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All Along The Watchtower

by

Jimi Hendrix



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was written and originally recorded by Bob Dylan in 1967, but it was the Jimi Hendrix cover that made the song famous. Many other artists have covered it, including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, U2, Dave Matthews Band and The Grateful Dead. Dylan was so impressed with Jimi's version that Dylan for years played it the way that Jimi had recorded it. (thanks, Jamie - Sydney, Australia)
This was Jimi's only Top 40 hit in the US. He charted a few times in the UK, where he was popular before making a name for himself in America.
This was recorded while Hendrix played with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hendrix on guitar, Noel Redding on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. For this song, however, Redding was not on bass; Hendrix did it. Redding was also the guitar player for his band Fat Mattress, which Hendrix referred to as Thin Pillow. Hendrix often felt that Redding did not put his heart into the bass and was concerned that Redding concentrated more on Fat Mattress than he did on the Experience. Things like these led to him being replaced by Billy Cox. (thanks, Ethan - Ridgely, MD)
The original version of this song is very slow. Jimi Hendrix' version had a large impact on Dylan which made him make his own version "heavier." (thanks, Ben - Manchester by the Sea, MA)
Hendrix: "All those people who don't like Bob Dylan's songs should read his lyrics. They are filled with the joys and sadness of life. I am as Dylan, none of us can sing normally. Sometimes, I play Dylan's songs and they are so much like me that it seems to me that I wrote them. I have the feeling that Watchtower is a song I could have come up with, but I'm sure I would never have finished it. Thinking about Dylan, I often consider that I'd never be able to write the words he manages to come up with, but I'd like him to help me, because I have loads of songs I can't finish. I just lay a few words on the paper, and I just can't go forward. But now things are getting better, I'm a bit more self-confident." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Hendrix had been working on and off with the members of the band Traffic as he recorded Electric Ladyland. Traffic guitarist Dave Mason caught Hendrix at a party and the two discussed Bob Dylan's newest album, John Wesley Harding, containing "All Along The Watchtower." Hendrix, long fascinated with Dylan, decided to cover the song on the album. On the resulting track, Mason plays rhythm on a 12-string acoustic guitar. (thanks, Joey - Athens, GA)
This was used in an episode of The Simpsons when Homer's mother was telling him a story that took place in the '60s about why she had to leave him. (thanks, Jonathan - Toronto, CA)
In a 2008 poll conducted by a panel of experts in the Total Guitar magazine, this was voted the best cover song of all time. The Beatles' rendition of "Twist and Shout," first recorded by the Top Notes, came second, followed by the Guns N' Roses version of the Wings song "Live and Let Die" in third place.
Jimi Hendrix
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Comments (129):

I've misinterpreted the actual words to this song more than any other song in my entire life so I've (30 years later) bothered to find out what the words actually were.
(It would be amusing, and only slightly embarrassing to start a sub topic on what we've THOUGHT actual lyrics were... such as "and I was getting laid..." (what I heard for..) "The hour is getting late."
(It's easier to fit interpret when you can choose your own words.)

Still, the whole mood of the song, the chords, sound like desperation, being trapped.
(that minor chord is perfect)

The Watchtower, , in the age of the Vietnam War, was a metaphor to looking out for yourself, being guarded. Everyone is JUST looking for themselves. Life is this battle to avoid getting hurt. So everyone is guarded about .. everything, their feelings, their opinions, their passions.

"There must be some kind of way out of here..." (well, of course, you all say)
"Said the joker to the thief"
Two ways to deal with life, don't take it seriously, or take what you need, just be materialistic (it works for Americans.)

"Businessman they drink my wine"
Record executives sell my songs, but they don't "get it" (Dylan's message)
"Plowman dig my earth" or "come and take my herb"
(Even the farmer.... come understand... 'dig it' - in 60's slang
Or... come change your attitude... look at things differently... and.. this funny cigarette will help. ;- )

"None will level on the line, nobody offered his word."
Nobody is frank, honest or open, no one communicates frankly about things that matter.

"No reason to get excited,"
There is no joy in life. People are too busy being guarded and worrying about "attack" (on their feelings)

"The thief, he kindly spoke."
The thief takes his comfort in material things, a metaphor for the soulless materialism.

"There are many here among us"
"Who feel that life is but a joke"
Hence... the joker in the first stanza

"But you and I, we've been through that
We (his lover or friend) have actually talked, shared, been honest.
"And this is not our fate."
We needn't live a soulless existence
"So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late"
Again, imploring for honesty .. for candor.... for being oneself
time is running out, we don't live forever.

