“Coming from the heart”. Bob Dylan the Helena Springs searching for a way forwards?

By Tony Attwood

This is one of the outtakes that Heylin rates, and he says that a full band version of it was tried out at the time of Street Legal.  Helena Springs says it was the third song that she and Dylan wrote together.

When the Daily Telegraph published Heylin’s list of the “gems” that Dylan abandoned this comes in at number 13 and he says of it…

One of Dylan’s best love songs, co-written with backing singer Helena Springs. It was performed only once, at a concert in October 1978. It would be left to the Searchers to put it in the public domain.

I have to admit I don’t think that much of it.  The melody is (for me) just uninspiring step by step stuff, and the lyrics don’t take me anywhere new.

Of course I’m just a regular guy with an opinion, so my view is worth no more than anyone else’s but I just wish people could explain a little more as to what they find in a song like this.  Take the opening.

We have got to come together
How long can we stay apart?
You may get it maybe never
But it’s coming from the heart.

Your life is full of indecision
You can’t make up your mind.
We must get it in position
And move it on down the line.

‘Cause the road is long, it’s a long hard climb
I been on that road too long of a time
Yes the road is long, and it winds and winds
When I think of the love that I left behind.

To me, those words are not very inspiring, unless one has a would-be lover and one is looking for a song to sing to him/her.  In such circumstances the song becomes less important and it is swished away by the emotion.

But looked at in the fresh light of day… it still doesn’t work for me.  And when the melody just works its way along in a manner I can only call “plodding” I am left looking for something else, anything else in fact, to make me want to play this again.

And maybe there an awareness in Dylan that this really wasn’t where it was at, as they say, since although the song was included in early versions of Lyrics it was then removed.

For what it is worth, my guess is that Dylan was still hypnotised by what happened at the end of the era of writing with Jacques Levy – a period that could bring lines such as

At the corrida we’ll sit in the shade
And watch the young torero stand alone
We’ll drink tequila where our grandfathers stayed
When they rode with Villa into Torreon.


Up on the white veranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her passport shows a face
From another time and place
She looks nothing like that

It seems simplistic to say it, but maybe Dylan forgot that Levy was a) a consummate lyricist who could take rock music to places it had previously never even imagined existed, b) it took Levy and Dylan several goes at it, before they really got things to work between them – and even then they still managed to write a couple of pieces that were, perhaps, not 100%.

Coming from the heart works, I think, if it means something to the listener, whereas the songs from the Levy period work for anyone willing to be blown away by the wash of the words and the images they create.  If we take

Please don’t talk about tomorrow
I’m really not one to care
This world is filled with too much sorrow
That nobody’s heart should bear.

it really doesn’t have anything like that sort of power that Levy could bring – or indeed Dylan could bring much of the time.

And I have the notion that Dylan knew that, not least because the song that he wrote next, after “Coming from the Heart” contains the lines

I got a new pony, she knows how to fox-trot, lope and pace
Well, I got a new pony, she knows how to fox-trot, lope and pace
She got great big hind legs
And long black shaggy hair above her face

I am not saying that is great literature, but it is fun, challenging, and within the context of a standard 12 bar blues, it is utterly arresting.

In Coming from the Heart, even the images that Dylan loves, such as the river, get stuck in the everyday

Please, please give me indication
Stop and talk to me
Like a river that is flowing
My love will never cease to be.

Dylan never has to be complicated to achieve something interesting, and normally an image takes him in much more interesting directions.  Consider

Daylight sneakin’ through the window
And I’m still in this all-night café
Walkin’ to and fro beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin’ slow
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow

So no, sorry, this doesn’t work for me.


The reports suggest that when Street Legal was recorded Dylan knew exactly which songs he wanted to use, and this view suggested that although three songs with Helena Springs were also recorded during these sessions (including “Coming from the Heart”), they were thus not outtakes in the sense that they were ever seriously considered for inclusion.

But if you disagree with my entire view of this song and want more, there is more… for the Searchers recorded it.

There is a spot of interest in the Searchers use of this song, which perhaps backs up my view a little.

The Searchers were a Merseybeat pop band of the 1960s, considered by some to be second only to the Beatles (if you like that sort of music).

Like so many groups, they continued (with changing lineups) to tour in the 1970s to smaller audiences but then in 1979 got a new record contract, after their shows had started to get some critical acclaim, not least as they moved away from the Mersey Sound into new areas (their version of ‘Southern Man’ being particularly noted).

The first of two albums under this new deal (rather boringly called The Searchers) was welcomed by critics but got no air play and so was withdrawn, and then released again as a new version of the same album with a new title.  The original version (The Searchers) is the album that has the version of “Coming from the Heart” on it.  In the revised version (Golden Hits)  ‘Coming From The Heart’ was dropped and several new songs were put in.

The two albums (or three albums if you consider the re-worked version of The Searchers into Golden Hits, to be a different album) sold very well at the gigs, and kept the band going on the circuit but never brought them a return to stardom.

So why did “Coming from the Heart” get the chop?  Maybe because it didn’t fit with the new album title.  Or maybe it was the recording. You might decide if you play the link above.

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2 Responses to “Coming from the heart”. Bob Dylan the Helena Springs searching for a way forwards?

  1. Dearbhla Egan says:

    Kind of feel a bit brazen leaving a response here about a song I have never heard until the last few minutes but, for what it’s worth, I totally agree with you Tony. Both the Dylan / Spring’s version and, in particular, the Searchers version, reminded me of nothing more than the sound of those awful hymns we were forced to sing at mass when we were children whilst being accompanied by a church organist who would make your hair curl. The hymns might be different but it sounded like every melody was a version of the melody in this song and ‘plodding’ is not the word for it. There is also a really bad connection between what Dylan is doing, the plodding, and the sound of Spring’s voice overpowering everything. Would have to say, even without this review and left to my own devices, this is not a song I would ever want to return to. Incidentally, I rarely leave comments and am well aware of the fact that a lot of visitors to this site live and breathe Dylan so if you plan to respond to my response, please do so kindly. I am tired.

  2. Kingsley Bray says:

    sounds to me like writing a song with Helena, and putting his moves on her at the same time

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