Song of the Day #3,904: ‘Hard Times in New York Town (Demo – 1961)’ – Bob Dylan

My #3 album of 1991 is admittedly a bit of a cheat, as most of its songs were recorded decades earlier. But Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series, Vol 1-3: Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 marked the first time most of these outtakes and demos were officially released.

This three-disc set covered Dylan’s earliest years up through his spotty 80s output, and found hidden gems throughout. Incredible songs inexplicably left off of mediocre albums, alternate takes of all-time classics, demos recorded before anybody knew the name Bob Dylan.

Dylan’s Bootleg Series is up to 13 releases now, some more illuminating than others. But this first volume remains the most essential.

[Verse 1]
Come you ladies and you gentlemen, a-listen to my song
Sing it to you right, but you might think it’s wrong
Just a little glimpse of a story I’ll tell
’Bout an East Coast city that you all know well
It’s hard times in the city
Living’ down in New York town

[Verse 2]
Old New York City is a friendly old town
From Washington Heights to Harlem on down
There’s a-mighty many people all milling’ all around
They’ll kick you when you’re up and knock you when you’re down
It’s hard times in the city
Living’ down in New York town

[Verse 3]
Well, the weekend is strong and the rich and the poor
Get there together in roof an’ no more
Crowdin’ up ‘bove and crowdin’ down below
And someone disappears, you never even know
And it’s hard times from the country, livin’ down in New York town

[Verse 4]
It’s a mighty long ways from the Golden Gate
To Rockefeller Plaza ’n’ the Empire State
Mister Empire sets up as high as a bird
Old Mister Rockefeller never says a word
It’s hard times from the country
Living’ down in New York town

[Verse 5]
Well, it’s up in the morning’ trying’ to find a job of work
Stand in one place till your feet begin to hurt
If you got a lot o’ money you can make yourself merry
If you only got a nickel, it’s the Staten Island Ferry
And it’s hard times in the city
Living’ down in New York town

[Verse 6]
Mister Hudson come a-sailing down the stream
And old Mister Minuet paid for his dream
Bought your city on a one-way track
’F I had my way I’d sell it right back
And it’s hard times in the city
Living’ down in New York town

[Verse 7]
I’ll take all the smog in Cal-i-for-ne-ay
’N’ every bit of dust in the Oklahoma plains
’N’ the dirt in the caves of the Rocky Mountain mines
It’s all much cleaner than the New York kind
And it’s hard times in the city
Living’ down in New York town

[Verse 8]
So all you newsy people, spread the news around
You can listen to m’ story, listen to m’ song
You can step on my name, you can try ’n’ get me beat
When I leave New York, I’ll be standing’ on my feet
And it’s hard times in the city
Living’ down in New York town

One thought on “Song of the Day #3,904: ‘Hard Times in New York Town (Demo – 1961)’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    The fact that the Bootleg Series is up to 13 is a bit of absurdity, but I appreciate the revelation this first release must have been to ardent fans.

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