Dylan and the Wilburys: New Blue Moon, Wilbury Twist, Poor House, Cool Dry Place.

By Tony Attwood

I am placing these four songs (New Blue Moon, Wilbury Twist, Poor House and Cool Dry Place) together in one review, as I don’t think they really count as Bob Dylan compositions.  He was there of course and he joined in, but while there are other songs that are clearly 90% if not 100% Dylan (“Where were you last night” is the absolute stand out example) these don’t seem to me to be songs from the master.

However his name is on them, and so they deserve a place in our complete listing of all Dylan songs, as was the case with the first Wilburys album, where again I tried to separate out those that seem to me to be less than fully Dylan works.

The first two of the four songs here sound to me (and indeed to most commentators, I think) like bits of fun that the guys just put together.  The theory is that “Like a Ship” which is clearly a Dylan song was not included because that would have made the album more Dylan than anything else.  But replacing it was hard because the rest of the band really were not delivering.  Hence “Blue Moon” and “Twist”.  The other two songs sound like Tom Petty compositions.

New Blue Moon

This is a variant 12 bar blues with an added middle 8.  The “variant” of the 12 bar blues structure comes for the most part by adding minor chords in between the basic 12 bar structure.   The middle 8 modulates briefly and then takes us back to the main key.

It’s all ok, but really needs lyrics that are a lot more inspired to make it a song of particular merit or note…

I don’t want nothing
Nothing but you
And I’m waiting
Looking for a new blue moon

doesn’t really cut it for me.  Nor does the middle 8 (or if you prefer, the bridge)

So many moons have come and gone
And none of them were blue
Too many times the sun came up, but
It came up without you, you, ya yoo hoo ooh

Wilbury Twist

And again we have a 12 bar blues structure with a middle 8.

Put your hand on your head
Put your foot in the air
Then you hop around the room
In your underwear
Ain’t ever been nothin quite like this
Come on baby do the wilbury twist

The variations that the band put in do make it of interesting for a moment or two, and the band calling out the responses again gives us a flashback to the 1950s and 1960s, but it really is a bit of a throwaway, saved by quite a bit of effort in the production.

Poor House 

You only have to hear the instrumental introduction to know this is Tom Petty with that bit of country feel (especially in the instrumental break).

As a song about a divorce it is fine, I guess, although during my two bouts of divorce I didn’t feel as bouncy as this, although certainly second time around I fully expected to end up in the modern day equivalent of the poor house.

You walk in, half past nine
Lookin’ like a queen
Serving me with papers
Calling me obscene

Woman, I’ve tried so hard
Just to do my best
They’re gonna put me in the poor house
And you’ll take all the rest

Up all day, down all night
Working on the job
Everything I do is wrong
I always end up robbed

Yep, been there, had that happen to me.  And there is a nice twist a little later

If I drove a pulpwood truck
Would you love me more?
Would you bring me diamonds
And hang around my door?

My ex really couldn’t get the hang of me being a writer, rather than having a “proper” job, so yes I rather like that, but “I rather like that” is nowhere near the equivalent of wanting to play the song several times and then put it on a collection so that it turns up every now and then.  Indeed in writing the reviews of the Wilburys III, these songs, which I haven’t really listened to much since the days when I first got the album, still make me just think, “OK”, whereas the Dylan songs make me want to listen over and again.

And that isn’t just me being a Dylan fan.  I do enjoy the music of Tom Petty, and have most of his albums with and without the Heartbreakers, and if I noted that Runnin Down a Dream was showing on TV I would at the very least record it to watch again sometime this week, if I couldn’t actually watch it live.  But even Tom seems somewhat off form.

Cool Dry Place

This song is… well, not to put too fine a point on it a 12 bar blues with a middle 8.  Since by and large 12 bar blues are just about the easiest of songs to write (although that doesn’t mean they will always be very memorable) this tells us a bit more about what was going on here.

I don’t think the guys had too many new ideas and so worked on some lyrics, fitted them into the 12 bar format and then added a middle 8, and that was their contribution to the album.

At least in this 12 bar, which works with the classic “woke up this morning” the lyrics are more unusual. The story is that Petty saw the “keep in a cool dry place” sign, and wrote the lyrics around the notion of musical equipment and instruments getting damaged in a flood.  Or something like that.

It’s fun, but again, there is no drive I find to go back and listen again – although obviously I do play each song through a number of times to write the review.

I drove around the city
Looking for a room
That was high above the water
Where my things could be in tune
There was no one to help me
Nobody even cared
I had to got through hell
To get those things up there
I paid my first subscription
Then I joined the idle race
And they said ‘store it in a cool dry place’

I got guitar, basses, amplifiers and drums
Accordions and mandolins and things that sometimes hum
Cymbals and harmonicas, capos by the score
And lots of things in boxes laying all around the floor

Yep, ok Tom, that’s fine but…

But what I did, having now finished my review of all the Wilburys songs was go back and play “Where were you last night” several times over.   It is original, it is interesting, it takes us somewhere unusual in the middle 8 break, and the lyrics, although about an oft-used event of a woman letting a man down by not turning up, still holds an interest.  Especially that lovely line, “You sent someone in your place instead.”   One could write a whole novel based on that one line again.  In fact…

Anyway, there it is.  It’s all ok, and I can happily listen to it – I mean I am not going to rush out of the room when it comes on – but if only the rest of the gang could have put in the same effort as Bob.

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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