Tight connection to my heart

By Tony Attwood

It is not my job to summarise the commentaries from elsewhere about how this song has been re-written using lines from classic movies.  Many songwriters use lines from novels, movies, posters… its a well-worn convention.  The question is how much good do they get out of it.

And opinion here is divided.  Is there anything at all worth keeping here?  Or is it a great song that has benefited from the re-working.

The first problem is that this is most clearly a Dylan Song of Disdain, and as such it has to compete with some of the greatest pieces from the Dylan catalogue, not least Rolling Stone and 4th Street.  Compare “You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend” and “Once upon a time you dressed so fine” with…

Well, I had to move fast
And I couldn’t with you around my neck
I said I’d send for you and I did
What did you expect?

It would take a brave critic to suggest those four lines have anything of value to add to the oeuvre of disdain that Dylan created.  OK he’s getting out, just like he did on “One too many mornings” and “One of us must know” but this adds precious little if anything.

The plodding music – a song without any melody – it just doesn’t have anything to get it going.  Triteness is the word that springs to mind…

I’m gonna get my coat
I feel the breath of a storm
There’s something I’ve got to do tonight
You go inside and stay warm

Given that the chorus doesn’t have anything to say

Has anybody seen my love
Has anybody seen my love
Has anybody seen my love
I don’t know
Has anybody seen my love?

we are pretty much left on our own. it is hard to imagine it can get any worse but then we have not yet come to

In a town without pity
Where the water runs deep

Just in case it is not your area of interest, Town Without Pity was a 1961 movie in which American soldiers are accused of rape.

The only line that leaps out to me is “There ain’t nothin’ worth stealin’ in here” but nothing is done with it at all.

We plod on and get to the Memphis in June reference and then things get very strange.

There’s just a hot-blooded singer
Singing “Memphis in June”
While they’re beatin’ the devil out of a guy
Who’s wearing a powder-blue wig
Later he’ll be shot
For resisting arrest

Suddenly we are in a very different place – the freak show of much earlier Dylan epics in which strange characters crawl in and out of the woodwork for no particular reason other than the heightening of the surreal effect.  The trouble is that although the above section is utterly surreal in the manner of 115th dream but without the laughs, the music is still anything but surreal.  It doesn’t matter that none of it makes sense if some of it is interesting, but nothing is.  Not the music not the lyrics.

And then everything is thrown away with
Close up ain’t never that big

There’s the “I can’t be a Christian” final section and its all over.  The only thing left to sort is that utterly curious reference to Memphis in June which is an extraordinarily meandering piece by Hoagy Carmichel.  .

Dylan has his thing about Memphis.   Highway 61 (the blues Highway) runs through Memphis, he had the Memphis blues in the references to the WC Handy festival in Mobile… but this is a different Memphis.  This is Memphis as paradise.

Memphis in June
A shade veranda under Sunday blue sky
Memphis in June
And my cousin Miranda she’s making a blueberry pie

So for me nothing works.  The lines from the movies, the lack of melody, the accompaniment, the backing girls who suddenly are given an “Oh,,….” for no particular reason save that they had some “Oh” on tape… the Memphis stuff which is irrelevant to Dylan’s past and the Blues Highway.

But most of all, Dylan’s songs of disdain work.  This doesn’t for me.  Not one bit.


NEW: Considering a classification of Dylan’s work – Dylan’s Songs of Disdain

THE CONTENTS: This site reviews the music of Bob Dylan, taking into account both the music and the lyrics in each review that is given.

THE THEORY: The site is developing its own theoretical approach to the music of Bob Dylan.  You can read about that approach as it evolves here.

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2 Responses to Tight connection to my heart

  1. Emily says:

    First off- a caveat: this is my favorite Dylan song of all time, so I’m biased. Here’s why I love it… I think the overall theme is one or idealized (or archetypal?), and therefore doomed, love a mad and pointless world (“has anyone seen my love?” “I dunno” the backup singers respond). So it’s the strife between the fantasy and the reality. Mademe Butterfly was a doomed heroine, “what looks large from a distance, closed up ain’t never that big” is, in my mind, another reference to reality versus ideals. Even the film references could allude to preconceived notions of the perfect loves portrayed onscreen and how real relationships can never hold up to these popular-culture stories.
    Plus is song is a bit of a rework of the song “Someone’s Got a Hold of my Heart” on the Bootleg Series Vol 3 album: this version has no backup singers and seems more clearly a comparison between a real life relationship and our ideas of what love should be. This is how I see this song, and I think the beauty of Dylan are the multiple interpretations. So thank you for your analysis! 🙂

  2. Tom Palaima says:

    The supper Club versions of this song are magnificent. Far from lacking melody, Dylan shows an orchestral feel with a small band that is now heard in full glory on Shadows in the Night. Emily is right on target.

    The street violence visited on the man with a powder blue wig is hardly a freak show out-of-place insertion. It is the realie of life in places like NOLA and Memphis and LA, when people investigated gender roles in that period. The chorus “has anybody seen my love?” is a question we all ask eventually. Not only what is love, but where is it in particular especially if attached to a particular person.

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