By Tony Attwood
When is a song not a song?
I suppose initially with this blog I thought that to be included herein it ought to be a song that Dylan completed, even if he then chose not to put it on an album, and the record company chose not to put it on a “bootleg” collection.
But then we started working on the incomplete songs that only existed on studio recordings (not least because there were several such that I really, really wanted to write about so I changed the definition), and that blurred the edges of the notion of a “Dylan song”. And here we get to something that made me think of this again.
I’m including it, not simply because it is on the internet, it can be placed in time, and it’s Dylan, but also because it is part of Dylan’s working his way through a year in which new lyrics simply would not come to him.
So I’m not trying to say that this is a great piece of Dylan song-writing. It could have been, but Dylan never took it beyond what appears to be the first jam. But it was a vital part of the journey which led on to greater things.
Because it is just a studio jam, there’s not too much here, but it does give an idea as to how Dylan was creating songs at the time. If he had been able to think of more lines to put in to create a complete set of lyrics it would have become a song – but I think the listing of it as an “outtake” is probably pushing the definition of “out take” too far. It is a jam as it stands, not a completed song that Bob didn’t want to use.
It was recorded on 24 July 1984.
The list below gives it a context of sorts…
- I once knew a man
- Who loves you more
- Almost done
- I see you around and around
- Dirty lie
- Go way little boy
- Honey Wait for Me
- Drifting too far from shore
- New Danville Girl / Brownsville Girl
Looking at the songs in order for this year, what we can say was for much of this period Dylan certainly was either struggling with, or experimenting with, lyrics. Which given that it is his lyrics for which many people particularly know him, and for which he got his Nobel prize, shows a difficult state of mind.
“I once knew a man” is a brilliant blues piece but the lyrics are impossible to distinguish. Or to take another example from the year, the lyrics of “Who loves you more” offer us
Oh, happy I, I mean you for me
‘Cause I’m true
But I know in the end
When the clock’s worked through and through
Because I know loving means
Nearly everything that I need
Who loves you more, who loves you true?
Oh, baby I do.
Or again, to take a greater authority than I on such matters, of “Almost Done” Eyolf Østrem writes, “It seemed meaningless to try and transcribe the mumbling on the Beverly Theatre version (May 23). Verona was a little less meaningless…”
But even with “a little less meaningless” we are still in the land of meander. Here are the opening lines from theVerona transcription.
I stood by I stood by you Stood by her Oh don't be untrue It's already there for to see the one oh now she rode She's almost done
So through much of the year lyrics were a problem – but of course problems are there to be resolved, which Dylan accomplished with New Danville Girl and then exceptionally with the re-write of Tangled Up in Blue.
What else is on the site
You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.
The index to the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own. You will find it here.
We also now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
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