"All along the watchtower"
"Princes kept the view"
An allusion to medieval existence, people in castles, guarded, walled off..
"While all the women came and went"
People allow themselves transient but superficial sexual release (briefly felt) but joyless (they came and went)
"Barefoot servants, too"
(no immediate comment on this line, it makes sense, but I have no easy words for it)

"Outside in the cold distance"
"A wildcat did growl"
The wildcat refers to raw energy the life force inside of us ... eager for release
"Two riders were approaching"
? Referring back to the thief & joker? Or better... any two people... needing to share with each other
"And the wind began to howl"
The winds of change.
- Scott, Roseville, CA
Like most of Dylan's work, this song is open to wide interpretation... and this is Dylan's magic... for all fools to dream. Like the missing beat in Jazz, we are enticed to fill it in and be involved. The song attracted Hendrix - perhaps one of the greatest dreamers... Is it not magical? The dirge quality of the music amidst the apocalyptic scenes... who can resist the images before the mind's eye? How often can one cause you to hallucinate to their words? Maybe Lennon... Maybe Christ.
- CrackerJackLee, Toronto, ON
Dave Mason still plays this live and it takes me back to 1968.
- Frank, Great Falls, VA
This song is on "Electric Ladyland". It is the album I would choose, if I had to go on an island all alone for the rest of my life and could take only one record along with me. The way Hendrix did this song tells us everything about the true genius of his musicianship. Up there in the heaven of guitarists, I know they all bend their knees before Jimi Hendrix and his truly unique work.
And you all, who think you have to misapply your christian religion to literally everything in the world, please give us all a break and go somewhere else!
- curd, Mannheim, Germany
Thanks, Edward. The song Jokerman on the Infidels album is also reckoned to be about Jesus and I didn't realise the connection with the tarot, so what you say makes sense to me. The line about businessmen not knowing 'what any of it is worth' is dig at Albert Grossman, Dylan's manger, against whom he was going through an expensive and lengthy legal battle.
- Lawrence, London, United Kingdom
This song was used for the very last scene from the glorious sci-fi movie series - Battlestar Galactica.
- Zhivko, Bourgas, Bulgaria
I know what the song, "The Joker and the Thief" is about. The girl/woman referred to in the Wolfmother song as "her" has a name. She is real and alive and a girl. She grew up in a small subdivision called Clover lawn which is referred to in the song as "fields of clover". She used to pick clovers there, she has a mother, father and brother there whom she loves very much. The joker is a spirit or demon or character under control of the Devil. The "thief" is a name that stands in as a designation or mask for the Devil. Jesus is not the "thief," and the text from The Bible states that 'he comes like a thief.' Her story is a lot more interesting than the crude version I am going to give you in this blog but one day I will tell this story in greater detail, God willing.
The girl enrolled at university in 2004 where she studied fine arts for four years. In that time she made many mistakes and prayed to God that she could be redeemed. While in school she painted glass buildings to complete her major in art and design. In her fourth year she met a boy who is not mentioned in the Wolfmother song but who helped to set her free. She loves the boy very much, she forgave everyone who ever hurt her and set things right that were wronged.
In her fourth year of university she was awarded a commission to paint a mural which currently hangs in a medical research centre on campus. The girl asked God to help her paint the mural in a vain effort to save the world. Her eyes were opened and she was able to discern the evil in herself and her life. The truth set her free and the truth is named Jesus Christ. The difference between Lucifer and Jesus can be twisted to become very subtle, but I will make it clear that Lucifer is called" The Light Bringer" and that Jesus is The Truth and The Light. While she was painting the painting which is now titled "the Light we deserve," she was confronted with "The Dark Knight" film and a glimpse of what is called the dark night of the soul; spirits or evil things of whatever sort came and spoke horrible lies to her. She chose not to believe the lies that the spirits spoke. She confronted the things that had spoken these lies to her and asked for their names. She was almost killed as a result because she could not defend herself alone. She was saved by Jesus Christ and by the boy through Jesus Christ.
The truth is enough and the truth's name is Jesus Christ. The girl and the boy discerned that we do not deserve the salvation we receive when Jesus died for our sins but I believe that I am the light that the boy deserves and he is the light that I deserve. This is a true story and the Wolfmother song is a perversion of this story. I do not believe that Wolfmother knows this story but rather they received inspiration and power which influenced them to write the song that portrays "the joker" and "the thief" as heroes just as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan did before them. When they are asking, "what would happen if they take her away?" they are describing the failed attempt to kill the girl. Furthermore, the movie, "The Dark Knight" is full of terrible lies which glorify villainy and heroics; such as the lie that Commissioner Gordon speaks at the very end of the film: "because sometimes the truth isn't good enough... ...sometimes, people deserve more."
The truth is good enough, he saved me.
- Leah, Edmonton, AB
Never knew this was a Bob Dylan song. Then again, what do I know? I said the same thing about "Knockin on Heaven's Door"
- Michael, Staten Island, NY
Ok for the REAL-REAL Record, Mitch's last interview was on my radio program. We talked a lot about All Along the Watchtower. He and Jimi started out recording this song together late. It took over one year to finish going to various studios. Dave Mason added his guitar and bass. I found it intersting that Mitch's great friend Graham Nash sang backing vocals! Be safe,

Gary Crow
KZOK Seattle's one and only Classic Rock station
- Gary, Seattle, WA
For the record, Jimi did not play bass on the original recording. Neither did Redding, it was Dave Mason.
- Bob, Denver, CO
Its like the joker and thief are in long ago times in some coutyard watching an of one of their own getting killed for a crime both of them have commited in the past. One looks at the other hey man we've been thru that were gonna be OK, and its not out fate. Plus look at whats approaching maybe this impending doom will lead us to an opportunity and a way outta here...
- Hemlock, Bwt HEaven and hell, Antartica
I sang this song many years, like many others, with the wrong lyrics... It's amazing when you search the lyrics to songs and see how different the wording is than what you think!! AND IN RESPONSE TO NADY: Everything IS based on religion. You belieive in a non-religion that is your religion. I see GOD in everthing... As the bible (the best selling book of all time) says about the blind man who was healed by Jesus "I was once blind but know I see"... Once you truly see, you see the greatness and wonderment of GOD. Then you realize how blind people are... If you are blind like NADY you will never see!!
- Chet, Santa Cruz, CA
I love both versions but Jimi's is unbelievable. Nothing tops the best song writer and the best guitarist.
- Charles, San Francisco, CA
Bill, Los angeles, you are absolutely hilarious
cant believe someone took you seriously :)
Best writer covered by the best musician

