“That was an inspired song that came to me. I felt like I was just putting down words that were coming from somewhere else, and I just suck it out.” Dylan of the genesis of “Every Grain Of Sand

“‘Every Grain of Sand‘ is the most Leonard Cohen-ish song Bob Dylan ever wrote.” My friend John made that statement yesterday and (if forced to compare the two artists work) I’d have to say I get where he’s coming from. Among other notables the track holds the dubious honor of acting as a sort of saving grace (dig that pun, Dylan freaks) of the 1981 Shot Of Love LP; an album that found Dylan at the tail end of his “Born Again” period. Yet “Grain Of Sand” transcends any one faith — and in doing so therein lies its enduring power.

Further Listening: There is a great, early, rough demo of “Every Grain Of Sand” found on Dylan’s The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 complete with female vocal accompaniment and a barking dog.
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24 Responses to “Bob Dylan :: Every Grain Of Sand”

  1. So this post spurred a question for me that I am sure there are a lot of different opinions on…

    I’m recently discovering Dylan and have made my way through the big ones (and like them a lot).

    Highway 61
    Blonde on Blonde
    John Wesley
    Bringing it all back home
    Blood on the tracks (can’t seem to get into this one very much)

    those seem to be his heavy hitters…what is the secondary higharchy for his other records? What are the other ones I should take a shot with? Seems that the general consensus is those listed are his best, where do I go from here?

    Nashville skyline I did check out and I like it, but doesn’t seem to have the same punch as the others.

    Also, if anyone is interested I would be interested to hear why they like Blood on the Tracks as that one is highly regarded and I didn’t form much of an attachment to it after listening to it a few times.

  2. Giant Sand’s version of this song is also great.

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  4. I first heard this one on Biograph and never really warmed up to it. I really connected with The Bootleg Series version. It’s sparse and I love that Dylan can keep focused with the dog barking. So many questions: is it his dog? Are they in a studio or someones kitchen? Who else is in the room? Dylan and the female vocalist and the dog? I love it!

  5. Dave, I think it’s more than one dog! I think it is his place a malibu and the woman is one of his gospel singer friends I think.

  6. spot on dude

  7. @buzzman3535
    What’s amazing about Dylan is the depth of his work (Tom Waits once described him as a planet) and the fact that a lot depends on when and where you are physically and mentally that defines his records as masterpieces. In high school, I loved his mid-sixties trilogy and early folk music. Now, in my thirties, I find myself listening to A Tree with Roots (the full Basement Tapes) and his most current stuff (Oh Mercy, Love & Theft, Tell Tale Signs, etc…)

    Those would be my recommendations, but I also have a soft spot for Under the Red Sky, so I might not be the best person to ask…

    @phillip
    Thanks for the info.

  8. Emmylou Harris has a killer version of this on Wrecking Ball.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa_XxS3GqAY

  9. @buzzman3535

    I would suggest you check out all the recent albums since Time Out Of Mind, and then find the bootleg tapes.

    Getting into Dylan, you never reach the end. He constantly takes you further.

    The Theme Time Radio Hour show is pretty incredible too.

  10. It really is essential to listen to the first 3 albums, The Freewheelin, Times they are a changin and Another side of Bob Dylan and maybe throw in Live 66. Of course there is then the Boots, how long have you got?
    If you want to hear some interesting Dylan Covers come to
    http://tunedr.blogspot.com/

    All the Best Old Pa

  11. @buzzman If you start with electrified Dylan it’s hard to go back to the acoustic. I have tried many times. He said that Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 & Blonde on Blonde were pure mercury. It’s all pretty much distilled here, I feel. Although he steals quite a bit and doesn’t give credit, I still go back to these albums.

  12. @Buzzman – AD here.

    RE: your ‘Blood on the Tracks’ question. I love the album. I have my own ideas as to why it connected to so deeply with his audience, something I hope to fully address here on the blog one day, but in short I think it was:

    1 – His first major, fully-formed, LP of the decade (released in 1975) that a more mainstream audience could wrap its head around. If you look at his 70s output up until then (the ‘Planet Waves’ lp directly preceded it) it was — aside from 1970s ‘New Morning’ — mostly made up of greatest hits collections and soundtrack work. This was a return to form of sorts.

    2 – The ’60s generation’ that grew up with Dylan were now thirty-something adults.. dealing with adult issues. BOTT is often referred to as the divorce album. A divorce in more ways than one. I think his audience could relate.

