Jesse Jarnow

“every grain of sand” (demo) – bob dylan

“Every Grain of Sand” (demo) – Bob Dylan (download here)
recorded in 1980
from Bootleg Series box set (1991)
released by Columbia Records (buy)

(file expires April 26th)

Given the quality of the work, it might not say a lot that “Every Grain of Sand” is easily my favorite Bob Dylan tune from the ’80s. Shot of Love, from 1981, is called Dylan’s first post-Christian album. But “Every Grain of Sand,” is still very much a religious song, albeit in a more nuanced, less evangelical way than his previous three records. “I hear the ancient footsteps, like the motion of the sea,” Dylan sings, “sometimes I turn, there’s someone there; other times, it’s only me.”

With its reverb-heavy guitars, the official Shot of Love version sounds a bit like a prom ballad, or maybe one of David Lynch’s attempts at noir pop. The demo, released on the inaugural Bootleg Series box set, is more palatable (and a bit faster). The sparse arrangement of Dylan’s piano and Fred Tackett’s guitar is just right. For reasons both topical and musical, I can easily imagine Sufjan Stevens covering this rendition of “Every Grain of Sand,” whispering the lyrics over Kermit-style banjo.

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