The one who said Bob Dylan sucks but complimented Hendrix on this song is ignorant.
Some people have trouble getting past dylan's voice, which is understandable, but you have to give him credit for his unparalleled song writing.
- jon, philidelphia, CO
To Edward in Virginia Beach - the lyrics are:
"Businessmen they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth; none of them along the line know what any of it is worth." Listen to Dylan - for a change you can understand him.
Lin, Erie, PA
- linjber, erie, PA
i dont think that fact about it being his only top 40 hit in america is right. i could have sworn "hey joe" was up there.
- chloe, St. Louis, MO
I love its particular use in a re-imagined and its original formats as a plot device in the new Battlestar Galactica series. Took me a bit to figure out that the strange Eastern melody I was hearing was this song until the characters were quoting it, and it hit me. It was a great use and personally I like the re-done versions for the show.
- Richard, Pekin, IL
In response to "NADY" Try Reading ISIAH CHAPTER 21 and then tell me this song has nothing to do with the BIBLE. Dylan had many RELIGIOUS PEOPLE around him his whole life and they were a big influence on his writing. KUDOS to John from Triangle NC. It also amazes me how IGNORANT people can be about BOB DYLAN's vocal style. If you KNOW ANYTHING about ART and MUSIC as a whole you would understand. These are two of the BEST artists of the 20th century.....
- Melman, Puyallup, WA
ok..great speech oldpink, yeh i totally agree with the guitars and sound that jimi hendrix made. He is definitely the wah wah king, in my opinion and a great inspirational musician if you ask me, being a guitarist myself..
- Nick, Cairns, Australia
I am completely unsurprised that this is widely considered the finest cover of all time. Hendrix's reinterpretation of Dylan is absolutely stunning, and it easily betters the original.
I long thought the bass on this was some of the best I had ever heard, then I discovered that Noel Redding sat the recording session out, in a snit, leaving it to Jimi to play the bass instead.
Jimi is simply fantastic on that instrument, sounding not unlike Entwistle in his complexity and skill. Then, we move on to his lead, and it is superb, with beautiful whammy bar bends, distortion, and tasteful use of echo. I also have long loved the little pauses he inserts throughout the song, which is so distinctive. Listening to this for the first time, anyone who might have never heard Hendrix will immediately realize why he is to this day regarded by most fans as the finest rock guitarist of all time.
- oldpink, New Castle, IN
There are singers I think who were born to sing. Hendrix was born to play the guitar.
- K, Miami, FL
A lot of songs when you hear them bring back memories of the time in which they were recorded. When you hear this song all these years later , it definitely brings back the 60's
- K, Miami, FL
The Hendrix Experience do an excellent job with this song; The lyrics and music in this song are haunting and the great guitar work make you want to listen from start to the end of this song. Hendrix's version is the best.
- K, Miami, FL
this song is in my top 5 songs of all time. i love this song. hendrix is the man.
- Goku, South City, PA
This song is basically a meeting of the best of both worlds ... the best songwriter meets the best guitar player ... can anyone sing though?
- JCooltrane, Philadelphia, PA
Hendrix is the man. one of his best songs. one of the best songs ever
- Rey, Norristown, PA
Bob recorded this in the Summer of Love 1967. Jimi followed with his version in 1968. Dylan has been quoted many times saying he prefers Jimi's version.

