“Love is only mine” when it’s in an unused key. Bob Dylan messes with the band.

By Tony Attwood

“Love is only mine” appears to have been improvised at the start but gradually gets sorted to some degree, giving the impression that Dylan had done a bit of work on this piece before he settles down to play it – but had forgotten where he was going.  At  the end he asks “What key haven’t we played in yet?”

And that question has a relevance here as this song is in C sharp major and occasionally is seems (although it is unclear as the instruments clash) C sharp minor, and quite honestly of all the thousands of pop and blues songs I’ve played, the only time I ever played in C Sharp major or minor was at an audition with band and they were trying me out with deliberately impossible requests.  I didn’t get the gig.

In fact one can hear members of the band playing odd notes here and there at the start which is exactly what it is like when one band member starts to play and says nothing to the rest of the ensemble who are left to work out what key it is in and what chord sequence is being used.

Except here not only is the key uncertain, so is the chord sequence, with one or two notable exceptions near the end, when a possibly rather interesting few elements of a song emerge.  But then Bob stops.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that given Bob was on the keyboards the chances are the band couldn’t see his hands and so took a while to find out where they were in terms of the key.  And even then since pop and rock musicians don’t often (if ever) play in C# or C#m they were then trying to find what chords naturally followed.

So this really is a rambling affair that stops after meandering around hither and yon, and you can hear from the tone of Bob’s voice that he’s not impressed by the result any more than we might be today.  In fact I suspect he was wondering why he started this in the first place.

As such I don’t think there was ever any serious attempt to pull the disparate elements of this song together as it meanders through chord after chord, Bob’s vocal line trying to keep up with what his fingers pick out on the electric piano.  Indeed I suspect that Bob forgot part way through what key he was actually meant to be in, and so it stops.

To make it harder Bob actually starts a minor third higher and suddenly switches.  Talk about messing with your band!

I know the lyrics below make no sense, but this is the best I can do and if you can evolve a better version please do send it in.  It’s pretty nonsensical, but then so is the music.

Sun on the edge
Make my home in 
When my mood flies above
It ain’t got it all
Lonely road is, love oh love is only mine
Lonely passages
Maybe waiting
Way on my shoulder
Hey hey, it still is mine
All and all in love is only mine
Well it’s a long long way to the ocean
When your love, it don’t treat you right
But my devotion is a lonely lonely place
Be this lonely it isn’t right
And it’s on my window tonight
Lonely dreams come get you, buy back your window tonight

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  1. As with many of Dylan’s songs, there’s a bit of Poe stirring there:

    “Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter
    In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore”

    Be this lonely isn’the right
    And it’s on my window tonight

  2. Not sure how the mention of a window has to be a reference to “The Raven.” Even when he explicitly brings in a raven, in “Love Minus Zero,” I still doubt it’s Poe’s raven. Poe’s law, maybe, but not his raven. But who really knows. I’d love to see your explanation of why “Golden Loom” is Bob’s rewrite of “Ulalume.” A smoky autumn night in the lonesome October; moonlight on the dank tarn of Auber; two lunary souls wash their feet beneath the stars of the trembling lion; and in his room, her tomb, the smell of perfume: Ulalume with a golden loom! And so on.

  3. Bob Dylan shows the influence of Poe and the French Symbolists in a number of his song lyrics. But I do not assert the song above ‘has to’ be a reference to a specific poem, but merely that it could be.

    And I agree with you that Dylan puts his own spin on symbols that he uses.

    I might tackle ‘Ulalume’ when I get the chance….thanks for the suggestion.

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