Coming back to the songs from the early albums after 40 years or more it is interesting to see how beautifully constructed they are. It is as if Dylan spent far more time on these early pieces, crafting and considering each word, melody line and chord change in a way that was lost once electrification came along.
It Ain’t Me Babe is a perfect example. The message is simple: you can’t rely on me, we can’t have a long-term relationship.
The song’s construction reflects this – the standard strophic approach, with the briefest of harmonica led interludes.
But the song takes a harsher turn than might have been expected when we get to the heart made of stone in the third verse. The woman’s demands have become excessive – “to come each time you call”. And there is no mutual exchange – she’s just looking for a “lover for your life and nothing more”.
It’s just three simple verses, and yet so immensely powerful in its timeless message. But perhaps above all else it is the fact that there is that harsh third verse that makes it clear that the failure to have the relationship is not the singer’s fault, but the woman’s. It’s not that he can’t give love, it is that she can’t. She wants a trophy, not a relationship. The song ends.