Be safe Crowski KZOK 102.5 Seattle's Only Classic Rock Station:-)
- Gary, Seattle, WA
UGH!!! Why do people always bring the f--king bible into everything?? It pisses me off big time, not everything is based around religion. Okay, can anyone tell me where the bible reference is in "She Loves You" by the Beatles??? Please, someone get back to me on that one.
- nady, adelaide, Australia
As some of the commentors have noted, Hendrix did not know all the words when he recorded this. I was shocked when I put his version on in my headphones recently (I had always been more familiar with the Dylan versions from "John Wesley Harding" and his rocking vesoin with the Band from "Before the Flood) and heard him butchering several of the lines. Sure, his version is a rock classic, but it's disappointing that he messes up the lyrics. Couldn't they have redone the vocal part and gotten it right?
- kevin, Reading , PA
Hands down best song ever made!
- dominic, phoenix, AZ
I saw Jimi Hendrix peform this song on a YouTube video and he was stoned. You could tell because he messed up the vocals a little. I have the Dylan album that the original is on as well as Hendrix's version. Lyrically, Dylan's version was better but musically Hendrix's was better.
- Lance, Malibu, CA
 Why it was written--I think that it does have to do with religion but then if Jimi Hendrix was a drug user that's not very godly. But then back then I don't think that they saw it as bad. Like it says in the movie "Across the Universe" Max says to Jude that pot is basically legal. So if its legal then it's not going against the Bible. Back to why I think it's religious, in the 5th and 6th line where it says " business they drink my wine and plow men dig my earth" It would make me assume that it has to do with God or Jesus because they own all, it's their wine, their earth. I think that it also has to do with just life in general too. More so just life in the second verse, how it says "there are many here who feel that life is but a joke but uh but you and I we've been through that and it's not our fate" seems to me like he is talking about the regular life we live. But then where he says "it's not our fate" brings it back to religion. He goes back to life in the 3rd verse again, and by life this time I mean with the war, just how he words things "the wind began to howl" makes me think that it's bad and shouldn't be happening. Which the Vietnam War shouldn't have been happening, no war should be happening. And in the end they all come together, the song, the religion, and the life/war.
- valerie, round mountain, TX
Somehow I have always misheard the line "the hour was getting late" as "I was getting laid." hahahaha... that had me confused for a while. anyway, this song is brilliant, one of my favorites of Hendrix
- Melanie, Seattle, WA
A Dylan song reworked by Jimi Hendrix would of course be thought-provoking and emotionally potent, but the guitarist was also able to bleed through Dylan's typically inscrutable lyrics... when he sang "Businessmen, they drink my wine," it came with the thrust of real bitterness. You can't articulate a concrete meaning, but you can -- more so than on Dylan's hushed original -- feel it.
- Bertrand, Paris, France
I love this cover of this song. Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix fit together perfectly
- Allie, Clarkston, MI
I loved this cover. I loved the revolutionary feel that Jimi Hendrix inspires. It definitely has the feel of the present event against society. Here is my opinion on the song: Two people, the Joker and the Thief, meet together to reform society which is being oppressed by the corporation and government. That is just my basic outline of the song, but if anyone were ever to meet me, I could give a full account of every meaning, every allusion, every metaphor, and every feeling that this song possesses.
- Gene, San Diego, CA
What's it about? How bout this -- two outsiders who can't stand hypocrites and users (the Businessman and Plowman). One counsels the other to be patient, maybe their time is coming. We have no context until Dylan takes us to the Watchtower where we see "two riders approaching". Who are they? But with the wildcat and the wind "beginning to howl" there is a sense of impending conflict. Brilliant story but even better adaptation by a complete genius. Best song ever? No question in my mind.
- Guy, Wellington, New Zealand
Here's how it goes. You are sitting there with the song primed, volume on max; maybe a few respectful mates are there too. It's time. You hit Play...
Da Da, Boum Boum Boum Boum Boum...
Those first notes explode into your consciousness, erasing everything and totally occupying you. This is Jimi and he's saying "Listen to this. It will change your life".
- Guy, Wellington, New Zealand
Here's my theory on what the song means: Some say it's about Jesus, some say it's about vietnam, and some say it's just about life. All three are right. The joker is the thief, and the thief is Jesus. Like that, the dialogue makes sense. The joker is worried about his impending death, that people are celebrating and digging his grave, when they're really no better than him. But soothing words from the thief calm him. The song is really about how this parable existed before Jesus, was told through the tale of Jesus, and will always be told, and repeated, throughout time, because nothing ever changes about life other than the toys we get to play with. It's only the rare soul that sees through it and tries to make things a little better, usually failing to do so to any effect.

The two riders at the end? They're the next incarnation of the joker and thief to come.
- Profaust, Carthage, TX
"There must be some kinda way outta here." Just sums it all up to me.
- annie, washington, DC
Great song when done by Hendrix. Dylan even once told in an interview that it made chills run up his spine when he first heard Hendrix's version.
- Paul, Laddonia, MO
anyone who thinks Bob Dylan sucks shouldn't be commenting here, bob dylan is a legend. but I'm all for freedom of speech, so i hate bagging on people for this.
- Joe, Bellingham, WA
Bob Dylan writing the lyrics and Jimi on guitar: That may be a match that may never be topped, let alone be come close to.
- Spencer, Las Vegas, NV
That's funny how you said Bob Dylan sucks... you do realize of course that if he never wrote the song, Hendrix would have never covered the song, and you wouldn't have ever wrote about it. So it would appear to me that you are the one that sucks.
- Poop, Poopville, MO
"All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix version)" is number 11 in the list called "Sounds at the Speed of Music: 50 Rock Anthems at 100 kph"
- Street Strategist, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Alan Moore's classic: "The Watchmen" had the words "Two Riders Were Approaching" as the title to chapter/issue 10. I read "The Watchmen" comics as they originally came out. When chapter 10 came out with that title and subsequent Dylan lyrics on the last page I remember getting the chills!
- Noel, Boston, MA
"But Jimi is Black so i guess An opportunity so make a disrespectful comment about Americans untouchable class is worth a little lie - Jimi, Detroit , MI"

