Denise Denise: Bob takes a break from the genius writing to have a laugh

By Tony Attwood

The suggestion is that Dylan took the title from the song of the same name by Randy and the Rainbows – it was a hit the previous August, but of course sounds nothing like Bob’s song, which is a straight 12 bar blues.

The original song (which I’ll give a link to at the end, along with a link to Bob’s song) has this sort of lyric

Denise, Denise, oh, with your eyes so blue
Denise, Denise, I’ve got a crush on you
Denise, Denise, I’m so in love with you

Bob goes with

Denise, Denise
Gal, what’s on your mind?
Denise, Denise
Gal, what’s on your mind?
You got your eyes closed
Heaven knows that you ain’t blind

He’s having a laugh at the traditions of the popular bubble gum song, and that’s about the sum of it.  It might be significant that the song seems to have come after “It ain’t me Babe” and “Motorpsycho Nightmare” – he was in rejection and laughter mode, a combination that can lead to hysteria and humour in equal measures.

Whether he was actually talking to himself all the way through because the girl isn’t there, or he is talking to himself because the bubble gum girl is so vacuous that there’s nothing inside her head, we don’t know.  And of course it doesn’t really matter – it is not meant to be analysed full on… unless one is writing a blog such as this!

The list of songs composed around this time gives us quite an insight: we were getting a right old mix of everything with just a hint of lost love until lost love becomes the theme.  Denise Denise is an attempt to make light of the issues of lost love but then we are into the serious and (with Plain D) viscous mode.

Heylin has done us a service with this one by tracking down the original copy of the writing, with some additional verses:

Are you some kind of genius or just playing cat n rat
Are you some kind of genius or just playing cat n rat
I know you’re laughing, but what are you laughing at?

and

With your eyebrows raised babe, your mouth is pointing down
With your eyebrows raised babe, your mouth is pointing down.
If you show me what you mean babe, I swear I won’t make a sound

So we go on, and it is mostly quite offensive, although with the occasional admission that he’s not really at the game himself.

Well, I can see you smiling
But oh your mouth is inside out
I can see you smiling
But you’re smiling inside out
Well, I know you’re laughin’
But what are you laughin’ about

Well, if you’re tryin’ to throw me
Babe, I’ve already been tossed
If you’re tryin’ to throw me
Babe, I’ve already been tossed
Babe, you’re tryin’ to lose me
Babe, I’m already lost

Well, what are you doing
Are you flying or have you flipped?
Oh, what are you doing
Are you flying or have you flipped?
Well, you call my name
And then say your tongue just slipped

Denise, Denise
You’re concealed here on the shelf
Denise, Denise
You’re concealed here on the shelf
I’m looking deep in your eyes, babe
And all I can see is myself

The feelings expressed in this song however were just a passing interlude, for the next song that Dylan wrote seems to have been Mama you’ve been on my mind, which is an altogether different kettle of fish.

And maybe that is one of the many, many facets of Dylan’s genius – that he could move from a song like this one onto that.  It really was just an interlude.

And here are the Rainbows with the original.   The Blondie version came later.

What else is on the site

1: Over 470 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 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 produced 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 our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

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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1 Response to Denise Denise: Bob takes a break from the genius writing to have a laugh

  1. Hank Garfield says:

    What about the Blondie version? (Denis Denis)

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