‘If Tonight Was Not A Crooked Trail . . .’

There’s a little note on top of the file in which I write this blog. It’s been there a while, three years maybe. Long enough, anyway, that my eyes tend to slide right past it when I open the file to write a post.

It says, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”

I assume it’s a reminder for me to write about the Bob Dylan song, not just a pithy bit of wisdom meant to help me focus on today’s tasks. I further assume the post I had in mind when I typed that potentially enigmatic title – it’s in quote marks, so it has to be a title – was a brief examination of covers of the Dylan song. If so, it’s an example of poor institutional memory, since I did a post like that in 2013.

But that was eight years ago, and my rereading of the post tells me that the Dylan version I would have liked to share wasn’t available in good form at YouTube. (The audio was fine, but the visuals were portions of a show about zombies, which never made sense to me.) So, let’s just review some of the versions of the song I have here in my files.

We start with four versions by Dylan himself: One from around 1962, maybe 1963, included in the 2010 Bootleg Series release The Witmark Demos; one from a 1963 solo performance at New York City’s Town Hall (that would be the first official release of the song, coming out on Dylan’s second greatest hits collection in 1972); and two versions with a band from the 2021 Bootleg Series release 1970.

Here’s that 1963 performance as released on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, this time without zombies.

Other artists jumped on it right away, of course, with Ian & Sylvia being the first, releasing it in July 1963 on their Four Strong Winds album. That one’s here, as are a few other covers from the Sixties by Odetta (1965), Elvis Presley (1966), the Pozo-Seco Singers (1966), Glenn Yarbrough (the first version I ever heard, from 1967), Dion (in a medley with Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” 1968), an obscure group named Street (which included the Dylan song in a medley with a stentorian version of George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone” in 1968), and by the country-rock duo of Levitt & McClure (1969).

My favorite of those is likely the Yarbrough simply because I heard it first, but I’m certain I long ago featured that one here. After that, I like the version by the Pozo-Seco Singers from their 1966 album Time. There are other, later, versions of the song, but we’ll close things today with the Pozo-Seco Singers.

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One Response to “‘If Tonight Was Not A Crooked Trail . . .’”

  1. David Lenander says:

    Maybe it’s worth mentioning that Dylan told Ian & Sylvia that he’d written it for them. Of course, he told three different singers that he’d written “I’ll Keep It With Mine” for them, so maybe that’s a bit suspect. And of course, it’s hard not to suppose that Suze Rotollo wasn’t the inspiration, at least in part. And there’s a predecessor for the song, which is partly inspired by the earlier anonymous poem, “O Western Wind,” per the note in _Rise Up Singing_. Funny that you don’t mention Judy Collins’ cover, which I think may have popularized it as much as any. I don’t think Ian & Sylvia’s LP came out until 1964, maybe the July ’63 date is when they recorded this? Odetta’s apparently was played during some Elvis recording session, and he loved the song. Recording it, it wasn’t included on his album, but later appeared. And Dylan (according to the Wikipedia entry): Dylan once said that Presley’s cover of the song was “the one recording I treasure the most”. More recent covers include Nickel Creek’s. And in the past few months, I find that I keep singing this song, at home and at open mics.

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