Thunder on the Mountain

"Thunder on the Mountain" is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in 2006 as the first track on his album Modern Times. Like much of Dylan's 21st century output, he produced the song himself under the pseudonym Jack Frost.

"Thunder on the Mountain"
ThunderontheMountainsingle.jpeg
European CD single cover
Song by Bob Dylan
from the album Modern Times
ReleasedAugust 29, 2006
RecordedFebruary 2006
StudioClinton Recording, New York City
GenreFolk rock, Rock and roll, Rockabilly
Length5:55
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Dylan (as Jack Frost)
Modern Times track listing

The song had considerable success, garnering more airtime on U.S. radio than any track on the album next to "Someday Baby". Even though it was not released as a single in America, it still managed to spend nine weeks on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs chart, peaking at #22 in January 2007.[1] It was released as a single in various European countries in late 2006 and early 2007.[2]

Composition and recordingEdit

In their book Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon note that, lyrically, the song juxtaposes references to religion and romance. They describe the music as having "a touch of Chuck Berry's style, particularly in the guitar licks and riffs reminiscent of 'Let It Rock'" and claim that "(t)his rock song is a good way to open Modern Times, even if its overall style is fairly standard. The sound and production are similar to that of Love and Theft, and Dylan's new musicians are excellent".[3] The song is performed in the sounding key of B-flat major.[4]

Critical receptionEdit

Andy Greene, writing in Rolling Stone, where the song placed ninth on a list of "The 25 Best Bob Dylan Songs of the 21st Century", noted an ironic counterpoint between the song's upbeat sound, "somewhere between rockabilly and Western swing", and its apocalyptic lyrics: "the song has some not-atypical judgment-day-is-coming, woe-to-mankind overtones, but this time Dylan seems pretty cheerful about it all".[5]

Spectrum Culture included the song on a list of Dylan's "20 Best Songs of the '00s". In an article accompanying the list, critic John Paul praised Dylan's lyrics for "such brilliant verbal choices as rhyming 'sons of bitches' with 'orphanages' and the made-for-each-other couplet, 'I got the pork chops, she got the pie/ She Ain’t no angel and neither am I'...Nearly half a century into his legendary career, he still managed to keep people scratching their heads while tapping their feet and nodding along to the infectious flow of his delivery and impeccable backing musicians".[6]

Cultural referencesEdit

Dylan references his former residence, Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan and a former resident, Alicia Keys. He claims to have been inspired to write the song after admiring Keys' performance at the 2002 Grammy Awards.[7] These lines, however, are themselves a veiled reference to the Memphis Minnie song "Ma Rainey".[8]

The line "I've been sitting down studying The Art of Love" is the first of many references to the ancient Roman poet Ovid on Modern Times.[9]

The song is studded with biblical allusions: The title, for example, evokes the divine presence at Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus while the line "Today's the day I'm gonna grab my trombone and blow" suggests Dylan himself playing the role of the archangel Gabriel blowing his horn.[10]

Music videoEdit

 
Screen capture from the "Thunder on the Mountain" music video

An official music video was made for the song, which consists entirely of archival footage of many of Dylan's film and television performances over the decades - from the mid-1960s through the early 21st century. The video premiered at Slate on December 8, 2006. Popsugar called the video "a great trip, chronicling the many guises of the formerly nostalgia-phobic Bob over the years".[11]

Live PerformancesEdit

As of December 8, 2019, the date of Dylan's most recent concert, he has performed the song live 788 times. This makes it the most frequently played song from Modern Times by a significant margin.[12] The live debut occurred at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington on October 13, 2006 and the last performance (to date) took place at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on December 8, 2019.[13]

Notable coversEdit

The song was covered by The Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh and The Allman Brothers Band's Warren Haynes at a live charity concert benefiting the Music for Youth Foundation at Lincoln Center in New York City on November 9, 2006.[14]

American rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson recorded a version of the song, produced and featuring lead guitar by Jack White, that was released as a single and on Jackson's The Party Ain't Over album in 2011. In Jackson's version, the name "Jerry Lee" was substituted for "Alicia Keys".[15] According to Jackson, it was Dylan's idea that she record the song: "Jack and Bob have, I think, a rather special relationship, so Jack wanted me to do a song of (Dylan's), and he called him and asked which song would he choose? And Bob Dylan is also a fan of mine, which I wasn't aware of, and he said, 'Well, it has to be "Thunder on the Mountain". There's just no doubt about that'".[16]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "Bob Dylan". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  2. ^ "Singles All Formats International 2000-09". searchingforagem.com. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  3. ^ Margotin, Philippe; Jean-Michel Guesdon (2015). Bob Dylan : all the songs : the story behind every track (First ed.). New York. ISBN 1-57912-985-4. OCLC 869908038.
  4. ^ "Thunder on the Mountain | dylanchords". dylanchords.com. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  5. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Jon Dolan,Patrick Doyle,Andy Greene,Brian Hiatt,Angie Martoccio,Rob Sheffield,Hank Shteamer,Simon; Dolan, Jon; Doyle, Patrick; Greene, Andy; Hiatt, Brian; Martoccio, Angie; Sheffield, Rob; Shteamer, Hank; Vozick-Levinson, Simon (2020-06-18). "The 25 Best Bob Dylan Songs of the 21st Century". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-12-10.
  6. ^ "Bob Dylan's 20 Best Songs of the '00s". Spectrum Culture. 2020-12-04. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  7. ^ Margotin, Philippe; Guesdon, Jean-Michel (2015). Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. Hachette UK. ISBN 9780316353533.
  8. ^ "Pressing On, after the thunder, a declaration | Untold Dylan". Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  9. ^ "Bob Dylan: Modern Times". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  10. ^ Lieb, Michael; Mason, Emma; Roberts, Jonathan (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible. OUP Oxford. p. 365. ISBN 9780199670390.
  11. ^ Entertainment (2006-12-11). "Music Video: Bob Dylan, "Thunder on the Mountain"". POPSUGAR Entertainment. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  12. ^ "Bob Dylan Tour Statistics | setlist.fm". www.setlist.fm. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  13. ^ "Setlists | The Official Bob Dylan Site". www.bobdylan.com. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  14. ^ "Bob Dylan Tribute: Great Tunes, Less Mumbling". glidemagazine.com. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  15. ^ "Wanda Jackson "Thunder on the Mountain"". 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Wanda Jackson 'Wasn't Sure' Jack White Collaboration Would Work on 'Party Ain't Over'". Billboard. Retrieved 2021-03-03.

External linksEdit