She’s my baby: a Dylan song and a hit for the Wilburys. The meaning and the music

By Tony Attwood

Every member of the Wilburys is credited with co-writing this song which was the opening of Volume 3 and the first single hit for the band from the album.

It is listed as a Dylan composition on BobDylan.com but without any lyrics or other details, and it turns up in the Dylan copyright files, and I have found a couple of commentaries that suggest that in its original form it was a song sung from start to end by Bob, which makes it sound even more like a Bob composition.

And yes there are certainly moments of Dylan’s ventures into the world of the surreal that make it seem like one of his songs

My baby
She’s got a body for business
Got a head for sin
She knocks me over
like a bowling pin.
She came home last night and said,
“Honey, honey, honey it’s hard to get ahead.”
My baby

It isn’t meant to mean anything at all, apart from giving us a fair insight into the personality and looks of the lady in question.  In that sense it is very similar to a lot of 1950s music – and the title sums it all up.

Indeed to a degree it is possible to hear this as a sort of  “Rainy Day Women”  from the time before everybody got stoned, and instead just marvelled at the fact that they could sing suggestively about a woman on a record without getting arrested.  So it’s a tribute song to a past genre.

It’s also the sort of song that celebrates fast cars and has the lead guitar making car-like sounds.  One almost expects the band to branch out into, “I’m a road runner honey” and start singing “beep beep”.

Certainly it is not knocking or parodying the music it is based on – rather it is celebrating it and revelling in it.  And I have to admit I have seen a number of 50s tribute bands play in clubs and pubs in England who do this sort of music very well.   Everyone remembers the good old days and has a good time.

So I suppose what makes me less than 100% enthusiastic about this song is that with all this talent on display, might the band not have done something a little bit more than produce a record along the lines of what quite a few tribute bands can do?

That’s not to knock what is here, but rather to say yes, it’s fine. But…

I suspect Bob knocked it out in 20 minutes flat and thought it would be fun to do.  Heylin suggests that the rest of the gang had very few new musical ideas between them, so they would be happy to go along with anything Bob brought in.  He brought in “She’s my baby”, and they took the original tape and recorded their bits over it.

And that is about it.

What is on the site

1: 400 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page (just scroll down), 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.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines

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.

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2 Responses to She’s my baby: a Dylan song and a hit for the Wilburys. The meaning and the music

  1. David Weir says:

    Thanks Tony. I think I’d always thought Wilburys’ lyrics were pretty rubbishy too. Seeing these printed out, though, make me wonder. It might be about sex. The narrator’s a disappointment (lines 3 and 4). She is a prostitute (lines 2 and 3), but a rather unsuccessful one (line 7) – which makes them both failures.

  2. WLD says:

    Generally, I prefer Dylan when he is light-hearted enough to make jokes.

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