Someday Baby: Why didn’t Dylan choose the TTS version for the album?

By Tony Attwood

My neighbour Pat and I were debating Dylan (as we do) last night and discussing the issue of which of the versions of Can’t Wait is the best.  I think the Time out of Mind version works far better than the Tell Tale Signs one.  Pat disagreed with ne (which is pretty much the norm) and was horrified to find he actually agreed with Clinton Heylin on this one.

And that got me thinking about Someday Baby, where the same issue arises.  The “official” version is considered by many to be less interesting than the “masterpiece” Tell Tale Signs.

I’ve already reviewed Someday Baby but for reasons that are now not clear to me, I didn’t do a “contrast and compare” with the Tell Tale Signs version.  So here we go.

As with Can’t Wait, the lyrics and the musical style both change between the two versions of the song.  The TTS version of Someday Baby is much more restrained, driven by a completely different rhythm.  Indeed we can tell that it is the rhythm that drives this, by the fact that unusually for Dylan, the drums come in first and the band follows behind.

This alternative laid back version starts with the same lyrics as the Modern Times version…

I don’t care what you do, don’t care what you say
Don’t care where you go, or how long you stay
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more. 

The second verse has a slight modification

You take my money and you turn me out
You fill me up with self-doubt
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.

But if we are used to the Modern Times version we are hardly noticing the words, because musically this is such a different version of the song.  Where, we are wondering, is it going to go because this is powerful indeed.   The essence of “self-doubt” absolutely drips out of the way Dylan sings the words.  Here we believe it in a way that isn’t delivered on Modern Times.

And then we get the explosion in the “potentially dangerous” line. Have you heard that before, even in the blues?  And this takes us into a completely different song.

You made me eat a ton of dust
You’re potentially dangerous and not worthy of trust
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more. 

And the variations continue with another verse that didn’t make the MT version, and again we have a really interesting emphasis by Dylan on one word, in this case… Day.

Little by little, bit by bit
Every day I’m becomin’ more of a hypocrite  
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.

This is all fabulous stuff, an original interpretation of a classic concept.  So why was it not put on the Modern Times album where many more people would hear it?

We find the answer in the instrumental break – in fact in each instrumental break.  It comes after the “hypocrite” verse and the lead guitar starts out completely in keeping with the song itself.  The first four bars are fine, but the moment the guitarist moves up to the higher notes he utterly loses it.  It sounds as if he doesn’t know what Dylan wants and he’s almost trying to hide, he’s off the beat and repeating the same phrase.  It is a tragedy within such a performance.

The singing thankfully returns with a variation on a verse in Modern Times followed by a completely different verse.

You’ve got my mind tied up in knots
I just keep recyclin’ the same old thoughts
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.     

When I heard you was cold, I bought you a coat and hat    
I think you must have forgotten ’bout that
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.

The whole presentation other than the guitar is wonderful.  It is that old blues things – when I am doing good things for you, they count and you have to repay them.  But of course that is not what life is and that is where the blues is always a misrepresentation of relationships.  Good people help others because that is what you do. Not for repayment or reward.   Just because you’ve been kind to a person it doesn’t mean that person owes you.

Dylan gets this perfectly, and the laid back snake-like performance adds to the menace of this old blues “she done me wrong” misogynistic vision that is always there.  His words, his delivery, the laid back band – it all gives a deep sense of menace.  And then…

Then another guitar break, and all we get is the mess we had last time.

As the song continues and the darkness within the lyrics is increasingly frightening.  The singer has disintegrated as a person and falls backwards into despair.  So when we have

You say you need me, how would I know?
You say you love me, but it can’t be so
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.

we start to become deeply worried about the anger inside this cold unmoving exterior, this singer who shows no emotion.  And our fear is justified…

I don’t wanna brag, but I’ll wring your neck
When all else fails, I’ll make it a matter of self-respect
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.

This verse is so frightening, because it is so matter of fact, with no anger, no emotion.  The blank eyes of the killer.  And he is talking “self-respect”, that terrible excuse for appalling behaviour – “I had to do it, she took away my self-respect.”   That is so chilling.

And if that were not enough the excuses go on

Livin’ this way ain’t a natural thing to do
Why was I born to love you?
Someday baby, you ain’t gonna worry po’ me any more.

It ain’t my fault, it is just natural, I was born this way, it’s the natural thing to do.

Goodness this is one hell of a song – an utter masterpiece in fact – but utterly ruined by inept lead guitar work that destroys everything.  Just listen again to that first guitar break when he does the descending line of notes in playing the chorus line.  It sounds like an inept 16 year old with his first guitar playing gooey pop, and makes the take utterly unusable.  What a tragedy.

If only Dylan had gone back and re-recorded the piece with these lyrics in this style but with proper guitar solos.  If only.

Link to all the songs on Untold Dylan

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