Down by the station: Bob Dylan’s worst quality but best song?

By Tony Attwood

Although disc six of the Basement Tapes complete is said to be the bonus disc, with the tracks put in this archive because of their poor quality, it is not until one gets to “Down by the Station” that this lack of quality becomes a total hindrance.

This is actually a very interesting ballad with a moving tune; Dylan playing the accompaniment on the electric piano.   But the quality here is so poor that it is impossible for me to work anything out from the lyrics.

The writer of the haiku has put this down

Young and ruthless man
Makes indeterminate plans
To meet his woman.

and he could well be right, I honestly can’t say.  We only get one verse and it stops, seemingly never to be picked up again.  If you would like to try the lyrics please do write in.

And I was about to leave this review at this point when I found a review on Magnet Magazine web site with the article “From the Desk of the Vulgar Boatman”.  I’m taking the liberty of quoting it in full since it has got far more in it than I can gather.

Here it is…

The track that really grabbed hold of me was “Down By The Station,” barely 90 seconds long, one verse and a chorus, distinguished by perhaps the worst sound quality of the entire six-disc set. It’s also the Basements‘ only solo track, just Dylan at an electric piano, no accompanying Hawks. The lyrics are half formed, buried, with a few making their way to the surface: “I was east,” “shadow,” “down by the station.” The melody rises and falls, sad, mysterious. The chords are simple but never go quite where you expect them to. Dylan’s singing is measured and resigned. It’s a haunted performance, “I’m Not There” in miniature. Even the track’s distortion creates the impression of a late-night radio signal, showing up out of nowhere for a minute.

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.  It contains links to reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

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

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