There are several stories circulating about Bob Dylan’s “Fourth Time Around.”
One version: According to Al Kooper: “I said to Dylan “it sounds so much like ‘Norwegian Wood,'” and he said “actually ‘Norwegian Wood’ sounds a lot like this! I’m afraid they took it from me and now I feel like I have to record it y’know.” Apparently he’d played it for them and they’d nicked it. I asked if he was worried about getting sued and he said, “nah, the Beatles could never sue me.”
Another version from Clinton Heylin:
The first week of December 1965 saw The Beatles release their finest collection to date, Rubber Soul. Though the United States edition was again pruned of several songs on the British original, one song that stayed the course had a largely Lennon lyric. Originally known as This Bird Has Flown, it was released as Norwegian Wood. The song was an important one to Lennon (he later said of it, “I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair. But in such a smokescreen way that you couldn’t tell”). For the first time he was writing about something deeply personal – his clandestine affair with attractive journalist Maureen Cleave, whom Dylan also knew – using the kind of code the American had made something of a trademark.
Dylan undoubtedly recognized the influence and decided at some point to acknowledge it with his own version of “This Bird Has Flown.” For the past 18 months he had enjoyed dropping in the occasional lyrical nod with a wink to his new-found friends – a gesture they reciprocated on With A Little Help From My Friends in 1967. But Fourth Time Around was also a way of showing he could raise the bar lyrically on Lennon, the one Beatle to have aspirations beyond being a pop poet. Fourth Time Around is an altogether darker, more disturbing portrait of an affair, though it emulates Norwegian Wood in its circular melody and structure.
In any case, I’ve always dug “Fourth Time Around.”
Turns out very few artists have covered it. I found two that are worth a listen, and I’ve also included a bunch live versions by Dylan himself.
April 13, 1966, Sydney, Australia:
Yo La Tengo:
April 20, 1966, Melbourne, Australia:
May 5, 1966: Dublin, Ireland:
Three versions by Robyn Hitchcock:
May 16, 1966, Sheffield, England:
May 26, 1966, Royal Albert Hall, London:
May 27, 1966, Royal ALbert Hall, London:
Bob Dylan, April 18, 1999:
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