by Tony Attwood
Given that in the months before writing Dreamin of you Dylan wrote Mississippi and in the months after wrote Not Dark Yet there is a good reason to listen to this song. It comes from a period when Bob was at his brilliant best – yet again.
It was recorded in January 1997 during the sessions for Time Out Of Mind but not released on that album. It eventually came out on The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 – Tell Tale Signs collection, and was released as a single.
In relation to the song, and its attendant video I found this on the internet. I can’t verify its validity, but it is a nice short story…
“A friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to work on a Bob Dylan music video. I said absolutely! However, once we got out to the desert in Palmdale, CA I said where’s Bob? My buddy said “Dylan, isn’t exactly in the video. The video is a concept about an old music bootlegger played by Harry Dean Stanton. Bummer. Harry Dean was a trooper, because it was brutally hot at almost 100 degrees. At the end of the day, Harry got on the guitar and played a Mexican folk ballad. He said “film this and send it to Bob.”
A 7″ vinyl single release of the song was made available with advance orders of the deluxe edition of Tell Tale Signs from the official Dylan website. This release featured an alternative version of “Ring Them Bells” as the B-side.
As for the song it is based around an ever repeating chord sequence of Em7, G, A, B – I’m not sure I have heard that used anywhere else on a Dylan song as an endlessly repeating circle of chords.
Here is the DVD in question
This is Dylan pulling all the strings that he has set up in his mystic, circulating, cloudy, atmospheric repertoire.
Consider the opening
The light in this place is really bad
Like being at the bottom of a stream
and then later
Spirals of golden haze, here and there in a blaze
Like beams of light in the storm
It is all atmosphere and reflection, but there is a disconnect between sections which perhaps is meant to tell us something, but somehow, I can’t work out what. And as other disconnects crop up in the song I begin to feel that it is all atmosphere, but nothing more.
However there are some extraordinarily telling lines such as
Means so much, the softest touch
By the grave of some child, who neither wept or smiled
I pondered my faith in the rain
Contrasted with the repeating lines
I’ve been dreamin’ of you, that’s all I do
And it’s driving me insane
and that constant disconnect from the rest of the world
Somewhere dawn is breaking
Light is streaking ‘cross the floor
Church bells are ringing
I wonder who they’re ringing for
But somehow for me the disconnect is still too disconnected. There are too many contradictory images that lead me to think that they are just images, and nothing more. While sons from Visions of Johanna to Tell ol Bill take us right inside the images into a world which seems consistent, (even if we can’t understand it) here there seems to be no consistency. Even the weirdness is weirdly changing.
There is also a curious reuse of a line from Standing in the Doorway with
Well, I eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry
Live my life on the square
Even if the flesh falls off my face
It won’t matter, long as you’re there
Standing in the Doorway had…
I’ll eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry
And live my life on the square
And even if the flesh falls off of my face
I know someone will be there to care
It always means so much
Even the softest touch
Here there is no doorway, only a world of… well, I am not sure what, except that Bob is holding on to the notion that one person is out there for him and sometimes he can see and sometimes not.
Feel further away than I ever did before
Feel further than I can take
Dreamin’ of you is all I do
But it’s driving me insane
At this point we have that same revolving imagery that also took us around and through Tell Ol Bill.
I tried to find one smiling face
To drive the shadow from my head
I’m stranded in this nameless place
Lying restless in a heavy bed
although in Tell ol Bill even the woman has abandoned him and he is utterly alone. Here there is still a hope that she might be out there.
But I guess what most of us take from this song, for its novelty value if nothing else, are the lines….
For years they had me locked in a cage
Then they threw me onto the stage
Some things just last longer than you thought they would
And they never, ever explain
And in the end we are left with the rotating hopelessness…
I’m dreamin’ of you, that’s all I do
But it’s driving me insane
So I am left unsure and uncertain about the contradictions in the song. Yes, the singer is uncertain and unsure so that is meant to be, but somehow it seems too contradictory to make sense. In the end, the sound is great, the images in isolation appeal, but overall… it doesn’t really seem to work for me.
What is on the site
1: Over 390 reviews of Dylan songs. There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.
2: The Chronology. We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums. The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site. We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year. The index to the chronologies is here.
3: Bob Dylan’s themes. We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions. There is an index here.
4: The Discussion Group We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
5: Bob Dylan’s creativity. We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further. The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.
And please do note The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.