By Tony Attwood
I reviewed Tight connection to my heart which appeared on Empire Burlesque quite a while back, but only now as I come to sweeping up all the songs in chronological order that I have not yet looked at, am I coming to the original version: “Someone’s got a hold of my heart” which was recorded by Dylan for Infidels, then dropped and then re-written as Tight connection.
I have come up with something like four reasons why Dylan did this re-write, so here we go:
Reason 1: the long shot
Now this is a very very long shot, and I know I am going to get some comments relating to my imagination if not my sanity, but I wonder if the reason Dylan cut the first song from the Infidels album was because an executive in the record company told him there was already a song called “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” which from a titular point of view is a little similar to “Someone’s got a hold of my heart”. Of course I have no evidence but I can imagine our Bob getting into a huff and saying “ok if you think it is that is important, I’ll drop it.”
Now the original “Something’s gotten” song was written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook and was originally recorded by a band with the curious name David and Jonathan, (in point of fact Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook in disguise).
And maybe just maybe on hearing of this Bob was the one who thought, no I can’t do that, not just because he didn’t want his song confused with an English pop classic but maybe because Bob was fascinated in finding a pop band named after the heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, who formed a covenant as noted in the books of Samuel.
It was, after all, only 18 months or so since Bob stopped writing religious songs, and during the three years of that he had clearly done a significant amount of re-reading of the Old Testament he would have read as part of his Jewish upbringing.
Or maybe I am making all these connections up. But extending this further there is
Reason 2: The Gene Pitney connection.
Anyway David and Jonathan (the English pop group, not your actual heroes of ancient Israel) had two top 20 hits in 1966, and that might not have bothered the executives of the record company had the song not then been a hit for Gene Pitney in 1967. I have no idea if Bob had any interest in Gene Pitney but Gene was involved with the early Rolling Stones records as a pianist, and then later did some country music with George Jones. Bob Dylan knows his music and has a widespread interest and reverence for all brands of popular music, so it is just possible. Maybe not, but you never know.
The long and the short is that “Someone’s got a hold of my heart” resurfaced as Tight connection to my heart two years later but there is a widespread feeling that many of the best lines of the original were cut in the re-working of the song.
Reason 3: Getting the religious stuff out of the way
One of the factors in the recycled version is that it removed the more obvious religious references and these are the lines that are replaced with lines from The Maltese Falcon and Serpico. And again that made me think that there was some sort of outside factor that encouraged Dylan to act in this way. I doubt that it might have been a rejection of his earlier religious period, because although “Someone’s” was re-written in 1985 I don’t get the impression he had rejected his Christianity as such – more than he had moved on.
Would he remove Biblical references for film references out of some odd form of spite? Because he was angry at his past religious thoughts or those who had tried to use Dylan’s name to propagate their religious views? But has certainly always hated being labelled from the days of “protest singer” onward. Maybe that was it.
In 1981 (so at least a year before the original version of this song, and around two to three years before the revised version) Dylan stopped writing religious songs. The last, as I have noted in the 1981 sequence, were the rather moderate,Jesus is the one an Thief on the Cross.
So time had moved on, and Dylan had already taken a step or three away from overtly religious songs by the time he wrote the piece. He had taken many more steps by the time he re-wrote it. Thus another perhaps simpler explanation is that having written the song in the first place he felt that he was just harking back to the religious themes he had dropped a year or two earlier, and he really didn’t want to do any more of that.
But I am still troubled by one point in all this, that when Dylan came to change the lines he didn’t really re-think the lines – he did, as others have said, lift the from films. Now my argument here would be that if he felt that the original lines were artistically wrong he might well had then decided to re-write the whole song, taking time and care about the re-write But if he was just annoyed, either because he felt he had wasted a good tune on yet another religious piece, or because he had been told about the similarity of the title with a Gene Pitney song, he might well have felt inclined to throw in songs from the movies he had been watching.
In short, I can’t quite make out what was going on. And I’d also make the comment that none of the reviews I have read of this song delve into this issue of WHY. Why did Bob change a perfectly good and working song at this point. I am filling in a void here. If someone can come up with an alternative reason which holds water all well and good. But as far as I know, at the time I am writing this, no one has.
Someones got a hold of my heart starts
They say, “Eat, drink and be merry
Take the bull by the horns”
I keep seeing visions of you, a lily among thorns
Everything looks a little far away to me
Well, I had to move fast
And I couldn’t with you around my neck
I said I’d send for you and I did
What did you expect?
Then from Someone’s
Gettin’ harder and harder to recognize the trap
Too much information about nothin’
Too much educated rap
It’s just like you told me, just like you said it would be
And the re-write
My hands are sweating
And we haven’t even started yet
I’ll go along with the charade
Until I can think my way out
Reason 4: The artist being too close to his own work
I’ll leave you to make sense of it all, but here is one other point. Every artist is far closer to his/her work than the audience and the critics. I don’t know how many times I have heard these songs, but whatever it is, it will only be a fraction of the number of times Dylan explored them as he wrote them. Maybe he’d just got fed up with the original, and wanted to have a bit of fun doing a cut and paste job with lines from the movies.
That, in the end, could well be it.
“Someone’s Got A Hold On My Heart” was performed at New York’s Supper Club which you will know if you are a member of our Facebook discussion group.
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The Chronology Files
These files put Dylan’s work in the order written. You can link to the files here
- Dylan songs of the 1960s
- Dylan songs of the 1970s
- Dylan songs of the 1980s
- Dylan songs of the 1990s
- Dylan songs of the 21st century