The Time A Bob Dylan Deep Cut Became A Chart Hit… In French

Fairport Convention struck gold with an unusual idea...

Bob Dylan’s frenetic creativity during the 60s can scarcely be believed. The songwriter moved from idea to idea, sometimes leaving entire genres in his wake. His official output alone is staggering, but it’s humbling to know that even the songs left on the cutting room floor went on to become hits in multiple languages.

Take his 1964 song ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’. Penned around the time of his album ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’, the initial recording session took place as part of his work on ‘Bringing It All Back Home’. It didn’t make the cut, but appeared in his concerts during this period. The Liverpool Five tried their luck by releasing it as a single, but their version didn’t quite connect with the public; a further cover by Manfred Mann, however, did and landed in the charts at No. 2.

Perhaps the most curious version of the song, though, is a French cajun arrangement, given a counter cultural twist. The early years of Fairport Convention are dominated by covers, with the band finding particular inspiration on the emerging West Coast songwriter scene.

A rehearsal for one of their regular shows at Central London psychedelic redoubt Middle Earth brought an unusual suggestion – covering an unreleased Bob Dylan number in French.

Guitarist Richard Thompson recalls:  “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very cajun, French or Dylan.”

The ad hoc recording session for the suitably re-titled ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ found Trevor Lucas on triangle, and Richard Thompson on woozy accordion – the percussion “break” is a chair toppling over. 

With Sandy Denny on vocals the song became an early classic for the group, and went on to become a rare Top 40 excursion. Recorded for John Peel’s Top Gear programme, it would go on to feature on their album ‘Unhalfbricking’ – a key stepping stone for the group, as they adopted more folk and traditional song aspects into their output.

Featuring legendary fiddle player Dave Swarbick, ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ remains a much-loved recording for Fairport fans, and a Dylan curiosity in its own right.

Revisit the song below.

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