Love minus Zero / No Limit

The second of the two love songs from the first side of “Bringing it all back home” is infinitely more complex than “She Belongs To Me”. While musically it seems to be straightforward, the lyrics (and indeed the very title, written originally as a fraction) suggest Dylan has most certainly travelled to another place.

The music works around the three major chords, and the melody flows across 16 bars of 4/4 in every verse. All very conventional.

But the lyrics are not as ever heard before. There’s a Zen-like opening (My love she speaks like silence) which shows us this is another place entirely from the conventional love song, and then we realise, there are no rhymes.

It was an approach to writing that Dylan rarely used – indeed writing this I am struggling to think where else he did use this approach. It seems strange within such a conventional musical base to make such a departure, and yet that is the point. The convention of everyday is undermined by the attitude of the individual, for that is what the song is about. “She knows there’s no success like failure and that failure’s no success at all” – a radical way (but nonetheless valid for all that) of seeing the world.

It is a song about the inner attitudes and visions of the singer’s lover which allow her to co-exist with this world without compromising her visions. The visions that she and the singer share are snapshot visions – exactly as the visions within the Gates of Eden are – but these are of a Zen-like acceptance of the world which allows one to see everything far more fully than is possible most of the time. There is no battle, because the world and the singer can coexist.

“She knows too much to argue or to judge.” You can’t get more Zen like than that.

Dylan has performed the song many times and it turns up on various compilation albums, but if you are fully familiar with the original and the variations at the live shows, listen to the Newport 65 version (its on YouTube) – perhaps the fastest he has ever played it, and an amazing contrast to other approaches. But it still works, it is still true.

This entry was posted in Bringing it all Back Home, Essential Bob Dylan, The Songs. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Love minus Zero / No Limit

  1. Facundo Maneiro says:

    This is my favorite lovesong. In fact, when i meet my wife, she made me feel exactly like i felt when i heard this song. Thank you for the explanation.

    P.D. Im sorry about my english!!! I´m from Argentine, i´m naturally spanish spoken.

  2. j. O'Connell says:

    Sometimes I get tired of Bob “never doing a song the same way twice” – it often backfires – but he always treats Love Minus Zero with the respect it deserves.

  3. Minko says:

    Speaking of different versions of this song, I find the rendition at the Budokan rather intriguing. This is the song-and-dance-man taking centre stage, not without a mischievous wink at the intellectual austerity that usually follows his trail in academia.

  4. M. Thomas says:

    “…and then we realise, there are no rhymes.”

    Are you sure there are no rhymes?

    Not even….

    Silence/Violence, Fire/Buy her
    Stations/Situations/Quotations, Wall/At all
    Dangles/Candles, Grudge/Judge
    Trembles/Rambles, Bring/Wing

    Great Dylan song.

Leave a Reply

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