Why do you have to be so frantic (Lunatic Princess). Dylan’s early Slow Train.

By Tony Attwood

This little snippet of a song (there’s a link to it at the end of my comments) comes from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966 Deluxe Edition released in 2015 wherein it is called Lunatic Princess.

Heylin calls it “Why do you have to be so frantic” which is almost in the lyrics, and notes that Dylan said that at the time he was in the habit of just talking into a microphone, going into the control room and writing down what he had just said, change it a little and then use the resultant material for a song.

Here’s roughly what he got this time around

Whether that is the explanation for these lyrics or not of course we don’t know.
Why should you have to be so frantic
you always wanted to live life in the past
Now why d you wanna be so Atlantic
you finally got your wish at last
You used to be oh so modest with your arm
around your cigarette machine
Now you lost it all I see and you all you got is your
two dollar bill and your hat full of gasoline


Any temptation to look at this and think Dylan had lost it however would be unfair.  Artists in all areas of the arts tend to use multiple methods to stimulate their creativity and come up with ideas, and just taking an early element of such a process (which of course is never intended for public consumption) is not a basis for judging the artist’s output.

As I have mentioned before, as a person who worked in music, the theatre and as a writer, I’ve also paid my way in life before the royalties clicked in by teaching a university course in creativity, which focused on stimulating one’s creative output by working with the environment, and then using the resultant ideas that pop into one’s head.

A very simple example of this came with the notion of looking out of the window on train journey and taking the people one could see in the countryside as the characters about whom one would write there and then, with the additional rule being that one could not stop writing.  (Fortunately I can touch type so writing and looking is not too hard).

Before putting this to my students I naturally tried it myself several times, and on one journey from Northamptonshire to London (about 80 miles) a couple of years ago I was busy looking out the window while recording my thoughts on my laptop, I noticed in the reflection in the glass, a lady sitting diagonally opposite me looking at me intently.  In my writing I suddenly brought her into the evolving story…

That’s the way it works.  It doesn’t mean that this story that I wrote on the train was ever going to be published but rather that the notes could be used in something else, evolved into something else, forgotten, remembered, reworked, ignored, reused and so on until ultimately they are dropped forever or they find a place somewhere – in this case popping up here as an explanation of the way Dylan has explored creative possibilities.  One never knows where these ideas will turn up.

What we have with Dylan are his notes; and artists’ notes can be weird and wonderful things.  And yes they did have some value.

So here is the song

Now take a deep breath and try Slow Train


You may or may not, depending on your inclination, hear the half remembered framework from the earlier song. The timing is different but there are connections.  Not a straight copy, but there is link.

I have to hand this insight to Clinton Heylin.  I was still thinking “now I’ve heard this somewhere…” when I read his comment to this effect in “Revolution in the Air.”

It is by no means the clearest link between one song and another in Dylan, and Heylin rarely mentions such links even when there are whole musical phrases cut from one song and put in another, so I’m wondering if someone else pointed it out to him.  But perhaps I am being unkind.

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


  1. Why do you have to be so frantic, to my mind, has to do with Slow Train as much as, say, Blowin’ in the wind has with Lay Lady Lay. I fail to get your point in this article today. Maybe I should be trying out some of that you are smoking.

  2. @Rajan Mahadevan: In Revolution in the Air, Heylin claims that Lunatic Princess contains “in the raw . . . the ‘Slow Train’ riff, writ rough.”

  3. Interestingly, Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the Air) and Glen Dundas (Tangled) list “Why do you have to be so frantic” as recorded on 16th June 1965, which would make it a Highway 61 outtake. The Cutting Edge booklet however dates it (titled Lunatic Princess) as recorded on 21st January 1966, which makes it a Blonde On Blonde outtake.

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