ritten by “Bob Dylan and recorded on his 1967 album “John Wesley Harding“, “All Along the Watchtower” is one of those songs which seems to work no matter who’s performing it. Certainly, only a Dylan purist would complain of its treatment at the hands of “Jimi Hendrix, whose version is certainly the best known among casual rock listeners.
Perhaps not as well known is “U2‘s cover on their big live album, “Rattle and Hum.” If we are to believe the clips from the movie, the band figured out the song in the trailer just before the show, with Bono scrambling to find someone who knew all the lyrics. Hendrix didn’t; at least, he mangles some lines pretty badly. U2’s version is a bit clearer, although not adventurous by any means.
As always, my favorite is even farther afield. Discovered and signed to Windham Hill Records by William Ackerman, “Michael Hedges was a remarkable live performer. I hope someday to find a copy of the PBS special containing Ackerman, Hedges, and Shadowfax; Hedges performs “All Along the Watchtower” solo, on an acoustic 6-string guitar, and turns in the hardest rocking version I’ve ever heard. I haven’t had a chance to sample the version on his live album “Live On The Double Planet but it’s safe to say it won’t disappoint.
It’s no match, though, for the impact of seeing the man perform it; this white Detroit boy with dreadlocks past his shoulders, pink zebra pants, and blue leopard spotted shirt. Not a sight you’ll soon get over; nor a sound you’ll soon forget.