    3 – It’s more than just a collection of songs — it’s a great ‘album’ in that it’s whole is more than the sum of its parts.

    4 – Along with PW, BOTT lit a fire under Dylan’s ass and he started hitting the studio on the regular and touring again. He was back.

  13. BOTT is by far my favorite Dylan album. That said, the cuts on the released BOTT pale in comparison to the New York Sessions version of the album.

    Whenever any of my friends ask about getting into Dylan I immediately point them to that ‘bootleg.’

  14. The lady singing EGOS with Bob on the Bootleg Series is Jennifer Warnes. In the seventies she toured with Leonard Cohen. In the eighties she sang with Bill Medley and Joe Cocker on two Oscar winning songs plus a few of her own.

  15. To quote Bob: “it’s all good”. The Christian stuff is all terrific. Even tho I am not one, they are all powerful and lovely albums. Slow Train might be the best of the bunch but, even if not totally consistently great, Saved, Shot of Love and Infidels all contain some wonderful songs. Mock me if you will but I’m not changing my mind about this.

  16. I should have added that BOTT and Desire are the only two Dylan albums that I really enjoyed after the three mercury albums of the 60’s.

  17. Street Legal is a great album…from there I’d go with Infidels, A Tree With Roots, Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind. Love and Theft and Modern times have some great moments too. The older I get the more I like these Dylan records

  18. if you are into what dylan is doing, I don’t think there is a bad Dylan record. For example, I love most of SelfPortrait. Some great songs. It was ahead of its time. And I think now many people are looking into some of his other records and seeing what he was doing. There is no one like him. Just compare SelfPortrait with St Legal and Time Out of Mind. All totally different. His first record is great too. On any Dylan record there are great songs. One of my favorites is When Did You Leave Heaven. It’s an amazing cover. But people such as Greil Marcus need the Dylans of the world to make a living as they are parasites.

  19. Buzzman: go for the Bootleg series live records, The Bootleg Series set and Desire. Go back to his Gaslight tapes to capture his raw guitar chops. Then go for his magic last three records. Then I’d cherry pick songs from here and there to find out what else there is to like.

  20. Bobby D. is simply the best.. Each & every one of his albums has a certain feeling that the listener has to “tune in, turn on (& drop something!)” to appreciate fully.. Under The Red Sky (criticized by many) was the first Dylan cassete tape I bought that I played over & over, keeping me up late because I truly wanted to know what Bob surely knew.. Something I’m still chasing.. Wiggle Wiggle / Cats In The Well, Indeed! While many scoff @ my personnal divergent tastes in music, I just love “muddy water electric dixieland” musick (sic).. If Only I Could Remember My Name! Now, I’m 35 years of age & I still listen to my old cassetes & vinyl, regularly.. Just dig it all, my fellow Drunken American Dixie Cup Drinkers.. One by One off Saved may just be one of the best Christian tunes (Dylan penned or otherwise) ever put to wax.. I Love that reggae bounce.. BloodOnTheTracks is an album (like most early Tom Waits, thinking Small Change LP, & Leonard Cohen’s whole catalog) that you have to let go to let in.. Dylan’s music isn’t meant to be in the background.. Once you’ve spun his catalog, you really can’t stop.. Once it hit’s you, you’re hooked!Succumb to it all, my friends.. So many treasures await.. Let Love In (& listen with open ears, don’t let crappy critics tell you what’s good or bad, decide for yourself).. Keep listening

  21. Can’t wait to release Blowin In The Wind. To do what he did is unachieveable this day and age.

  22. Shot of Love is one of my favorites of his. “Heart of Mine” and “In The Summertime” are also on it. Its also got a killer cover.

    Pretty much any Bob record has a few great tunes.

    Knocked Out Loaded has god damned “Brownsville Girl” for Christ sake!

  23. @Buzzman3535
    After those mid-60’s albums, anything on earth must seem an anticlimax, but I’d give a listen to Infidels and the fabulous out-takes from his Christian albums : “Angelina” ; “Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”; “Foot of Pride” ; “Blind Willy McTell”. Also his 1978 album, “Street Legal”, especially “Changing of the Guard” and “Senor”.
    Welcome to the addiction !

  24. @Buzzman3535:

    Freewheelin’ definitely. It was the precursor the Holy Grail trilogy.
    Infidels as Rupert states and i would add “Where are You Tonight” to the selections from Street Legal.

    Desire is also on the upper level of the list.

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