If you have never heard Dylan sing “Dirty Lie”, try it now. Fun, but maybe not original.

By Tony Attwood

At Verona in 1984 Bob was working on three new songs during the rehearsals and sound checks, undoubtedly trying to find his way into a new arena for his muse.

The whole journey of composition through that year was quite strange, and we can see it heading off in all sorts of different directions.  Not for the first time the direction Dylan chose was one that, perhaps for many of us, was not quite the right direction – but he’s always his own man.

Here’s the list of compositions for the start of 1984

So two blues, and one incomplete gentle ballad with a beautiful tune.   And then we got Dirty Lie, referred to in some places as Dirty Lies.

If you have never heard it I suggest you try it now – assuming the link below still works by the time you get there.  It is a song that at first listen surely seems worthy of inclusion on any Dylan album.  But, as we’ll see later, he felt it was not finished.  And I’m going to suggest that there was another reason for abandonment.

The problem with the song was “Stray Cat Strut” by “Stray Cats” released in 1981 in the UK – later in the US, but still two years before Dylan’s venture into the genre.

Dylan’s lyrics are more interesting, but the musical links between “Dirty Lie” and “Stray Cuts” are just too close to allow the song to be released.

Here is Dylan’s version….

And here’s a version of Stray Cat Strut.

Bob’s lyrics run…

Sometime she said  I’m slow
She said it about me but it’s too soon to know
Don’t mind leaving, wondering why
Whosoever told it, told a dirty lie

Well, I’ll tell you one more, to
Take what is you with you when you go
Now I’ll tumble, tumble and die
Whosoever told it, told a dirty lie

[Middle 8…]

Already seen your dirty mate
Sure find it harder to concentrate
I’ll be beloved, times too slow
But make sure you take her with you when you go

I’ll love it and leave it, the sun go down
Pray for the rain for miles around
I’ll never leave it to wonder why
Whosoever told you, told a dirty lie

Oh, they time you and I’m telling you
I’d be watching, baby no matter what you do
And I’ll leave alone, you’re far too slow
Just make sure you take her with you when you go

I want to leave, my feet’s soaking wet
I long to leave but I ain’t found you yet
And I know baby, telling you why
Whosoever told me, told a dirty lie

And that is where the story stopped until 2014 when the band Secret Sisters were working on their second album “Put your needle down”.

Apparently during the recording session their producer T Bone Burnett came in and announced that ‘Bob sent over some songs for you guys to listen to and choose one to finish,’

The Sisters said, “It was the weirdest thing ever to even be considered to finish it in a way that even remotely measures up to what he is known for. So we looked at four or five demos he’d sent, and ‘Dirty Lie’ really spoke to us.”

Now this sounds a little strange for two reasons.  One is because the recording we have of Dylan performing the song sounds quite finished, and the other is that one might have expected that the Sisters would know enough about popular music to know the song was a pastiche on Stray Cat Strut.

I have had it put to me that Stray Cat Strut was itself taken from a standard format (in the same sense that a 12 bar blues is a standard format) and so Bob’s reusing of the format was perfectly acceptable – maybe that’s the case, but I’m not wholly convinced.

Anyway, whatever the ladies did, they claim they finished off the song in about two hours.

Here is a link to their version, and the new lyrics that appeared…

Time’ll tell the seeds I sow
Got into trouble but you just don’t know
You thought you had me
You’re wondering why
Whosoever told you
Told a dirty lie

Now I’m leaving, what can you do?
Who made you think I wanna be with you
I never settle, I never cry
And whosoever told you
Told a dirty lie

Already I’m winning the game
Your heart’s gonna break
And it’s a crying shame
A lesson learned a long time ago
I make sure I take it with me when I go

You’ll be alone when the sun goes down
Toss your name in the list and found
I never loved you baby
My oh my
And whosoever told you
Told a dirty lie




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