The image of Bob Dylan doing anything other than sitting at his desk to write or standing behind a microphone to sing is a pretty strange concept. The freewheelin’ troubadour has been such an immovable figure in the undulating motif of pop culture, standing outside of its constantly fluctuating needs, that to imagine him partaking in such pop frivolity feels a bit strange. So much so that if we were to conjure up the image of Bob Dylan dancing the night away, it would likely be dismissed as a fairytale.
However, the image of Dylan sitting down at his desk to write a list of his favourite songs to dance to is something we can keep in our mind’s eye and authenticate with the man we know. That’s more than likely because it’s exactly what Dylan did when composing the song list for episode 27 of his now-iconic stint behind the mixing desk for his Theme Time Radio Hour.
The first season of the Theme Time Radio Hour, hosted by Bob Dylan, ran from May 3, 2006, to April 18, 2007, on XM Satellite Radio for 50 shows in total. Rather than picking from various threads, each show had a distinct theme, ranging from ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to musical instruments and a double episode on trains. One particularly brilliant episode saw the singer pick out his favourite songs to dance to. Considering the above, it is positioned as one of the most revealing episodes of Dylan’s DJ career. Largely because it cracks into a personal point we weren’t sure even existed — Dylan’s dancing shoes.
“It’s night time in the big city. A stray dog’s eyes glow in a dark alleyway, Tex Carbone unlocks studio B,” is how Dylan began his episode devoted to dance. A typical drawl and his usual poetic stance let audience members know that this wasn’t just any dance hour; this one would be special. Despite what you may think, Bob Dylan did stick pretty closely to the rules when it came to his radio show and so only picked songs that contained the word “dance” in them, which may have limited his selection somewhat.
We’d bet, however, that one song that would have been in this list no matter the restrictions, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas classic ‘Dancing in the Street’ about which Dylan remarked: “Only one song we could start with.” The tracks continue throughout the show in a similar vein, preferring to keep things far more music hall than a nightclub. But one surprise inclusion came at the start of the show as Dylan picked out the Ramones song ‘Do You Wanna Dance’.
Dylan’s a noted fan of the band, and the band are fans of his, even covering his songs on occasion. Still, it may have come as a shock to hear Dylan speak so fondly of the group when making his selection: “Joey Ramone, along with Johnny, Tommy and Deedee, all brothers from different mothers, they were an influential early punk band, and some people say they invented the form of pop-punk.” However, the best bit about Dylan’s stint on the decks was his inclusion of seemingly lost tracks, including Junior Brown’s masterpiece ‘My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothin’ But Ernest Tubb’ about which Dylan effused: “I only wish I knew a girl like that! Junior remembers watching Ernest Tubb on TV when he was young and always being a big fan of his. Later on, he met Ernest Tubb, and Ernest Tubb gave him some good advice: ‘Keep it country, son.’ That’s what ET said to him.”
One such track that certainly came out of left field was the selection of the song ‘Dance the Slurp’ a promo clip released to spread the news on the convenience store’s newest drink, “This next record’s called ‘Dance The Slurp’, and it was put out by 7-11 to promote their Slurpees. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist use it as the basic rhythm track for their dance mix called ‘Brain Freeze’. People talk about the obscurity of my songs…oh, yeah? Give a listen to this!” It’s one part of a truly extraordinary list.
The reem of songs mentioned by Bob Dylan as his favourite songs to dance to make not only for education in the history of music, one which Dylan gave whenever required but provides a stunning playlist too, the kind one can drop the needle on and ensure themselves a great time.
We’ve collated the songs into that playlist below.
Bob Dylan’s favourite songs to dance to:
- ‘Dancing in the Street’ – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
- ‘Let’s Go Dancing’ – Roy Hogsed and his Rainbow Riders
- ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ – Ramones
- ‘Let Her Dance’ – Bobby Fuller Four
- ‘Ten Cents a Dance’ – Anita O’Day
- ‘My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothin’ But Ernest Tubb’ – Junior Brown
- ‘Dance the Slurp’ – 7-11
- ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ – The Lebron Brothers
- ‘When You Dance’ – The Turbans
- ‘Dancing Mood’ – Delroy Wilson
- ‘The Girl Can’t Dance’ – Bunker Hill
- ‘I Won’t Dance’ – Fred Astaire
- ‘I Can’t Dance (I’ve Got Ants In My Pants)’ – Roy Newman
- ‘Let’s Dance’ – Chris Montez
- ‘Dancing to the Rhythm’ – Eddie Seacrest & The Rolling Rockets
- ‘Dance Dance Dance’ – Bill Parsons
- ‘I Can’t Stop Dancing’ – Archie Bell and the Drells
- ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ – Buck Owens and the Buckaroos