I don't think so because most of Jimi Hendrix's friends, girlfriends, and collegues were white, because he was a very emotional person, and I had one more reason a second ago but I kinda forgot =P
- Kimy, Detroit, MI
WOW ! If JIMI were alive today I wonder if he would not just say, "enjoy the song and interpet its meaning into your own life" ? Then maybe just worry about your own watch tower and be on guard about what is about to threaten you and your own Family, Friends and cares of you and your loved ones? Just a thought out here in the "cold distance" of a past generation of the 60s.
- Alan, Jasper, TN
What is this songs meaning? Is it about God and ththe devil?
- Missy, Springfield, IL
I think Bob Dylan sucks. Even though it's his song, Jimi does it way better then Bob. He can't sing!!! I like Jimi's guitar riffs anyway, THANK YOU!
- Missy, Springfield, IL
This song is played in Forrest Gump when he is in Vietnam. It begins to play right after he first meets Lt. Dan and is walking through the countryside.
- Ameer, LA, CA
Snake is most definatly correct. I used to play lead guitar in a band circa '68 and we just about wore out a few "Hendrix" albums trying to get the song correct. Ha, ha.... I never did quite... get the lead guitar correct to this day even using a "slider", "fuzzbox or anything else. I don't really like or care for any of the imitations of this song as I think that they all are cheap imitations of Hendrix and Dylan. That is the "60's" in me. I was there and lived it all. Hendrix is still great.
You just can not improve upon perfection... it is just a blessing only unto yourself to use.
A Friend
Alan
- Alan, Jasper, TN
whoops, didnt see that down at the bottom of the description. o well, worth stating twice =)
- Galen, Does it matter?, CA
this was used in an episode of the simpsons too. its played in the background when they show a 60s montage on the news. great song
- Galen, Does it matter?, CA
Apparently, Noel Redding went to a Bob Dylan concert right after this was released, and Dylan complemented his bass playing on this song. But, of course, Jimi was the one who actually played bass on the track. I imagine it was kinda awkward.
- Floyd, Carrboro, NC
THe Dylan lyric were "Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth" I think Jimi entoned "herb" (but notenought to get caught. No good a ghetto talk, eh? I think Dylan comes from a farm in northern Minnesota. But Jimi is Black so i guess An opportunity so make a disrespectful comment about Americans untouchable class is worth a little lie
- Jimi, Detroit , MI
Jimi Hendtix Is God
- Jimi, Woodhaven, NY
this song is amazing in hendrix's blue wild angels - isle of wright concert. i dunno if somebody else said that already but its worth repeating. amazing performance from THE guitar god.
- Galen, Does it matter?, CA
My favorite song of all time I love the guitar solo's and the lyrics were really well done even though it sounded like he said something else when he was singing it I could swore when he was buisness man part I thought he said spainard drink my wine and dig my herb which
i think sounds better just me though
- David Hatey, Gotham, MD
does any one else notice the beat modulation in the beginning? right aroound 0:14, jimi plays a lead line that changes the beat to the offbeat...but he does it with such subtlety that its hard to notice unless you tap your hand to the beat from the beginning
- Ele, Takoma Park, MD
Forest Hump? haha please tell us you mean Forest Gump...
- Ryan, Mobile, AL
Rick I have to agree with Max too. People think songs are done by people who actually covered it. :Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who is another example. Since Limp Boscuit covered it, people think it's their song, and the original is far superior. Lik some of you here, I am also a teenager and love classic rock.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
This song is in "Forrest Hump" but I can't remember the scene either. I remember hearing the song though, so you are right.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Rick, Seattle, WA - same here. Im a teenager and I'm unbelievably obsessed with classic rock. No one I know would EVER recognize this song. Your daughter sounds just like the people I have to put up with every day of my life.
- Max, Brooklyn, NY
Of all the songs I have heard in my lifetime,this is the my all-time favorite. Hendrix stopped time when he did this. A triumph of Western Civilization!
- George, OC, MD
Dont you see???? it's all about tiredness which
penetrates us to the bone. No place to run, no place to hide. Wake up and panic.........neverending nightmare, madness,fear...aghrrrrrrrrr s u i c i d e.help,help hheeeeelpplizzzzzz im just.....and nobodys approching i'm on my own nobody to kill me "wannnna die? nobody gonna help you aghrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr - all along the watchtower - kris from the midle of nowhere.
- krios, roztok, Poland
Always thought the 2 guys at the begining were being crucified...
- Robert, tWeed vAlley, Australia
what movie is this CLASSIC from? i thought it was forest gump but then i remebered the scene i was thinking of is when forest is in vietnam and fortunate son is playing...what am i thinking of?!
- MeL, SoutH AustraliA, Australia
what a cover. just amazingly beautiful. hendrix's guiter and dylan's poetry. its like making sweet love for the very first time. the songs starts with foreplay (guiter intro) and what follows is like two people are in a rush then again a slow kisses and then finishes with the highest! seriously, its love-making! no one can ever forget this song. dylan is talking about tough street life (drugs and danger and everything in between). and hendrix covered it so beautifully!
- Stink, Male'
I used to know this guy who vowed he would never have a girlfriend who thought Hendrix wrote this!
- fyodor, Denver, CO
This is my All Time Favourite -- No#1 Desert Island disc! I just love the way Jimi hits you hard from the very first second and leaves you at the end reaching higher 'n higher -- the absolute ultimate in guitar-as-voice. Can't say I've listened closely to Dylan's version but I gather Hendrix was careful to be mostly faithful. Jimi's guitar on this song -- which has to be played really loud for maximum effect -- takes me to another plane. What a genius! I want my funeral service to begin with this song. That should shut up those who are bothering to cry!
- Guy, Wellington, New Zealand
I love the great climax-final verse structure. This is the best cover of all time Dylan's version is good, but just music set to words, Jimi really felt the lyrics and built the music around them. it's the sort of song, where you love the music, and then realise, wow, 'this is a pretty good story too.'
What level of promotion did Hendrix get?
P.S.
Thanks - Bill, Los Angeles, CA, for the most hilarious thing I have read all day:
Actually it wasn't so much a dream as a psilcybin vision. Now,we know that the Plowman digging or taking the herb is Arnold, it only makes sense that the Thief is George Bush, who stole the 2000 presidential election and the Joker is the Joker from Batman: I Love it.
- Gerard, Honikiwi, New Zealand
I like the Hendrix cover but "love" Dylan's version. There are very few Dylan songs that I don't perfer the Dylan version rather than the cover. Exceptions, "Mr. Tambourine Man" the Byrds, "If Not For You" George Harrison, "It Ain't Me Babe" the Turtles and Rick Nelson's covers of "Love Minus Zero No Limit" off Rudy the Fifth and "She Belongs To Me".
- Alan, Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I read that Bob Dylan originally meant the song to be read backwards; i.e. beginning with the two riders in the distance.

