“Someone’s got a hold of my heart”: why Dylan might have decided to re-write it.

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

The re-write

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.

The Discussion Group

We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase in, on your Facebook page or go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/254617038225146/  It is also a simple way of staying in touch with the latest reviews on this site and day to day news about Dylan.

The Chronology Files

These files put Dylan’s work in the order written.  You can link to the files here

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29 Responses to “Someone’s got a hold of my heart”: why Dylan might have decided to re-write it.

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    To ascribe a meaning to a song by pointing to evidence one finds contained within the lyrics themselves is one thing; to go outside the song and impute motives to the author as to why he wrote or rewrote it, with little or no evidence for back-up, is quite yet another.

  2. Tony Allen says:

    I read somewhere that a very senior executive of the record company told Bob in no uncertain terms to cut out the religious stuff because of declining sales.

  3. Larry Fyffe says:

    Now with “Getting the religious stuff out”, Mr, Attwood, you seem to be onto something: The lyrics clearly say the drifter wants to escape yet again because he does not feel that he should be where he is, Stuck Inside Christianity with the Judaic Blues Again. There must be some way out of here…”Until I can think my way out”.

    “My hands are sweating/
    And we haven’t even started yet”
    (Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart)

    reminds one very much of:

    “Oh the benches were stained with tears and perspiration”
    (Day Of The Locusts)

    A bit of humour: perhaps Dylan is waiting for the God of Moses to send a plague of locusts upon those who have caused his discomfort.

  4. Larry Fyffe says:

    Sorry…Tight Connection To My Heart, not Someone’s…is the title of the song to which I refer.

  5. Larry Fyffe says:

    “Never could learn to drink that blood/
    And call it wine/
    Never could learn to hold you, love/
    And call you mine”

  6. Larry Fyffe says:

    Tangled up in blue: And the Lord spake unto Moses….And thou shalt make the robe of the epod all of blue(Exodus 25:1/28:31)

  7. Larry Fyffe says:

    What seems big and important at one time in one life diminishes whan examined close-up like meeting an actor one’s seen on a large movie screen: like the blue robe of a Hebrew priest
    as seen when one is an adult but remembered as a child.
    Associative metonymy rather than comparative metaphor becomes the hallmark trope of Postmodernism in order to give the listerner more leeway in participating in what a song means. “Tight Connection To My Heart” is, a different level, about Dylan’s love of art and its developmental history. Observed in other of his songs as well.

  8. Larry Fyffe says:

    *on a different….

  9. Larry Fyffe says:

    It all depends on perspective: how can you appear larger if you don’t go away?

    “What looks large from a distance/
    Close up ain’t never that big”
    (Bob Dylan: Tight Connection To My Heart)

  10. TonyAttwood says:

    Maybe Tony, but Dylan’s back catalogue has always sold well, and I am not sure anyone has really ever told him what to do.

  11. Larry Fyffe says:

    As a point of history, blue threads are yet entangled in some Jewish garments though the blue-robed high priests are gone; still depicted in books, however. And there’s blue in the Israeli flag, representing the sea and sky and the blue stone associated with the Ten Commandments handed to Moses.

  12. Larry Fyffe says:

    “And they saw the God of Israel/
    And thete was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone/
    And as it were the body of heaven in his clearness”
    (Exodus 24:10)

  13. Larry Fyffe says:

    *there

  14. Wayne says:

    And yet the latter song has a newly introduced Biblical connection by including “Has anyone seen my love”. This is a clear quote from Song of Solomon (Ch 3) as are other images from both versions of the song.

  15. TonyAttwood says:

    Yep – I agree Wayne. It’s very confusing

  16. michael says:

    gene pitney sang a song called,somethings gotten hold of my heart.why would someone tell him to change the title because there was another like it?.you cannot copyright a song title.

  17. Larry Fyffe says:

    You are both right to a degree….the Bible is a great source of imagery….in “Tight”, Dylan turns the song into more of a love song between a man and woman than between a man and his God in “Someone”… The Song Of Solomon has been interpreted likewise in reference to a maiden. Gospel songs often sound like his followers are having sex with Jesus.
    “Someone” leans more to religion lost:

    “I been to Babylon/
    I got to confess/
    I can still hear that voice cry in the wilderness”
    (Bob Dylan: Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart)

  18. Kevin C says:

    All I wish to add is that “Someone” is, in my humble opinion, a superior song to the remake. His easy going vocal delivery and the gentleness and breeziness of the song are atypical for Dylan, but I like it a lot. A great song. Love “Tight Connection” as well, but the production is a little over the top, as is typical of “Empire Burlesque,” the album from which it came.

