.

Trivia question #1: David Blue is on the cover of one of Bob Dylan’s albums. Which one?

Answer: The Basement Tapes

basement tapes

Trivia Question #2: How many Bob Dylan songs have the word “clown” or “clowns” in them?

Answer: According to The Web-Concordance of Bob Dylan Lyrics, there are 3 songs with “clown” and 2 with “clowns.”

  • A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
    “Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley”
  • Abandoned Love
    “I’ve been deceived by the clown inside of me”
  • Mr. Tambourine Man
    “It’s just a ragged clown behind,  I wouldn’t pay it any mind”
  • Like a Rolling Stone
    “You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
  • Queen Jane Approximately
    “Now when all the clowns that you have commissioned”

Mike on air b


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  1. Ted Herrmann permalink

    Good job, Mike – wow, quite an exhaustive study! If you go to a Volume 2, I would humbly add the Beatles “Hey! You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away” – not sure how flattering it is, but it’s certainly an imitation (it even includes clowns in the lyric). Also, the Simon & Garfunkel tune teases Dylan, but gently, since he did write “The Times They Are a-Changin” featured on an earlier Simon and Garfunkel album.

    • I guess Volume 2 starts here .

      You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away clearly sounds more like pre-electric Dylan than I’m a Loser and does, indeed, have that tell-tale word “clowns” in it. I had 2 very similar John Lennon quotes and, based on the subject of my blog (and Trivia Question #2, in particular), I went with the I’m a Loser quote because he specifically mentioned “clown.” Here’s the other quote:

      You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away is my Dylan period. It’s one of those that you sing a bit sadly to yourself,’Here I stand, head in hand…’ I’d started thinking about my own emotions. I don’t know when exactly it started, like I’m a Loser or Hide Your Love Away, those kind of things. Instead of projecting myself into a situation, I would try to express what I felt about myself, which I’d done in my books. I think it was Dylan who helped me realize that — not by any discussion or anything, but by hearing his work.” Page 158 of The Beatles Anthology.

      As far as the Simon and Garfunkel track, in his book No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, Robert Shelton wrote:

      “…Dylan and I were at Folk City as Simon and Garfunkel came on. Their ethereal harmonies, which would soon be so popular, sounded out of place at Gerde’s, home of weather-beaten ethnic songs. At the bar, Bob and I had been doing quite a bit of drinking and we had an advanced case of the giggles over nothing. We weren’t laughing at the performance, though Simon perhaps thought we were. On their first album, Simon and Garfunkel recorded ‘Times Changing,’ but by the second album, Simon, while sharing much of Dylan’s sense of alienation, protest, and brotherhood, was also directly parodying Dylan: “Simple Desultory Philippic” was a burlesque. Its harmonica playing and shouts for “Albert” left little doubt about its target. (Page 178)

      You’d think that the music critic for the f***ing New York Times would
      know that the song’s title was The Times They Are A-Changin’ and that it appeared on S&G’s second album; Simple Desultory Philippic was on their third album. It makes you doubt the truth of his anecdote. And, since I’m criticizing the critic, I have to say that the phrase “sense of alienation, protest, and brotherhood” is a pile of self-contradictory crap.

      We can discuss this further over some good Oaxacan food.

  2. Jim permalink

    That raunchy harmonica! That Ernest Tubb voice raunching and rheuming in the old jack-legged chants! Why it’s—a surly pack of Dylan wannabes! Thanks Mike. More, more! Faster, pussycat! Norwegian Wood and 4th Time Around? I did not know that. The great clowns and jokers dichotomy! The lost tapes of Mouse and the Traps! Great sleuthing. Let’s have P.F. Sloan up here a-and bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia while you’re at it. Of course the list goes on; I was hoping they’d give you a couple of hours so you could stretch out and get to Second Wave Dylan Imitators- Punk Bob to Sponge Bob. Still waiting for Waiting for the End of the World ….The legendary hitchhiker says that he knows where it’s at! I read somewhere that My Aim Is True was inspired by EC obsessing on Rubber Soul–it all makes sense now; Costello doing Lennon doing Dylan. Glad the blog is back. Just discovered that Jello Biafra is a UCSC grad. Deal with it.

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