By Tony Attwood
When I first looked at the list of songs Dylan wrote in 1985 I was, I must admit, rather bemused.
- Maybe Someday (Knocked out loaded)
- Seeing the real you at last (Empire Burlesque)
- I’ll remember you (Empire Burlesque)
- Trust Yourself (Empire Burlesque)
- Emotionally Yours (Empire Burlesque)
- Well well well
- Howlin at your window
- Tragedy of the trade
- Time to end this masquerade
- Waiting to get beat (Empire Burlesque outtake)
- When the night comes falling from the sky (Empire Burlesque)
- Never gonna be the same again (Empire Burlesque)
- Dark Eyes (Empire Burlesque)
You can see that at either end of the list are the songs he used for Empire Burlesque, with one Knocked Out Loaded song at the start of the year.
But what was going on in the middle of the year? Well in part it turns out Dylan was sketching out a couple of songs he couldn’t finish off (“Well, well, well” and “Howlin at your window” and then writing a couple of songs with Gerry Goffin, before turning his attention back to Empire Burlseque.
Until I started my journey through Dylan’s 1985 I have to say I utterly no idea what I would find in the middle of the year. And I am fairly certain if it hadn’t been for the blog I wouldn’t have a) realised that Dylan co-write “Well well well” (which I’ve owned on CD for years without realising it was a Dylan song) nor that he followed that up in 1985 with the outline of another little gem, “Howlin at your window” and a real bit of fun in Waiting to get Beat.
For both “Well well well” and “Howlin” Bob used the same trick – he dug out the old recordings of songs that had been laid down but never developed in 1985 at the Church studio in London, and then much later, and out of the blue, he approached a singer/songwriter whose work he liked and said, “here’s a song would you like to finish it off for me?” In both cases Dylan had written only the music when he handed it over.
Heylin suggests that Dylan gave this song to Jude Johnstone in 1993 while Dylan was in Austin Texas filming a TV special for Willie Nelson’s sixtieth birthday. There’s no confirmation that this is how it happened but it is as good a guess as any.
Jude Johnstone wrote the Grammy Award-winning song “Unchained” for Johnny Cash, as well as “Cry Wolf” for Stevie Nicks. She also worked with T Bone Burnett and Leonard Cohen, singing on their albums, and with the E Street Band.
Ms Johnstone chose not to include her co-creation with Dylan on her subsequent albums, and I can’t find any explanation as to why this happened, but fortunately for those of us interested in such matters Tim Hockenberry has recorded it for his album “Back In Your Arms” so now we know what it sounds like – and it most certainly is worth a listen or two. You can find the song here
Talking about her work with such luminaries of the rock business Ms Johnstone said in one interview that she met Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band’s sax player on an airplane when she was 18 years old, and he was taken by her songs even though these early pieces “were not quite as well-written. But there was something going on that he heard, and he just plucked me out of Bar Harbor, Maine and I never went back.”
Her songs have since also been recorded by Bette Midler, Johnny Cash, Jennifer Warnes, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and Trisha Yearwood, who recorded “The Woman Before Me.”
So another Dylan oddity. I hope you enjoy it, and if you are following the sequence, enjoying the trip of discovery through 1985.
- “Well, well, well.” If you have never heard this Dylan song, listen now
- Dylan’s songs in the order they were written.
- Index of over Dylan 300 songs reviewed on the site (just scroll down the page)
- Emotionally yours: the meaning behind the music and the lyrics
- Trust Yourself: the absolute renunciation of Dylan’s Christian era.
- “I’ll remember you”: how Dylan’s experiments brought him to this song
- Are You Ready?” The Christian side of Positively Fourth Street.
- Let Me Die in My Footsteps: was this Dylan’s first masterpiece?
- “What can I do for you?” Bob Dylan’s journey into pre-ordained certainty
- Cat’s in the well: Dylan’s games with nursery rhymes
- Exploding the myths about Bob Dylan, awards, prizes and speeches.