  19. TonyAttwood says:

    Michael indeed no – I am not suggesting that this did happen, just looking at each and every possibility I could find.

  20. Larry Fyffe says:

    “Burlesque” by definition is supposed to be over-the-top.

  21. Larry Fyffe says:

    Song of Solomon 3:2:
    “I will arise and go now, and go about the city in the streets/
    …I will seek whom him whom my soul loveth:
    I sought him, but I found him not”

    Also drawn upon by the Romantic nature poets, who hear God whispering in the winds, and who are much admired by Dylan:

    “I will arise and go now and for aways night and day/
    To hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore”
    (WB Yeats: Lake Isle Of Innisfree)

  22. Larry Fyffe says:

    *seek him whom….

  23. Larry Fyffe says:

    “All men have aimed at, found and lost/
    Black out; Heaven blazing in my head/
    Tragedy wrought to its uttermost”
    (WB Yeats: Lapis Lazuli)

    “I cross the green mountain/
    I sit by the stream/
    Heaven blazing in my head/
    I dreamed a monstrous dream”
    (Bob Dylan: Cross The Green Mountain)

    (This reference was brought to my attention, not found by myself)

  24. Kevin C says:

    Mr. Fyffe, why is it by definition “over the top?” “Dark Eyes” is certainly not over-produced, though others certainly are (“When the Night Comes Falling.”) It’s not exactly a strong collection of songs however you slice it, at least not by Dylan standards.

  25. eric says:

    Interesting discussion!

    Kevin, I think he means that “burlesque” is by definition over the top. Not the album “Empire Burlesque.” (Although the album is definitely over-produced.)

    I think “Someone’s…” is a better song than “Tight Connection…” I never heard either as a religious song, but both about another person. I think Tight Connection speaks to the idea that even though something seems like it’s gone (in the past, whatever), we can still have a significant connection to it. If you want to apply that to Dylan’s faith, it makes sense – while he went from being a “contemporary Christian artist” back to being just Dylan, there are lots of songs after that where he still speaks of his faith.

    In other words, if it is about God or a person, maybe the point is “I’m not sure about a lot, but you still have a tight connection to my heart.”

  26. Larry Fyffe says:

    Yes I was referring to the defintion of ‘burlesque’ –
    treating a serious subject in a trivial manner or vice versa- but also I was wondering why Dylan chose to use the word in the album’s title.
    It was the ‘Babylonian’ disco era that laid many a man’s soul to waste, and I was curious as to if this is what Dylan is singing about. Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?

  27. Larry Fyffe says:

    A ‘burlesque’ would be, for example, to put a song about death to a disco beat.

  28. Peter Guglietta says:

    Just love this discussion. I opined about “Tight Connection….” awhile ago, so I’m going to weigh in on what I think is the stronger song, “Someone……” I think the reasons Tony lists are intriguing: let me add a couple more. First, much like Springsteen (who is far guiltier), he may not be the best judge of his best work, in that like Springsteen, he leaves songs off of albums that are sometimes superior than what was kept. (See “The River” and “BUSA” and the myriad outtakes that later surfaced). Dylan may have deemed the lyrics too ambiguous. Is it a love song? Is it mixing religious and romantic themes to a confusing end? Musically, this song is solid. Perhaps he felt the lyrics didn’t do the music justice? Or perhaps, Dylan thought…..like Springsteen had in the past……that this song didn’t fit the overall theme he was going for on “Infidels” or that it would have tilted the album toward a more personal relationship theme than he wanted. Or, did he think that he was laboring too hard over the lyrics? Any and all are possible.

    The second theory of mine is that he just felt the other songs all fit together in a more cohesive way, and it came down to “Sweetheart Like You” vs “Someone’s….” to make the cut. Flip a coin, boom; there you go. I don’t really see “Someone’s…..” as being overtly stocked with religious imagery, it just happens much like Springsteen’s “Lost in the Flood” mixes images of the Virgin Mary with the street-life drama of post-Vietnam America. Maybe Dylan just thought it needed more work lyrically.

    I mean, he left “4th Street” off an album: only Dylan could have the brass to throw that down and get away with it!

    Bottom line, this and “TCTMH” are great songs that rise above and are greater than the sum of their parts. And far be it for me to question the genius of the Nobel Laureate and overall badass himself, who long ago proved his mettle in the songwriting craft.

  29. Peter Guglietta says:

    Back to my comment on Bruce’s “Lost in the Flood” I meant to infer that one’s upbringing and point of reference to events that shaped that upbringing always find a way into the songs of certain artists. In this case Springsteen’s Catholic upbringing and Dylan’s Jewish faith and latter adoption of Christianity. It happens, whether intended or not.

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