Bob Dylan

Maggie's Farm

Composed by Bob Dylan

Song Review by

"Maggie's Farm," one of Bob Dylan's early excursions into rock, has proven a reliable concert staple, and it enjoyed an unexpected burst of political relevance more than a dozen years after it was first performed. Dylan biographer Robert Shelton traces the origins of his 1961 song "Hard Times in the Country" to "Penny's Farm," a 1920s musical complaint about a rural landlord; it is also similar to Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett's 1934 song "Tanner's Farm." "Maggie's Farm" further adapts the theme into a surreal set of descriptions of Maggie, her brother, her father, and her mother in successive verses. In between the absurdities, the songwriter describes what sound like real problems. "I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin' me insane," he sings in the first verse, and given Dylan's prolific writing at the time, that's not hard to believe. In the last verse, he sings, "I try my best/To be just like I am/But everybody wants you/To be just like them," another comment that sounds sincere. Dylan recorded "Maggie's Farm" at one of his first rock sessions on January 14, 1965, backed by two electric guitarists, piano, bass, and drums, and it was released on his Bringing It All Back Home album on March 22. In England, where the song would turn out to have a special history, it was released as a single and made the Top 40. Dylan first performed it live on July 25 at the Newport Folk Festival. Backed by members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band as well as Al Kooper, he ignited a fire storm of reaction by playing rock at the staid folk festival, and "Maggie's Farm" opened his set. Similar problems were encountered the following month, when he played the song and other rock numbers at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York. "Maggie's Farm" did not figure in the shows on his world tour of 1965-1966. In 1967, Richie Havens braved the folkies' ire by covering the song on his Something Else Again album. When Dylan gave a one-off performance at the Isle of Wight in August 1969, "Maggie's Farm" was in the set, and he included the song on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 in 1971. When he returned to performing regularly in the mid-'70s, he occasionally performed "Maggie's Farm," and on the 1976 leg of his Rolling Thunder Tour unveiled a radical rearrangement of the song with a stop-and-start rhythm. This version is heard on the 1976 live album Hard Rain. An entirely different arrangement was worked up for the 1978 Far East Tour chronicled on Bob Dylan at Budokan. On May 4, 1979, the Conservative Party won a majority in the House of Commons in Great Britain, making its leader, Margaret Thatcher, prime minister. Thatcher's 11-and-one-half-year rule enraged left-leaning Britons, and "Maggie's Farm" became their anthem. In the fall of 1980, the Specials released the song as a single that made the U.K. Top Five. When Bob Dylan toured Europe in 1984, he played "Maggie's Farm" at Wembley Stadium on July 7, returning to the original rockabilly-style arrangement, and got a thunderous reception. This version can be heard on the subsequent concert album Real Live. The song remained a regular part of his concert repertoire thereafter.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bringing It All Back Home 1965 Columbia / Legacy 3:57
Don't Look Back 1967 Docurama
Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 1971 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 3:49
Masterpieces 1998 Columbia 5:23
The Essential Bob Dylan 2000 Columbia 3:57
No Image 2001 Sony Music Distribution 3:58
Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde on Blonde 2002 Sony Music Distribution
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Godfathers and Sons 2003
Original Soundtrack
Hip-O 3:55
Bob Dylan [Limited Edition Hybrid SACD Set] 2003 Legacy 3:57
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1-3 2003 Legacy / Columbia 3:53
Dylan 2007 Legacy 3:56
In Performance 2008 Hurricane International
Bruce Springsteen's Jukebox 2009 United States of Distribution / Chrome Dreams / United States 3:49
The Collection: Another Side of Bob Dylan/Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited 2009 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:57
The Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Sony Music 3:56
Music & Photos 2013 Columbia 3:52
The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 2013 Columbia Records / Sony Music 5:35
The Legendary Broadcasts: 1985 - 1993 Bob Dylan Archive 3:57