Bob Dylan Countdown #140: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”Posted: February 10, 2012
Dylan tried to take this song back from The Byrds with his own version that was released on his second Greatest Hits compilation. In truth, he could never take it back from the version found on The Basement Tapes, which will always be the definitive one for this listener and, I suspect, most others.
Loping along like a burro on Prozac, the pace of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” certainly is in keeping with the theme of the song. This easygoing nature is reflected in Dylan’s lyrics, full of strange asides about Genghis Khan and free-associative wordplay. Every time you seem to be getting somewhere in the narrative, you get sidetracked by something new. Again, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.
All of the various cover versions that have been released over the years can’t hope to catch the deadpan essence of the original by Dylan and The Band. This song, like many others on The Basement Tapes, is a plea to the entire God-Almighty world to slow down for a bit. If things don’t exactly make sense, so what? Best to “strap yourself to the tree with roots” and enjoy the scenery, which, in this case, is the effortlessly pretty music.
One thing about Dylan’s own version of the song that needs to be noted: The ribbing of Roger McGuinn for changing the words. I guess the whole no-stress vibe goes out the window when somebody messes with your lyrics.