All Along The Watchtower

All Along The Watchtower

When Bob Dylan wrote the song “All Along the Watchtower” he set loose in the world one of the most covered rock songs in history. So far the song has been covered by so many artists that it is difficult to keep track of all the variations. Yesterday I talked about the band Spirit and the charge that Led Zeppelin committed plagiarism of the Spirit song ‘Taurus’ when writing and recording the mega hit ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (Phillips, 2014).

While I was looking at this reference to Spirit and the song ‘Taurus’ I started to run across many variations of the song ‘All Along the Watchtower’ originally recorded by Bob Dylan in November 1967 and included on the album titled “John Wesley Harding”. Of course we know that the song was quickly covered by Jimi Hendrix. The Hendrix version became one of the most recognizable versions of the song even though Hendrix changed the instrumentation. But the changes did not stop with Hendrix.

Over the years many artists have recorded this song and the list is really astounding. Notable covers include Dave Mason (a really good version), U2, Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, Eddie Vetter and Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band (my personal favorite), Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and host of others. It really is one of the most covered songs in the history of rock, maybe second only to ‘Yesterday’ by "Lennon–McCartney”, but if one looks at the various lists of the most and best covered songs “All Along the Watchtower” is consistently in the top 10 and is often as not the number one most covered song, though most critics agree that Yesterday which crossed all genre’s is likely the most recorded song by different artists. The lists vary so much and frankly there are not any definite lists out there that I could find. There is one list with a Sid Vicious remake of a Frank Sinatra song listed as number 1 (I kid you not).

Anyway, few would disagree that when Hendrix recorded ‘All Along the Watch Tower’ he fundamentally changed the song and to some extent most artists since then have bent the song in one way or another toward the Hendrix version. According to Schoomp (Shoomp is sort of a literary crib sheet for college students):

“Hendrix's version cuts out the folk and replaces it with screeching rock and roll. Structurally, the main difference is that Hendrix adds a guitar solo after the final lyrics are sung. Dylan describes being "overwhelmed" by Hendrix's version, and he took to playing the song more like Hendrix – complete with a final guitar solo – in concerts” (Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008)

The song itself has some rather unique features. First it starts in the middle. The opening lyric is "There must be some way out of here said the joker to the thief” (Dylan, 1967). Notice in the first line we have no reason to know why we want to leave or even who we are. Second the poem (it really is a poem) has no chorus. Almost all rock songs have a chorus. The chorus is generally what we know and the chorus lyrics are what we sing in the car. This one has no chorus, so it flies in the face of what we might expect a great rock song to be.

Today the song has been covered so much it has basically changed not just the song structure but also in some cases the meaning. It is assumed that Dylan’s poem was influenced in part by the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21, verses 5-9 of the Old testament Christian Bible which I believe corresponds (someone can correct this if I am wrong) to the book of Yeshayah (Isaiah) in the Torah. In the Christian bible these two verses speak of the watchtower. In the 60’s it became an anthem for rebellion against Vietnam, and in the 90’s it was a feature song at concerts so supporting guitarists could show their talent.

Scholars call this reshaping mechanism ‘Pontillist’ learning.

“Pointillist time and learning takes place in “dots” of actions that consist of small, discrete moments (e.g., tweeting). Producing, receiving, and sharing ideas in this context are separate points in each actor’s timeline. Cyclical time and learning emerges from intensive (often singular) periods, which are highly visible in online forums (or final products). This construct reveals itself through interactions that often exist in multiple environments” (Ihanainen & Moravec, 2011). (Note Parenthesis was added inside the quote to clarify the statement).

What that means is that I learn because you learned and passed that learning to me. Yes there is individual discovery. But even those discoveries are even based on prior knowledge. Note Dylan using the Bible and Torah, Hendrix using Dylan, and Dylan using Hendrix all to produce an interpretation that is really still in progress by many other artists.

So is it really different in Diabetes education? I think not. Over these past 40 years I have learned a great deal about diabetes. Yet I owe my original learning about diabetes to my mother and she learned in part from my Aunt and she to her nurse and doctors and the beat goes on.

Here at TUDiabetes we engage in this pointillist learning technique every day. Gary (Stemwinder) taught me about the tape I use, I would never have known had he not told me about it. Yet someone somewhere told Gary. See we all learn not in a sequential manner but in a looser community format. I am a better diabetic because others share. Hopefully others are better because I share and when share knowledge all boats essentially rise a little bit. In other words we all get better. What a dynamic approach we are employing to get and stay better with this chronic disease.

Last evening someone in chat was discussing her new Tandem pump. I know nothing about Tandem pump’s yet, I got to learn a lot about it. This is information was provided to me for information sake at this moment. But it is still powerful. I will investigate the Tandem more, and someday I will likely help inform someone else about it. The person telling me about the Tandem pump engaged in ‘pointillist’ teaching. As I listened I engaged in ‘pointillist’. That is a powerful technique.

I am so glad to be part of this community. I have learned a lot since I joined. And of course like all diabetics I have much to learn. What is so exciting is that I am learning and teaching this stuff with you the members who are part of this awesome community. I truly cherish that relationship. I hope you do as well. To that end I say thank you. I cannot think of a better educated and more powerful group to engage in learning with. We all have much to learn and much to teach. This is by far the best place I know to be involved in ‘pointillist’ learning about diabetes. I cherish each and every one of you for allowing me to take this journey with you.


Dylan, Bob. (1967). All Along The Watchtower. Azlyrics.

Ihanainen, Pekka, & Moravec, John. (2011). Pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping: Multidimensional facets of time in online education. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 12(7), 27-39.

Phillips, Lawrence. (2014, May 21, 2014). Have you noticed? Retrieved from

Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008). All Along the Watchtower. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from

The Dave Mathew Band performing "All Along the Watch Tower"



While talking with Rick earlier today he confided in me that he had lost this blog, It seems that his computer had eaten it. Now who hasn't had that happen.

After coaxing the proposed title from him I begged him to rewrite it, as strange and disconnected as the title sounds I knew that Rick has a way of making everything tie together into something meaningful.

Again I am not disappointed, this is a excellent post.

Rick, once again you have capture the true meaning of TuD for a lot of the members. It is the sense of a community, where most diabetics feel like they fit in. Where we can find others who have been there and ask for their advise on the small things relating to our care, how to handle the weird things that pop up, and how to handle minor social incidents.

Thanks to this community, I have found my voice. I am much more comfortable talking my diabetes experience. I no longer hide checking my bg in front of my family. I have found confidence and the attitude that I was looking for…and I didn't even know I was looking for it!

Thank you both. When I lost it yesterday morning I thought well its a sign, I should abandon the idea. I am glad you enjoyed the post. In the end, things worked out. The second version was better than the first so in the end doign a rewrite was the best thing.

Again thanks for the compliment.