One more night: the Dylan song no one reviews

By Tony Attwood

It is difficult to find anyone who has anything much to say about One More Night from Nashville Skyline, and in a sense one can see why.  It is a twinkly country song with a message that has been given a billion times before.

But this is Dylan, so there is still time for a little extra along the way, if we want to take a look.

Now it obviously is a song that is firmly fixed in one of the triumvirate of pop song themes – lost love (the other two being love and dance).

But what makes it interesting is just how completely Dylan does that country music thing of utterly detaching the meaning of the lyrics from the music – something he never did in any of his earlier years of writing.  Compare and contrast for example with “Like a Rolling Stone” where you just feel the meaning of the lyrics via the music from the very start.

But for this approach Dylan needs country music.  Although it is possible, of course, that Dylan is making fun of country music which so often seems to deliver lyrics that revolve around appalling and awful situations (being in prison, death, suicide, losing a lover…) with that same inevitable happy spring in the musical accompaniment, I don’t think this was in his mind at all.  I think he wanted to write a standard country song.

Musically the song is like most country music, it goes mostly nowhere with standard guitar work staying the same from start to finish, but the middle 8 does cause us a spot of surprise.  (Personally I just don’t think Dylan could release any song that didn’t have some sort of surprise in it somewhere.  Not even a pure country song).

And we should note that not all of Dylan’s songs from this post-crash (or if you don’t believe in the crash, post-retreat) era are as straightforward as this.  Lay Lady Lay and I threw it all away are much more emotional and real-world.  And at the end of 1969 Dylan could write Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You with exactly the same sort of music, but make sense of it.  This was achieved through the fact that there is that bit more to the music, and the lyrics are positive.  Thus on “Tonight” music and lyrics are as one which is not the case here.

For here he sings “But tonight no light will shine on me” as if he is quite happy about it – jolly even.

So perhaps the best I can say is that the song takes Country Music and does what Country Music does – keeps the country beat bopping along no matter what the song is about.  It goes nowhere the twinkle twinkle guitar work is the same at the start as the end.

Indeed this is what the conventions of country music demands, and it is strange that Dylan feels happy to fit into these demands given that he was the man who showed us that pop songs don’t have to be two and a half minutes long, can be full of disdain, can be surreal in their content, can have a format of their along to equal anything the beat poets did…  But here he takes the format and does all that the format demands.

And still each time I hear the song I keep thinking, “he’s having a laugh”.  Maybe that’s unfair, but I can’t get it out of my mind.

Musically the verse is dead simple – a three chord tune in C.   But the middle 8 takes us by surprise, for the simplicity of the whole piece does not prepare us for the introduction of other chords and a quite different melody line but that’s what

I was so mistaken when I thought that she’d be true
I had no idea what a woman in love would do!

gives us as it descends over G F C D minor.  It is surprising because the verses are so predictable, so much what we might expect line by line, that what we anticipate here is most certainly not the sudden introduction of the minor chord, but rather maybe G F C G – in other words the chords Dylan gave us in the verse but in another order.  That is what the convention demands.  That is Dylan having a laugh, in my estimation.

The second line of the two line middle 8 (the bridge as it is sometimes called) does get back towards convention with its sequence of rising chords – C Em F G) but we are still left wondering what Dylan was doing there and where he is going.

Either he was larking about, just having fun, saying to us “you thought you knew where this was going but you were wrong” or else he just experimented, wrote the piece in ten minutes and left it at that.

And in some ways why not?  It’s a fun jolly tune, very singable, very easy to get the hang of, and with dead simple words that have nothing to do with the music.  Why not throw a brick through the window half way through, just to make sure we are still awake?  Just to remind us this is Bob Dylan.

From the off we realise there is nothing happening

One more night, the stars are in sight
But tonight I’m as lonesome as can be
Oh, the moon is shinin’ bright
Lighting ev’rything in sight
But tonight no light will shine on me

It’s Presley’s “My baby left me” but without the fun and bounce and raw energy.

However Dylan is too much of an established and practiced writer just to leave it at that.  Because not only has “my baby left me” but lo and behold, it was HER FAULT.  Now that’s the Dylan that we know.

I just could not be what she wanted me to be

And where have we heard that before – that rejection of the demand from everyone to be the man, the musician, the writer, the lover that the recipient of the message wants.   He is, in fact, defiant.

I will turn my head up high
To that dark and rolling sky

And yes he was let down.  Let us be under no illusion – it was ALL HER FAULT as he reminds us later…

I was so mistaken when I thought that she’d be true
I had no idea what a woman in love would do!

He wanted her to stay (I didn’t mean to see her go) here we are again with another perfidious woman.  It is in fact the complete and absolute antidote to I threw it all away where it is his fault.

Interestingly the result is the same whoever’s fault it is.  He ends up feeling miserable.

It’s a tough life Bob.

All the songs reviewed on this site

Dylan’s songs in chronological order

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *