By Tony Attwood
Since writing this review in 2014 I have found a new recording of the song which really does take it in a different direction. Here it is – the original review continues below…
“Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” is the first track of the second disc of Blonde on Blonde, and for this review I’m listening to the original vinyl recording. If you’ve got a digital re-issue you might hear stuff I can’t hear.
This is the song – perhaps the only song – that was issued twice as a Dylan single, once in 1974 and once in 2007 as part of the promotion of the “Dylan” compilation.
Wiki says that “Prevalent on the recording are trombone, piano, guitar, harmonica, bass guitar, drums and electronic organ.” I’m blowed if I can hear a trombone playing the vinyl with quality modern amp and speakers. (“Blowed” – “trombone” – yes, ok, but I still can’t hear it.)
There is an element of blues feeling in this, but that is achieved by the use of the flattened 7th at various points in the verses. But really there is no blues here. It’s a bouncy rock song.
And as I noted in the review of Sweet Marie this is a side of the album in which Dylan plays with unexpected chords. In this case starting on what classical musicians would call the supertonic.
In essence you can build all sorts of chords on any note. Here Dylan is probably originally playing in G but problems with keeping the speed of an analogue tape dead true means it sounds now like a slightly low A flat. Now normally you would start such a song on notes built around A flat. But Dylan starts on B flat minor. A perfectly reasonable chord to use in this key, but very unusual for rock. And its not something he does in any other song I can think of.
What’s more strange is that after alternating between B flat minor and A flat in the first group of three lines he then goes off to C minor – again a perfectly reasonable cord to use in the key, but unusual for rock, and a chord sequence unique in a Dylan song.
But what is not unique – what is pure Dylan – is the descending bass line for the chorus
Then time will tell just who fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine
It starts on on A flat and works down in a classic Dylan way. Time and again in songs of this era Dylan uses the descending bass to perfection – and often to make it sum up all that has gone before, in the chorus. It is incidentally the opposite of the verse of “Rolling Stone” – the ultimate song of disdain.
But there is still one more surprise for us in the middle 8 – we’re off to another chord – F minor. Again a perfectly reasonable chord to use in this key again unexpected. But as before there is the falling back down – in this time from F minor back to E flat, just as in the verses it is B flat minor to A flat – in each case we are falling the same distance.
I have no doubt that in these songs Dylan was thinking in chord sequences – but that later in his career he stopped doing this, and so we lose the more unusual twists and turns of the music.
However what is not at all unusual – what is in fact rather prosaic – is the bass guitar. In the world of pop and rock, at least when I played in bands, there was the joke about how those of us on lead guitar, keyboards or percussion could talk about what we were doing – the attempts to try and go a bit further, explore new possibilities, do something different but within the context of the song. Then the bass guitarist would be asked what he did to liven things up and he’d say “E B E B E B E B” – the classic unimaginative bass line.
And that is what the bass guitarist does here. He plays one note on each beat of the bar, plod plod plod plod, reflecting the chords exactly. Maybe Dylan asked for that, but I doubt it. It could have been so much more. (Actually having made the joke about the bass line several times I found myself required to play bass guitar while working in a pit band in the theatre, and I must admit by the third night of the show I was plodding along with the E B E B stuff. It does that to you, so I shouldn’t be pointing the finger at the bass player.
As for the lyrics it is mostly straightforward – he’s fed up with her and her ever changing feelings. She says she doesn’t deserve him (implying that she is so sorry for behaving so badly and asking for his forgiveness yet again), but he’s increasingly had enough.
It is not the harshest of Dylan farewells by any means, indeed it is stretching a point to call it a song of disdain, but he’s playing about with her by the end and suggesting that for all that she is doing hurting him, she’s the one who is going to be left behind.
That is a real Dylan metaphor – the man walking down the long lonesome road. Dylan’s solution is the same here as it is all the way through his songwriting life – just move on.
The construction of the verses is unusual – the easiest way to write them is as a set of three line sections:
You say you love me
And you’re thinkin’ of me
But you know you could be wrong
Three lines is most unusual, as is ending two lines running with the same word.
There is one other point of particular interesting in verse one
I just can’t do what I done before
Listening to this line on the original vinyl the plodding of the bass guitar is very clear – and for once it seems dead right. Plod, plod, plod, I can’t go on doing this, I’m not angry, I;ve just had enough and I’m walking away.
The nearest Dylan gets to being vicious as he does get in the disdain songs comes with
You say you disturb me
And you don’t deserve me
But you know sometimes you lie
No babe, you don’t disturb me, you haven’t got the power. But he’s getting closer to disdain
Sometimes it gets so hard to care
There ain’t too much worse you can say to your lover.
But then, but then, but then… That really odd middle 8. What on earth are we to make of this?
The judge, he holds a grudge
He’s gonna call on you
But he’s badly built
And he walks on stilts
Watch out he don’t fall on you
Is he talking divorce? A dream? Is “judge” the nickname of the new lover? If not then what?
Now I have argued before that images – especially the images of the curious odd folk that litter Dylan songs from this era – don’t have to represent a reality. But here we have a song that is clear and straightforward in its meaning, and then suddenly a judge and stilts???
And to make it even more curious we’re then back to the song we’ve known.
You say you’re sorry
For tellin’ stories
That you know I believe are true
Dylan’s not going to tell us, and maybe he doesn’t know, can’t remember or never knew. If we do come up with anything it is going to be a guess. It remains one of the most curious out of context sections in any Dylan song. I even went and looked the song up in Heylin, in the vague hope that he might offer something, but he doesn’t even recognise that the middle 8 is odd, either musically or lyrically – but then he would not, would he?
So we come to the end, a very very quick fade, and that’s that. Great song, very much of its time.