Unravelling the origins of Dylan’s rarely heard song “I must love you too much”

By Tony Attwood

Of all the Dylan-Springs songs this is the one I have always enjoyed – although not totally for its own inherent musical qualities.  I’ve only delayed reviewing it here because I am bemused by the lyrics.  By which I mean that the web sites that have the lyrics up, have lyrics that don’t have too much to do with the lyrics I know from the two recordings I have.

But I want to persevere with this, because I think I can trace the history of this song in a way that everyone else has missed, and when I do that, I sort of feel rather pleased with myself.

Even when I am hopelessly wrong.

Heylin helps me a little with the comment that “…it is not clear what the original lyrics are, at least as Dylan sang them at the September shows… he certainly sings about how his affair [with Springs] has cost him his car and his wife, and is now threatening his life, all because he loves her too much.”

Heylin also says that “Dylan kept tinkering with the verses even after he dropped the song from the set” (he only played it live twice, but he kept on using it for the sound checks).

And the biographer of songs adds he is unsure where the copyright version of the lyrics comes from.  “Lyrics” has a version which is credited to Dylan, Springs and Greg Lake (see below).  Heylin calls it “UnDylanesque Drivel” and makes a childish joke about brain surgery that is all too typical of the man, and not much help to the rest of us.

Unusually, Dylanchords.info doesn’t have the song listed, and nor does BobDylan.com so I am pretty much out here on my own.  The best one can say is that the versions that we have by the Band, and by Greg Lake, come from amendments upon amendments and probably their own bits added.

But as I suggested above, I have a theory.  Given that no one else has ever seemingly published much of an analysis of the song I may be totally off centre, but then it wouldn’t be the first time.  And besides I still think my view of “Too much of nothing” and TS Eliot is right, so I am emboldened to boldly go, as they say.

My view takes on board the interest in Dylan Thomas that Bob Dylan always had, and indeed as oft admitted.  Soon after he met his wife to be, Caitlin in 1936, Dylan Thomas started writing her letters – letters which are central to our understanding of the poet’s life and thinking at the time.

Before Christmas 1936 Thomas wrote to Caitlin, “Tell me everything; when you’ll be out again, where you’ll be at Christmas and that you think of me and love me.  I don’t want you for a day (though I’d sell my toes to see you now my dear, only for a minute, to kiss you once and make a funny face at you): a day is the length of a gnat’s life: I want you for the lifetime of a big, mad animal, like an elephant.

“You’ll never, I’ll never let you, grow wise, and I’ll never, you shall never let me, grow wise and we’ll always be young and unwise together . . . I love you so much, I’ll never be able to tell you; I’m frightened to tell you.”

In another letter he wrote, “I don’t want to write words, words, words to you; I must see you and hear you; it’s hell writing to you now . . . you are really my flesh and blood Caitlin whom I love more than anyone has loved anyone else. It’s nonsense me living without you, you without me: the world is very unbalanced unless in the very centre of it we stand together all the time in a hairy, golden, more-or-less unintelligible haze of daftness.”

From this the phrase “I love you so much” became central to the Dylan Thomas image, so much so that there are even posters that simply quote it…


You can buy the poster from Graffeg Publishing

Of course it is putting two and two together, but I think it is a viable theory.  Bob Dylan studied Dylan Thomas, and Bob knew that emotionally he was being pulled in every direction by Ms Springs, so there are a lot of links.

But there is also the music itself.  It is an endless driving force like a runaway bulldozer on heat, and that surely is what comes across in Dylan Thomas’ letters.

So, that’s where I think it comes from, and the frantic version of the song seems to be in keeping with the style of Dylan Thomas’ letters.

Here’s the Greg Lake version from his 1981 UK “Greg” album

And the The Band versionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raxKf6JQ5gk


Finally the lyrics from Genius.com

Well, my mama said the girl’s puttin’ you down
She’s gonna ruin my life
I must have loved you too much
(Must of loved you too much)
I must have loved you too much
(Must of loved you too much)

She said : ‘Boy, you’re gonna lose your home’
‘You better lose your world’
I must have loved you too much
(Must of loved you too much)
I must have loved you too much
(Must of loved you too much)

I can’t help it, I can’t help it, girl
I know I miss that old put you down
I just can’t do it, girl

[From here on I’ll cut the chorus – you’ll have got the hang of it by now]

Back way up if you carry me
You need me, girl, when I disappear

In a slanted way, frontwards and backwards
Anyway you just don’t hear

Well, I don’t know the way but I wish you would go
I wish that you’d get out of my sight

Anyway at all, just leave and go
I won’t ’til you leave me alone

Leaving aside the sound check versions Dylan played it twice – on 24 September 1978 and 29 September 1978.

As a PS there is a quiz with 12 quotes from Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas in which you have to guess which is which.  It helps pass the time when it is passing slowly.

Quiz: Bob Dylan or Dylan Thomas?

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2 Responses to Unravelling the origins of Dylan’s rarely heard song “I must love you too much”

  1. Robert says:

    Enjoy a typically volcanic rendition of this song by the short-lived (in several senses) Rick Dank0 – Paul Butterfield ensemble. This was typically the opening number on the notorious “Chemical Roulette Tour” of 1979-1980, a rare moment when The Band’s musical sensibility intersected with then-emerging PUNK, in the person and music of Rick Danko, of course.

  2. Robert says:

    here’s the link

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