I think I like the meaning better the normal way though.
- Travis, Waterloo, NY
The Bob Dylan version was relesed in 1967 on John Wesley Harding. The first note under sonfacts is incorrect (it says Dylan released it in 1968), and I would just like to point that out.
- Bob, Los Angeles, MS
I think Dylan's version is great though.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
To add to the debate, personally I like Jimi's version better than Dylan's. The thing to realize though is that they are very different, and there isn't that much of a comparison. Bob Dylan should receive as much credit for writing the song as Jimi does for covering it and making it famous. Usually, I likke originals better than covers, but this is an exception. I think what Jimi Hendricks did to this song was improve it. Anny thoughts?
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
I read in guitar player magazine some years ago that bob dylans lead gutairist changed the solo of the song to make it sound more in line with hendrix's version.
Best Regards, CHOW
- CHOW, Saint Louis, MO
This vwersion is waaay better than Dylan's and this is the only classic rock song i like...o ya and Purple Haze
- Sam, Le Sueur, MN
I like Dylan's version better, but that's just my opipion.
- Letty, tERRE hAUTE, IN
I had a fun experience with my daughter a little while back (she was age 19 at the time). She and a friend went to a Dave Mathews concert, and when she returned she was so excited - talking about the greatist song she had ever heard, a new one, something about a "watchtower".

My friend and I stared at each other for a second, and I said: "All Along the Watchtower?", and she jumped up and said said "Yes! Have You Heard it Too????". My friend and I nearly rolled on the floor laughing, before we could explain to her that the "new" song was nearly 30 years old, written by Bob Dylan, and made famous by Jimi Hendrix. She didn't believe us, continuing to insist that it must be a "new song", not something ancient we would listen to.
- Rick, Seattle, WA
Not everyday do you come across an artist who possess so much grace and so much style as Jimi Hendrix. This song shows shows his ability to go beyond the specs of distortion and overdrive. He displays his ability switch out genres, from rock to the blues to almost anything. Like Stevie Ray said, "He didn't play the guitar, he played music"
- FuzzFace87, Bellevue, WA
I love this song I First heard it on Forrest Gump. Then i started getting into Dave Matthews Band and i think they do the best version of it because of the way they build the song up from slow to a blow-you-out-of-the-water jam.
- Joel, Vermilion, Canada
I personnally like Bob Dylan's version more than Hendrix's apartf rom the guitar. It's amazing the things Dylan can come up with. No wonder some of his songs are always being covered. But Jimi's version is awesome, and it's not how well you imitate a cover, but how you can change it and still make it sound good. That is what Hendrix did with this one
- Kartik, Peace River, Canada
Bob Dylan is way cooler then friggin jimi hendrix.
- Ashley, Yarmouth, Canada
jimi hendrix is a awesome guitar player. i think this is the best song he ever made besides voodoo child
- collin, hope, IN
the song was written to mean anything, and thus any meaning you extract from it is your own. Dylan said this song came to him in the middle of a stormy night when he couldn't sleep, and, like many of his songs, he feels he didn't write the song, he just wrote it down
- Rob, Leamington, England
Eric from Vancouver, it's Jimi's head that is the non-explicit cover for ELECTRIC LADYLAND.
- Barry, New York, NY
What a classic. Hendrix is awesome.
- Billy, Boston, MA
Another song fact: The album was released with two covers: one was a picture of a bunch of naked women (explicit version) and the other was a modified picture of a woman's head (clean version).
- Eric, Vancouver, Canada
When you listen to Dylan's version it's almost like you rediscover the lyrics and the song, it's amazing.
- Dan, Lee, NH
I think that his (Dylan's) lyrics mean something different to everyone that listens to them. Thats what makes music so fantastic, especailly from that time period... because back then they left room for you to think about it, and apply a meaning that influences your own life the most and didn't want everyone to think that same exact way.... just my opinion kids...

