The War On Drugs
(Credit: Julio Enriquez)

Revisit The War On Drugs’ barnstorming Bob Dylan cover

The War On Drugs, led by Adam Granduciel and his band of rock revivalists, are the modern embodiment of the sound born out of when Bob Dylan decided to go electric back in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. It should come as no surprise that in 2017, when The War On Drugs were performing at the Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre, that they decided to unleash a cover of Dylan track ‘Tangled Up In Blue’.

Dylan played a pivotal role in Granduciel’s life and it would inadvertently lead to the beginning of The War On Drugs. Armed solely with a handful of records as he stepped aboard the cross-country train to Philadelphia, to a new life, Granduciel was helped onto the platform by Dylan. This journey marked a crucial moment in his life, and once he met Kurt Vile when he moved to Philadelphia, the duo would strike up a special bond which would result in the formation of The War On Drugs and kickstart two dynamic careers.

Vile later recalled about that time: “Adam was the first dude I met when I moved back to Philadelphia in 2003. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I was obsessed with Bob Dylan at the time, and we totally geeked-out on that. We started playing together in the early days and he would be in my band, The Violators. Then, eventually, I played in The War On Drugs.”

The one record from Granduciel’s collection that helped form that bond between him and Vile was a Dylan bootleg that he still holds close to his heart today. “The one I definitely remember grabbing was the Bob Dylan Live At Manchester Free Trade Hall, live in 1966,” Granduciel recalled to Face Culture in 2014. “It’s the vinyl of the first show, which is the acoustic set, which is the first CD of that double CD they came out with.

“They put it on vinyl and it was a $35 record, at the time that was like the most expensive record that I’d bought. I wore it out, I loved that set. There was another Dylan bootleg that I’d bought, which was four records that has the whole Newport show on it, it also has the whole New York Blood On The Tracks sessions and some stuff that would end up on the Rolling Thunder bootleg series too,” Granduciel added like a true Dylan fanatic.

When Granduciel graduated to the hallowed Greek Theatre stage, he made sure to pay tribute to Dylan with a mighty cover of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ which featured on the previously mentioned, Blood On The Tracks. The comparisons between the likes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are unavoidable for Granduciel. He’s happy for his music to sit in that unique hinterland somewhere between these two great men.

Their last record, 2017’s Lost In A Dream, was slapped with a comparison with 80s Dylan, which Granduciel took as a compliment, even if this era of work remains hotly debated. The singer told Classic Rock, “I remember a time, not even that long ago when that period of music was reviled. Yet the number of people that are now referencing eighties Dylan is pretty remarkable.

“It wasn’t intentional, but we might have had that haze floating over things. I didn’t discover all of that stuff until nine, ten years ago and when I got out of my comfort zone and started to dig a little. It was like cracking a code.”

The powerful rendition of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ sees The War On Drugs embrace the comparison between one of music’s finest ever talents and proudly wear their influences firmly on their sleeves, with this immaculate cover that would raise a smile even out of the characteristically dour Dylan. Enjoy the cover in all of its greatness, below.

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