“If I don’t be there by morning”. Bob Dylan and Helena Springs start work

by Tony Attwood

The story that Dylan and Helena Springs on tour just jammed together with her singing and Bob making up the music is all very well, and could well explain the origin of the variant 12 bar blues with a few extra notes, and it could explain a very un-Dylan like melody, but it doesn’t explain what happens in the middle 8 which sees the introduction of chords that are quite different from the normal run of Dylan compositions.

To put it simply the verse give us lots of B, E, B, E chords – which is nice and straightforward.

But then in the middle 8 we get this, and even if you don’t know anything about guitar chords you might recognise this is pretty much un-Dylan

D#m7    G#m
B      E
D#m7   G#m
C#m7    F#6   F#7

But then, maybe that was the only way he could make something to add to Ms Spring’s musical ideas.   Whatever happened my guess is it wasn’t composed all in one go, or at least if it was, they took quite a long coffee break in the middle to get that accompaniment sorted.

Helena Springs says that the piece was written in Brisbane, and Heylin suggests that Dylan must have thought he had found a collaborator along the lines of Levy.  And there are other versions of the story with Clapton noting particularly he had the only cassette of the Dylan/Springs version.  Going through the various reports I am not sure if anyone 100% remembers how it all came together.

Anyway, one way or another the song was given to Clapton and he recorded it along with “Walk Out in the Rain”

The version we’ve been left with is that from Eric Clapton, as Dylan never recorded it and has never performed it as far as I know…   Here is the Live version

And the studio version

Heylin also suggests that the piece has a relationship with “Friend of the Devil” written by Robert Hunter and Gerry Garcia and recorded by Grateful Dead.   As yes in terms of the lyrics he certainly has a point, but I must admit I didn’t think of this at all when listening to the Clapton recording.  I must be getting old; 1-0 to Heylin on this occasion.

Anyway you can, of course, decide what comes from where and how.

Here first are Dylan’s or Dylan and Springs lyrics

Blue sky upon the horizon,
Private eye on my trail,
And if I don’t be there by morning
She’ll know that I must’ve spent the night in jail.

I’ve been runnin’ from Memphis to L.A.,
Had an appointment set sometime for today
And if I don’t be there by morning
She’ll know that I must have gone the other way.

Finding my way home to you, girl, lonely and blue, mistreated too,
Sometimes I think about you, girl, is it true that you think of me too?

I got a woman living in L.A.,
I got a woman waiting for my pay,
And if I don’t be there by morning
Pack my clothes, get down on your knees and pray.

I left my woman with a twenty-dollar bill,
Left her waiting, hope she’s waiting for me still.
But if I don’t be there by morning
I guess that I never will.

Finding my way home to you, girl, lonely and blue, mistreated too,
Sometimes I think about you, girl, is it true that you think of me too?

I left my woman with a twenty-dollar bill,
Left her waiting, hope she’s waiting for me still.
Well, if I don’t be there by morning
I guess that I never will.

 

And the lyrics from the Dead…


I lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds
Didn’t get to sleep last night till the morning came around

Set out runnin but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight

Ran into the devil, babe, he loaned me twenty bills
I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills

Set out runnin but I take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight

I ran down to the levee but the devil caught me there
He took my twenty dollar bill and vanished in the air

Set out runnin but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight

Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night:
The first one’s named sweet Anne Marie, and she’s my heart’s delight
The second one is prison, babe, the sheriff’s on my trail
And if he catches up with me, I’ll spend my life in jail

Got a wife in Chino, babe, and one in Cherokee
The first one says she’s got my child, but it don’t look like me

Set out runnin but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight

 

Anyway, a couple of nice songs, and even if the Dylan/Springs composition doesn’t rate with me as a masterpiece, being able to put together a song of that quality just by sitting together and singing and strumming… that sure is something.   It’s only when comparing the song with the fact that Dylan had recently written, “Where are you tonight?” makes me feel it is not right up there with the best of them.

But that’s probably just me wanting works of genius all the time.

Think there’s something missing or wrong with this review?

You are of course always welcome to write a comment below, but if you’d like to go further, you could write an alternative review – we’ve already published quite a few of these.  We try to avoid publishing reviews and comments that are rude or just criticisms of what is written elsewhere – but if you have a positive take on this song or any other Dylan song, and would like it considered for publication, please do email Tony@schools.co.uk

What else is on the site

1: 500+ 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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