David, Greensboro, NC... Bob Dylan... not ugly, he is just different. i think he is quite attractive, personally.
- Laurel, Milwaukee, WI
...and Alec from Canton OH, pot puts you in an altered state of mind, and being the both Dylan and Jimi were known to be high almost always, the drug was clearly behind it. I'm not a legalize marijuana freak or anything but drugs did good things for music.
- jared, westmont, NJ
Bill from L.A., don't carry things too far. The plowmen reffers to a middle lower class type of worker (aka the type of people the Joker and Thief are, it has nothing to do with Arnold Schwartzenegger. An the line isn't "the owl is getting laid" it's "the hour is getting late".
- jared, westmont, NJ
lemme just add something...the reason he never had an original top 20 hit is because the "estableshment" creates the billboard to get into our heads. and every one that listens to him was an anti-establishment hippy...all along the watch tower was an older song that pleased the model citizen
- alex, canton, OH
First, the horsemen in the song are not the horsemen of the apocolypse. There are only two horsemen in the song and theer are clearly 4 horsemen in the apocolypse gang.

Now we have to adress the issue of the Plowman. Clearly this is a prophetic reference to Arnold Schwartzenegger. Students of German will know that "Schwartzenegger is made up of two words:

"Schwart", which means "black" and "egger", which is a German word meaning "Plowman". Thus Arnold Schwartzenegger is literally "Arnold Black Plowman". He takes the herb. Bob Dylan once told me in a dream that he was writing this about Arnold and that Arnold would be Governor of California. Actually it wasn't so much a dream as a psilcybin vision.

Now,we know that the Plowman digging or taking the herb is Arnold, it only makes sense that the Thief is George Bush, who stole the 2000 presidential election and the Joker is the Joker from Batman. The line about two riders approaching is actually "Two writers are approaching, the Owl is getting laid". Everyone knows that the Owl is the symbol given by Aleister Crowley to Nell Gwyn, the lover of Charles II of England. The 2 writers are Larry David and Stephen King.

It's all much clearer when you listen to the song on shrooms. Once I dropped 4 hits of purple microdot and listened to this song over and over for 9 hours. It drove my roommates crazy but I also had the distinct impression that the two writers may have been Leni Reifenstahl and Joesph Goebbels. It was later in the muchroom dream that Dylan cleared everything up for me. The lord is good.
- Bill, Los Angeles, CA
this song is awesome i was dying my hair one day at my bestfriends and this song was blaring and everything stoped and i was like I LOVE MY LIFE!!!
- hillary, irving, TX
hear this...his music wasnt "inspried" by drugs(excluding purple haze) yet the were "perfected" by them. fyi...the education film from the 1930's was titled "refer madness"
- alex, canton, OH
Possibly the greatest display or guitar talent ever...
- Marlon, NYC, NY
First, having seen both of these dudes in their prime I can attest to the fact that both of them appeared on stage so f#@*ed up they could hardly perform! I also saw them when they were shimmeringly brilliant. I also saw Dylan about 6 years ago and he mumbled so egregiously that we left---couldn't understand but one in 20 words. But Joni Mitchell's imitation of Dylan was brilliant and had the great man himself laughing hard. It all gets back to whether the original artist did a better version than those who follow. Some are followed by artists who somehow make the song so their own that forever after, it is identified with the cover artist. But often, the original recording is so astounding, once you hear it, all others pale by comparison. Witness the recording of 'Hound Dog' by Big Mama Thornton, or 'Time Is On My Side' as recorded by Irma Thomas...
The whole lyrics thing amongst rock'n'rollers is a constant source of entertainment. Elocution is last on their list, but mix that in with being under the influence and just lack of education, and you have all the elements found in the brilliant booklet "'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy" I think you can get it on Amazon.com. Hilarious
- Dee, Salt Lake City, UT
After much discussion and consideration that this song came in a period of Dylan's more spiritual music, I've come to the conclusion that the Joker is Satan (a deceiver) and the Thief is Christ (who comes like a thief in the night). They both meet on Earth, as it is neutral ground, and agree that men by and large have dismissed them both as obsolete. This is their cue to usher in the apocalypse, and the horsemen are unleashed.
- Steve, Dallas, TX
how can you say that he's a sellout, just because someone becomes "recognised" it doesn't mean that they're a sellout, if it wasn't for Hendrix and Bob dylan, song writing and guitar playing would stay the same and not progress, i mean imagine the guitar playing what it would sound like if Hendrix didn't use distortion the way he did. Hendrix ia a guitar god and a sexy one too. lol, his stage antics were funny.. i saw some old tapes where he was humping the amps, many bands do that today. Hendrix started so many things, he partially helped music progress to what it is today. I think he's alegend. I define sellouts, people who make it too big to not care enough about their craft, but you just can't help getting pulled in by what he's playing because he does it with so much emotion (which is expressed through his guitar.. mainly his creamy white strat, my fav guitar of his)
- Mistik, Sydney, Australia
Jimi Hendrix is a guitar god, but i still kind of like Bob Dylan's original version better.
- Dan, Lake Hiawatha, NJ
When i first heard it i thought it said "come and dig my urge" then i saw the lyrics on some site and then it all made sense. pretty weird. now i can't even understand how i got come and dig my urge
- Sonu, Brantford, Canada
Dylan played this song originally in the key of A minor, Hendrix changed it to the key of C# minor, wich gives the song a different sound, since then Dylan is playing it in the key C# minor.
- David, Antwerp, Belgium
Jimi also plays bass on this tune. It really ticked off Experience bassist Noel Redding. The
rift between the two grew apart until Redding
and Mitch Mitchell split with Hendrix in the late 60's.
- Paul, Rothesay, NB, Canada
when i saw Dylan play this song live he played it the way Hendrix played it
- Nick, Rochelle, IL
It has been claimed that Jimi heard this song on the radio, and went into the studio and recorded his own version that very same day. I don't know if that's the version that was released, or if it was 'completed' in that one day, but it's interesting none-the-less.

