“All Along the Watchtower” by U2

This cover of the Bob Dylan classic is from the controversial but generally underrated U2 concert film Rattle and Hum, and it is often cited as one of the main reasons the film is supposedly so terrible. Blowing the song up into an Arena-Rock anthem can’t really be considered a crime after the universally beloved Jimi Hendrix version did the exact same thing, so it all really comes down to the fact that they added a short verse’s worth of new lyrics to the song, and to Dylan fans, adding your own contributions to his lyrics is tantamount to blasphemy. But what gets overlooked in this frenzy of offense is what you’d expect to be the most basic question, namely “Are these new lyrics any good?” And given that an expression coined in these added lyrics, “three chords and the truth”, has now become common parlance in Rock circles, I don’t think you can accuse them of being any less pithy or memorable than Dylan’s originals. In fact, given how well they managed to mimic Dylan’s usual turn of phrase, I suspect that no-one could have told the difference between Dylan’s work and U2’s contribution if they hadn’t previously known.

Verdict: Not only good, but right up there with the Dylan and Hendrix versions as one of the definitive renditions of the song.

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