by Tony Attwood
The review of Never Be the Same Again in Heylin’s “Still on the Road” has gained a certain notoriety in one or two quarters (although I suspect 99.999% of fans just ignore Heylin and get on with enjoying Dylan).
Heylin describes this as “his worst excuse for a love song this side of Nashville,” and “a sorry apology for a song”.
As always though Heylin comes up with a bit of trivia – the fact that “I don’t mind leaving, I’d just like to be my idea” comes from the movie “Shane”. Not that this makes any difference but yes, it is quite nice to know.
Dylan dropped the song from the tour very quickly and then returned to it nine years later and then after 25 more plays gave up on it. And indeed I would never suggest it is one of Dylan’s better songs that deserves many more outings – but it certainly isn’t worthy of the dismissal that Heylin gives it.
However in my personal view there is a serious problem – and that is the middle 8, which has the line that Heylin quotes. The problem is the line and its very forced rhyme just doesn’t work well, and this detracts from the song itself.
But extract those four lines and what you have is an interestingly tangential take on the traditional love song.
Just consider the last verse
You taught me how to love you, baby
You taught me, oh, so well
Now, I can’t go back to what was, baby
I can’t unring the bell
You took my reality
And cast it to the wind
And I ain’t never gonna be the same again
and consider also what other pop song composers can do that and make it work. Not many I think. The phrase “unring the bell” comes from American legal cases – I have never heard it in Britain – and relates fairly obviously to the impossibility of unsaying what has just been said. As when the judge says that evidence that has been heard is inadmissible and should not influence the jurors when making a ruling.
What is also worth contemplating is the perfect use of the F6 chord at the start of the second half (“You touched me…” in the first verse, “you took my reality” here). Very unusual and very effective.
And we are left trying to decipher what Dylan actually meant in such a song with the “scream” reference in the first verse.
If you want to give the song another try, here’s a version that I would recommend. It is over six minutes long, but really I think it is worth the wait.
Just try and ignore that middle 8 if you can. And while you are at it, ignore Heylin’s comments too. The trouble is, once you’ve seen what he says, it is hard to unring him too.
But let me try and throw in something else. Here is Dylan’s output at this time – three Empire Burlesque songs in a row.
Even if you agree with Heylin about how awful this song is, just remember what came either side of it, and consider it just an in-between sketch. Just a bridge between the night coming falling and the utterly wonderful “Dark Eyes”. If “Never gonna be” is the price to pay for “Dark Eyes” I would pay it a thousand times over.
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