The Turtles

It Ain't Me Babe

Song Review by

Bob Dylan was never at a loss for a putdown, and "It Ain't Me Babe," which appeared as the final track on his fourth album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, in August 1964, was one of his classic songs of criticism and rejection, in the tradition of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." The difference between it and Dylan's several earlier songs about romantic discord is that he gives no indication that he was ever interested in the person he is dismissing. Relentlessly through three verses, he explains that he is not the right partner for the person he is addressing; the lyric is basically a more detailed version of the title. Given the song's unromantic quality and its presence at the end of Another Side of Bob Dylan, an album that, from its title to its contents, represented a rejection of the political stance Dylan had previously espoused, some listeners have interpreted "It Ain't Me Babe" as a message from the singer to his audience, telling them that he is no longer willing to be the political spokesman, "the voice of his generation" that he had been cast as in the past year. "It Ain't Me Babe" quickly became a regular part of Dylan's concert repertoire in the summer of 1964. It earned its first cover version soon after being released on Another Side of Bob Dylan. Johnny Cash had scored a number one country hit earlier in 1964 with "Understand Your Man," a song credited to him as songwriter that bore a strong resemblance to Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." Cash stuck to Dylan's original for "It Ain't Me Babe," which he released as a single that he was accompanied on by his future wife June Carter's harmonies, in October. Cash became the first in a long line of people who felt required to improve upon the author's punctuation, however, as the title was printed "It Ain't Me, Babe." Eventually, even Dylan would give in to the insertion of the comma, and the song was listed in his songbooks and on his later albums as "It Ain't Me, Babe." The Cash recording reached the Top Five of the country charts and peaked halfway up the Top 100 of the pop charts. By that time, Joan Baez, who had duetted with Dylan on the song during the summer, had put out her version on her Joan Baez/5 album. In January 1965, Dylan began recording with rock instrumentation, and by the summer he was having hit singles, while the Byrds had topped the charts with "Mr. Tambourine Man." Suddenly, "folk-rock" arrangements of Dylan songs were all the rage, and the Turtles, formerly a surf band called the Crossfires, quickly cashed in, cutting a version of "It Ain' t Me Babe" (no comma) that used a 12-string guitar and a prominent tambourine, just as the Byrds had on "Mr. Tambourine Man." The result was a Top Ten hit. With that, "It Ain't Me Babe" became a folk-rock standard among Los Angeles popsters, quickly cut by the likes of Dino, Desi & Billy, Jan & Dean, and Nancy Sinatra. Dylan himself tried a rock arrangement of it at his concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York on August 28, 1965, but after that dropped it from his sets. He next performed "It Ain't Me Babe" at the Isle of Wight four years later, playing it solo. It was a regular part of his sets on his 1974 comeback tour, performed in a rock version with the Band, and was included (with the comma) on the subsequent live album Before the Flood. From then on, it was a regular part of his live repertoire; another concert version (this one performed solo with an enthusiastic crowd singing along) turned up on Real Live in 1984. At the Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash reprised their 1964 cover of the song.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
It Ain't Me Babe 1965 Sundazed 2:09
Golden Hits [White Whale] 1969 White Whale
Oldies But Goodies: Legendary Hits 1979
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:06
The Turtles' Greatest Hits 1984 Rhino 2:09
Back to the '60s: Rock 'n' Roll 1987
Various Artists
Arrival 2:08
No Image 1987 Rhino
Cruisin' Years 1988
Various Artists
Rykodisc 3:43
Classic Rock: 1965 - The Beat Goes On 1988
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:10
Golden Oldies, Vol. 9 [Original Sound 1989] 1989
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment
No Image 198?
Various Artists
Rhino
Oldies but Goodies, Vol. 4 1990
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:06
History of Rock, Vol. 7 [Collectables 1992] 1990
Various Artists
Collectables 2:05
30 Years of Rock N Roll: Happy Together 1995 Laserlight / Delta Distribution 2:09
The Story of Rock 'n Roll: 30 Years of Rock 'n Roll 1995 Laserlight / Delta Distribution 2:09
18 Free & Easy Hits from the '60s 1996
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 2:07
Rock n' Roll Reunion: Class of 65 1997
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:09
Rockin' Jukebox, 1965 1997
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings 2:10
Greatest Hits of the 60's: 1965 1998
Various Artists
CMM Music 2:07
Golden Hits [Delta Music] 1998 Delta Distribution 2:09
Most of the Turtles 1999 DJ Specialist 2:08
Back to Back 1999 Dominion / K-Tel Distribution 2:08
Happy Together: The Very Best of White Whale Records 1999
Various Artists
Varèse Vintage / Varese 2:14
4 Legendary Groups 1999
Various Artists
Double Play Records 2:09
Hits of the 60's 1999 Spectrum Music 0:00
Greatest Hits of the 60's, Vol. 5 2000
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:06
Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 4 & 5 2000
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:06
Battle of the Bands: The Turtles Golden Hits/The Lovin' Spoonful Greatest Hits 2000 Delta Distribution 2:09
Back 2 Back: Turtles and Jan & Dean 2000 Intercontinental Records 2:09
Hits of the 60's [Purple] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:08
Remembering 1965 2001
Various Artists
Dominion / K-Tel Distribution 2:08
Mega 60's 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 2:06
Solid Zinc: The Turtles Anthology 2002 Rhino 2:14
Jukebox Hits 1965 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:08
12 Hits of the '60s, Vol. 1: Five Star Collection 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:15
The Folk Years: Yesterday's Gone 2002
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:09
The Folk Years [Box Set] 2003
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:09
Lost Sounds of the Sixties 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:07
I Love Rock & Roll, Vol. 13 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:05
Happy Together: The Very Best of the Turtles 2004 Shout! Factory 2:09
Rock & Roll: The First 50 Years - The Mid-'60s 2004
Various Artists
Varèse Vintage / Varese 2:14
It Happened in the Sixties 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:09
No Image 2005 BMG Special Products / Shout! Factory 2:09
Four Decades of Folk Rock 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:08
Save the Turtles: The Turtles' Greatest 2009 Manifesto Records 2:13
No Image
Various Artists
Audio Fidelity
No Image
Various Artists