How Did Bob Dylan Respond to the Byrds Changing the Lyrics of One of His Songs?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Bob Dylan had an amusing response to The Byrds changing the lyrics to one of his songs.

Late in 1967, Bob Dylan and the Band got together in the basement of “Big Pink” (a house in Woodstock that a few members of the band owned) and recorded a dozen or so songs. Dylan and the Band had been jamming for most of 1967, mostly recording cover songs of other artists, but as time went by, Dylan soon began coming up with new songs of his own (including a couple of songs he co-wrote with members of the Band).

These songs were generally intended to be demos for other artists to hear to see if they wanted to do their own versions of the songs.

These almost mythological jam sessions were officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes.

In early 1968, the cover versions from the album soon began pouring in, most notably with Manfred Mann’s cover of “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn),” which was a smash hit for the British group (it went to #1 in England) under the name “The Mighty Quinn.”

Most of the songs were given to other artists at Columbia (Dylan’s record company at the time), like the Byrds, who recorded two of the songs on their classic country rock record Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

The Byrds recorded “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Nothing Was Delivered.”

On “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” however, the Byrds changed a line in the song (seemingly by accident, as it is a small change that would seem too slight to be purposeful).

Instead of saying “Pick up your money, pack up your tent,” the Byrds say “Pack up your money, pick up your tent.”

Well, in 1971, Dylan decided to record some of his Basement Tape recordings to put on to his 1971 Greatest Hits Volume 2. One of the songs he chose was “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

Dylan decided to take the opportunity to take a good-natured swipe at Roger McGuinn, guitarist and singer for the Byrds (who sang “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” on the album) by changing the lyric HIMSELF to basically the Byrds’ new lyric, only adding, “Pack up your money, put up your tent, McGuinn.”

McGuinn seemed to be delighted at the attention, and I know I’ve seen him talk about the line a number of times over the years.

In 1989, McGuinn guested on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s all-star second volume of their classic 1972 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken (also an all-star album), Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two.

The first single off of the album was a cover of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” sung as a suet between Roger McGuinn and his former Byrds band mate, Chris Hillman (their first time singing together in years).

On the tune, McGuinn gets his revenge, of sorts, by changing the lyric once again to:

“pack up your money, pick up your tent, Dylan.”

Here’s a YouTube clip of the song…

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to vickieburns3 for the video clip!

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4 Responses to “How Did Bob Dylan Respond to the Byrds Changing the Lyrics of One of His Songs?”

  1. I’m confused as to how this legend is considered false…

  2. Sounds to me that Dylan *did* have an amusing response to the lyric change.

  3. Yep, just a typo. Thanks.

  4. […] How Did Bob Dylan Respond to the Byrds Changing the Lyrics of One of His Songs? […]

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