Sometimes it's hard to recognize a classic right away. Jimi seems to have had a way of connecting with timeless music.
- Marc, Alameda, CA
funny as a kid back in the 60's i thought he was saying 'businessmen they, they drink my wine, come and dig my herb'.
You know we probably do search for meaning way to much in various songs, but this particular song even as a song seemed to me to have some meaning;some esoteric meaning, maybe part of it does maybe not,hell who knows for sure,and who can be sure?
- girard, dallas, TX
i think this is a very well-written song. i love how the song is written without a chorus and how the storyline unfolds the way in which it does. i found a very good website regarding the explication of this song. www.reasontorock.com/tracks/watchtower.html
definitely check it out!
- Randi, Linton, ME
the lyrics are stikeingly similar to the bible. just goes to show that Dylan had a bible on hand

all along the watchtower:
Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl

book of isaiah Chapter 21:8-9 :
And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights. And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
- john, triangle , NC
Hendrix took this song to a whole other level, all the while staying true to the lyrical mastery of Dylan. The words appear to be taken right out of an ode, beginning and ending indistincly, disregarding any form for conventional storytelling. This leaves much room for the listener to imagine the final confrontation at his own discretion. Hendrix recognized this, demonstrated by his powerful, concluding solo. His guitar really takes off after the final verse, forcefully raising the level of intensity through increasingly higher pitches, before finally reaching that final note in a riotous explosion, emblematic of the alluded confrontation.
- Jordan, WV
oh yeah, hendrix does a great job as always with the guitar, and Dylan also does a great job with the harmonica as always in these versions
- Scott, Philadelphia, PA
this is a great song by both dylan and hendrix. nicely done by both. just because it is a good song dont mean the makers are drinking the coffee if you know what i mean
- Scott, Philadelphia, PA
Great song. A local musician named Jason Greenwalt did a live cover for an indie film we were shooting in 2001 around DC called "Potomac Dawn" that featured the deubt of the Sports Junkies. The song's at brenden.com/music/JasonGreenwalt-AllAlongTheWatchtower.mp3
- michael, darnestown, MD
...none of them along the line, knew what any of it is worth... Jimi didn't know the actual words.
If you listen to the Dylan version, it's pretty clear. A lot of songwriters purposely make things vague. McCartney was a master of "just making stuff up". He admits it. For example, the lyrics to Get Back went through a lot of changes, all nonsensical. "Yesterday" started with the working title of "Scrambled Egg". Dylan made stuff up on the spot, so please don't over-analyze too much. Makes the old brain hurt. People have some funny ideas, check out the comment thread for American Pie.
- Geo, Eugene, OR
from my understanding this song reflected bob dylan's conversion to a born again christian from judaism (his real name was bob zimmerman). the joker symbolizes Jesus and the thief is the thief crucified next to Jesus and consoles him. the Joker talks about those who take life for granted, "Business men they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
No one will level on the line,
Nobody of it is worth."
the thief discusses thier impending death, "but you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin' falsely now
The hour's getting late"
In tarot cards Jesus is portrayed as a joker.
What do you think???
- edward, Virginia Beach, VA
um...though the lyrics are not about drugs, anyone who does not recognize the fact that (unfortunately) Jimi's music was inspired by drugs and they lead him to his grave.
- Alex, Pasadena, CA
This is a really awesome song. Has anyone ever heard dylans version? It is really interesting to listen to it after hearing this version. Hendrix really stayed true to the song. All his guitar soloes (except the wahwah solo) is taken exactly from Dylans (Bob does them on harmonica)
- Will, Portland, OR
Bob Dylan smoked ganj, nothing else that would mess up his looks. He's just a naturally ugly dude.
- Niko, Davis, CA
Kieran, the only human being who did more drugs that Jimi was ole Bobby-boy Dylan, why do you think he is so ugly now?
- David, Greensboro, NC
Ok, ok, probably taking this whole confusing lyrics thing a bit too far, but think about it. There are thousands of places you can find lyrics that are guarenteed to be true. For example, the little booklets inside cds and so on. So come on, it's "Plowmen dig my earth". Er, straight up? I'm no good at this ghetto talk.
- SOl, Dallas, TX
It's "Plowmen dig my Earth" not "plowmen take my herb".

"His music wasnt inspired by drugs dude!"

It's not his music, this song was originally done by Bob Dylan, Jimi wouldn't change the lyrics. They're not even his.
- Kieran, Brewster, NY
snake's right, he definitely says "plowmen dig my Earth"
- matt, Moose Jaw, Canada
Very good. Herb is a modern slang word for pot. In Jimi's time it would have been grass or even reefer.
- Kenneth, New York, NY
Uh, guys, the lyric is "plowmen dig my Earth." Just wanted to clear that up.
- Snake, Amarillo, TX
Plowman take my herb.. His music wasnt inspired by drugs dude! Lol. Thats funny plowman take my herb..
- Stump, Gulf Shores, AL
I always thought that too Richie, I guess not though.
- Brian, Paoli, IN
I always thought he said: "Plowman take my herb" as in pot. Not so?
- Richie, USA, NY
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