Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Bob Dylan Songs of the 1980s - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Bob Dylan Songs of the 1980s

See what song managed to top “Blind Willie McTell,” “Most of the Time” and “Dark Eyes”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan performs in London, United Kingdom on July 7th, 1984.

Keith Baugh/Redferns

The 1980s are widely seen as the absolute low point of Bob Dylan's career, a time when he drifted from gospel music to half-assed albums like Knocked Out Loaded and even forgotten movies like Hearts of Fire. But he did release seven solo albums and the first Traveling Wilbury's LP in that time, and true fans know there's a ton of great tunes mixed in there amidst dreck like "Ugliest Girl in the World" and "Under Your Spell." We asked our readers to select their favorite Dylan tunes from the 1980s. Here are the results. 


“Sweetheart Like You”

"Sweetheart Like You" is a the sort of love song only Bob Dylan could write. "You know, a woman like you should be at home," he sings on the 1983 tune.  "That’s where you belong/Watching out for someone who loves you true." That particular bit rubbed a few people the wrong way. "That line didn't come out exactly the way I wanted it to," he told Rolling Stone in 1984.  "But, uh . . . I could easily have changed that line to make it not so overly, uh, tender, you know? But I think the concept still woulda been the same. You see a fine-lookin' woman walking down the street, you start goin', 'Well, what are you doin' on the street? You're so fine, what do you need all this for?'"

That one line aside, it's a rather beautiful song that he promoted with one of his first videos. It features Dylan and his band playing to an empty bar while a rather sad janitor looks on. He has yet to play the song live. 


“Most of the Time”

More than a few people walked out of High Fidelity in 2000 with the same question: "What was that amazing Bob Dylan song they played near the end?" The answer was "Most of the Time," a haunting tune of regret from Oh Mercy. Much like "Everything Is Broken," they are the words of a man that's made more than a few mistakes, though this one is dipped in heartbreak. "Most of the time," he sings. "She ain’t even in my mind/I wouldn’t know her if I saw her/She’s that far behind." There are two amazing alternate versions on Tell Tale Signs that take out some of the Lanois production. 


“Every Grain of Sand”

Dylan's 1981 LP Shot of Love is an extremely mixed effort, but it wraps up with the absolutely sublime "Every Grain of Sand." Despite songs like "Property of Jesus," Shot of Love isn't a strictly Christian album, but it's easy to spot the Biblical references on "Every Grain of Sand." "Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break," Dylan sings. "In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand/In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand." Many fans feel the definitive version is the home demo on the first Bootleg Series. You can hear Dylan's dogs barking in the background, but somehow it only adds to the song. 


“Blind Willie McTell”

In some alternate universe, Bob Dylan included "Blind Willie McTell," "Foot of Pride" and "Someone's Got a Hold on My Heart" on 1983's Infidels and then launched a triumphant tour with the New Wave band Plugz, who backed him on Letterman in 1984. It would have given him a huge comeback and put him on an entirely different trajectory in the 1980s, but it wasn't to be. "Blind Willie McTell" is one of the best songs he wrote in any decade, but he simply didn't think it was worthy of release at the time.

"I didn't think I recorded it right," he told Rolling Stone in 1984. "But I don't know why that stuff gets out on me. I mean, it never seems to get out on other people." Dylan finally put it out himself on the Bootleg Series in 1991, and it was hailed as a jaw-dropping masterpiece. After the Band recorded it in 1993, Dylan added it into his live show and it stayed in rotation over the next two decades. 



In the early 1980s, Dylan spent a lot of time sailing around the Caribbean. "Me and another guy have a boat down there," he told Rolling Stone in 1984. "'Jokerman' kinda came to me in the islands. It's very mystical. The shapes there, and shadows, seem to be so ancient. The song was sorta inspired by these spirits they call jumbis." The mysterious song kicks off Infidels, and Dylan released it as a single that failed to even chart. Still, he promoted it with a video and then performed it on his legendary Letterman appearance in 1984. The song then disappeared for another 10 years, when out of nowhere he played it at 103 consecutive shows. 

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