Tune du Jour: “When The Ship Comes In” – Bob Dylan
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: 
David Franklin vs. The Clancy Brothers and Robbie O’Connell with Tommy Makem
Peruse, Comment and Vote (I Beseech, Implore and Urge Thee, respectively)
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You used to be so amused, At Broccoli Man, and the carrot for a guitar he used ...

You used to be so amused,
At Broccoli Man,
and the carrot for a guitar he used …

When The Ship Comes In appears on Bob Dylan’s third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’, released in 1964. According to Joan Baez, Dylan wrote When The Ship Comes In in a hotel room, incensed, after the clerk initially denied him a room. The clerk had felt the remarkably unkempt Mr. Dylan was not the type of guest the establishment preferred to accommodate. Baez, who was traveling with Dylan, had to intervene on his behalf, vouching for his “good character”.

According to Dylan’s old girlfriend, Suze Motolo, as well as his biographer, Clinton Heylin, an additional inspiration for the song was probably Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill’s song, Pirate Jenny. Pirate Jenny, from the Threepenny Opera, tells of Jenny’s dark dream of a mysterious ship that arrives to vanquish her foes.

While these suppositions represent the generally accepted beliefs on the origin of the song, in fact, Dylan’s inspiration for When The Ship Comes In was actually the celebrated composition, I’ll No Longer Shave For You, by the criminally underappreciated Gatorwood Sunshine Singers, a tune that, oddly enough, would not be written until decades later.

The Original

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Bob Dylan:

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THE CLASH of Cover Tunes

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David Franklin vs. The Clancy Brothers and Robbie O’Connell with special guest Tommy Makem

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David Franklin:

The Clancy Brothers and Robbie O’Connell with special guest Tommy Makem:

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Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?

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Votes can be cast up to three months from the day and time of the original post.

Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

  1. Arnold Plotnick says:

    I voted for David Franklin. I think this song just feels right when it’s just a guitar and voice. The Clancy Brothers are great, but there’s just a little too much anthem-like bombast for my liking. Interestingly, I’m reading The Dylanologists right now, a book about truly insane, obsessive Dylan fans (of which I am NOT).

  2. RDubbs says:

    The Irish lads’ version would be a lot more fun to see live than David Franklin’s piece. (You’d have a Gaelic ole time…) Their rendition is superb and I’m a fan of Robbie O’Connell, yet, when push comes to barroom brawl, I prefer David Franklin’s stripped down version.

  3. Kerry Black says:

    The Clancy Brothers’ version is somewhat florid, perhaps a bit overcooked. I was nevertheless obliged to vote for them to appease my constituency. Many readers were expecting a visit from the Clancys back on March 17th, but once again Dubbs zigged when we expected him to zag.

  4. Pete Black says:

    I like them both but while the David Franklin version is pretty and melodic, he didn’t sell the song. In Dylan’s Chronicles he mentioned that in the Greenwich Village bars most singers seemed to be selling themselves whereas he was focused on selling the song. The Clancy’s version was spirited and told the story better for me.

  5. The Bug says:

    Clancys, Makem and O’Connell–makes me think Dylan should always be sung with a brogue–but of course if the Gatorwood Sunshine Singers tapes had not been lost, it would be no contest

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