Who loves you more? One of Dylan’s not quite lost songs from the Empire Burlesque recordings

By Tony Attwood

If you have been reading any of the other reviews of the 1984 songs of Dylan you will know that I am presenting them as part of an attempt by Dylan to find himself a new muse, a new direction, a new source of inspiration in his post-Christian era – or at least in his post Overtly-Christian era.

He started the year with the wonderful I once knew a man, a song of which we have no real knowledge of its origins (although many have suggested otherwise) and went through the experimental Drifting too far from shore and ultimately into the equally experimental New Danville Girl / Brownsville Girl before finding Something’s Burning Baby which led back into the mainstream of Empire Burlesque.

But what happened in between the wonderful “I once knew a man” and “Something’s Burning” is very interesting, for it was an eccentric and strange journey.

Straight after “I once knew a man” we have (at least in terms of songs that we can find recordings of) “Who Loves You More” – which is the song under investigation here.


It is a blues with an extra minor chord section added in a couple of places in each verse, as a way of extending the verses in order to accommodate the desire for change and extension, and as such there is no experimentation in the music: it is all in the lyrics.

“I once knew a man” tries the same sort of thing, but in a different way.  That song sticks to the 12 bar format (although greatly elongated) and makes its experimental difference through all the additional lyrics in the first section of each verse.   Here the extension is in the structure, to take us away from 12 bars and make each verse longer.

Although the song is described in many accounts as being “a virtually finished take” I am not at all sure of this, because the lyrics (to me, and as it turns out, also to Heylin) appear to be all over the place.   Now it is possible that this is what Dylan was trying to do – after all that is where he ended up with Brownsville Girl, with perspectives and timings changing throughout the song.   Here it is something different however, because Dylan is seemingly just pouring out random lines in relation to his love for the woman.  Indeed it is almost as if he had a collection of phrases written on cards, and he then mixed them all up, pulled them out in random order, and then made a few adjustments to ensure that there were some rhymes – or at least part rhymes.

Listening to the piece now, I am reminded again of the Dylan Thomas line to “I love you so much I’ll never be able to tell you” which I believe was the source for the Dylan song “I must love you too much“.

In my review of that song I quoted from Dylan Thomas’ letters to his wife-to-be and I think here we have Dylan once again turning back to that source.  Here is a brief review of the situation.

In 1936 Dylan Thomas wrote to his new lover, “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.”

And later 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.”

This is still my source code for what is going on with Who Loves You More.  Dylan is experimenting with using words in all shapes and forms as an attempt to describe events in a non-chronological, indeed non-logical way, and I am not at all sure that we have anything approaching a final version of a song here – rather a collection of lines waiting to be refined and put into a new (not necessarily logical) order.

Here are the lyrics…

Oh, happy I, I mean you for me
‘Cause I’m true
But I know in the end
When the clock’s worked through and through

Because I know loving means
Nearly everything that I need
Who loves you more, who loves you true?
Oh, baby I do.

Middle 8 :-

    Don’t you know that I’m beside
    But I need to know if dark and wide
    ‘Cos a door is ajar and it leads to the rock I know
    Baby before you go

Say that I all over you
And you know it, you know it too
So honey me, offer me, I’ve been through and through
Oh yeah, but if you, because

I wish to know, and I didn’t care
You’re the answer to my every prayer
Who loves you more, who loves you true?
Oh baby you know I do.

[Instrumental break – middle 8]

Yes if you do well, up and out the door
I’m said she’s there just like before
Who loves you well, who’ll take you there?
Who’ll watch you through, I will watch you through

And I shall fulfill my soul, if you’re the one
Face the day, and the brightening sun
Who loves you more, who loves you true?
Oh baby I do.

[Instrumental break – middle 8]

Well, you’re perfect to me, ah can’t you see
And I’ll bring you there, for you to be
All being well, holding up and I thought you should know
Oh baby before you go.

Talk to me, say it well
‘Cause you’re the answer to my every prayer
Who loves you more, who loves you true?
Oh baby I do.

[Instrumental break – middle 8]

Stick by me, stick by my bones
Till you get aged, until you get old
Stick by my closer, tell me one I put, I know it’s true
And I’ll take you through, oh yes…

But, swear by me, fortune and bold
Climb in your head deep in your heart and soul
Who loves you more, who loves you true?

Oh Baby I do

On the recording of the song that has survived  it is reported we have Bob Dylan on piano/synth, Ronnie Wood on guitar, John Davis on bass, and Anton Fig on drums

It is a curious construction, in that the middle 8 turns up repeated times but only with lyrics on the first time around.

I can’t see any justification for the claim that this song is finished,  not least because I don’t think it works as a set of thoughts pouring out in all directions at once.

Meanwhile elsewhere the www.ourwalrus.com website suggests that “Who Loves you More” is based directly on the song “Straight As in Love” which itself was based on the Johnny Cash 1956 song of the same name, but I can’t see this at all.  Sorry, but I can’t even see the starting point of that idea, so I don’t take it on board.

I’m left with an extended blues, and a composer’s desire to find a new way of writing the blues.  It is a sketchbook song at this stage.  It could have become more, but even in the form that we have it, it provided information and ideas that led Dylan onwards in his quest to find a new muse.

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