Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding: #719 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding

Why is Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

From whatever position you occupy with regard to the watchtower, this is another classic Dylan album.

What does Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

In learning that Bob Dylan produced the relatively restrained, country-influenced John Wesley Harding a year after he recorded the wildly eclectic songs that became The Basement Tapes, it occurred to me – and I have no idea if this is dead obvious, wildly controversial, or both – that Beck and Dylan have more than a little bit in common with regard to how far afield they can roam from album to album, but it all (or very mostly all) works.

To a casual Dylan fan, John Wesley Harding would likely be “the album with ‘All Along the Watchtower’ on it.” Which is fair from the standpoint that it’s an incredible song, one of Dylan’s very best. It’s also striking and interesting that the song runs just two and a half minutes in length, whereas the Jimi Hendrix cover version (which casual fans of the classic rock era may well associate much more with Hendrix versus Dylan, as aside) runs a longer four minutes in length. Both versions for my money are fantastic and stand entirely on their own merits.

(And what about the U2 version, you ask? Honestly: it’s not bad!)

“The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” is a classic narrative Dylan tune with dreamlike strummy guitar and that perfect Dylan infleccchion, if you can dig.

It’s probably reductive in some way to say so, but “As I Went Out One Morning” got a lot of airplay in my house as part of a Coffee House playlist I curated for Spotify.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding

If you want to see a very Bob Dylan quote about what “John Wesley Harding” the song is about (sort of?), dig this Rolling Stone quote, via Wikipedia:

Dylan told Jann Wenner in a 1969 Rolling Stone interview that the song “started out to be a long ballad. I was gonna write a ballad on … like maybe one of those old cowboy … you know, a real long ballad. But in the middle of the second verse, I got tired. I had a tune, and I didn’t want to waste the tune; it was a nice little melody, so I just wrote a quick third verse, and I recorded that.”[1]

Some stats & info about Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Folk Rock, Singer Songwriter, Country Rock, Album Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #337
  • All Music’s rating5 out of 5 stars
  • When was John Wesley Harding released? 1967
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #719 out of 1,000

Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.