Waiting for the morning light. A possible Bob Dylan / Gene Simmons collaboration

Waiting for the morning light.  By Simmons and Dylan?

Commentary by Tony Attwood

If not for you
Babe, I’d lay awake all night
Wait for the mornin’ light
To shine in through
But it would not be new
If not for you

That is the prime connection I can find between Bob Dylan and “Waiting for the morning light”.  The song is not mentioned on BobDylan.com, where even arrangements of other people’s work can be claimed to be at least partially Dylan’s copyright – and that seems to me to be a reason to be suspicious.

And although I am repeatedly critical of Heylin’s interpretation of Dylan’s work, I don’t think one can fault his dedication in digging through the documentation and commentaries to find everything going.  And he doesn’t mention it, not even once.

But it has been put to me that this is a Dylan collaboration, so I’ll mention it and put a question mark in the index.

This is how the story of the creation of this song is described by Gene Simmons

So I called his manager: ‘Can I speak with Bob?’ ‘What do you wanna talk to him about?’”

“’I… I wanna write a song with Bob.’ [Laughs] And all of a sudden within two days, an unmarked van shows up at my house and Bob gets out with an acoustic guitar in his hand, and tells his driver, ‘I’ll see you at the end of the day,’ comes up and we start strumming. I mean it was just like that.”

According to Gene in a commentary on Billboard.com, “Bob came up with the chords, most of them, and then I took it and wrote lyrics, melody, the rest of it… We understood each other right away. He picked up an acoustic guitar, and we just tossed it back and forth, ‘How ’bout this, how ’bout that?’ And he started to strum, because he — at least with me — tended to talk and strum guitar at the same time. And as soon as I heard the first three or four chords, I went, ‘Wait, wait, what’s that? Do that again.’ So I went and started to write a lyric around that.”

Now there is a problem with this story.  I don’t claim myself to be a great musician; when I worked as a musician in bands and in the theatre I was absolutely just a member of a regular ensemble.  But listening to this song I could hear exactly what the chord sequence was, and walk across to my piano and play it:

G major, E minor 7, C major 7, D.

So what doesn’t ring true for me is that a musician like Gene Simmons really couldn’t hear that straight away.   And even if he couldn’t, he could have looked at Bob’s hands and see what he was doing.  Believe me if you are a musician and someone plays that on guitar you don’t have a need to say, ‘Wait, wait, what’s that? Do that again.’

And as for the “most of them” suggestion about writing the chords.  Hell, there are only four of them.

If you doubt the notion that musicians can pick up what each other is doing instantly, just listen to the Basement Tapes Complete, especially disc six, and hear how the band pick up much, much more complex sequences than this straight away.  No, this story does not ring true to me at all.

There is also a “middle 8” and although there is a slight surprise there it is not something that really would have thrown a professional musician.   The song is in D major, but suddenly and without any warning it changes for the middle 8 with a sequence that runs

B flat major, F major, C major

That is in itself very ordinary and a modulation (that is a change of key) from G major to C major is perfectly normal.  What is unusual, is the throwing in of the B Flat.  It is very effective, and unusual, but it would not throw someone like Dylan.  For goodness sake, he’s been playing chord sequences since he was about 10.

Now I can tell you, having studied every single Dylan composition I can find (as witness this website) I have never heard Dylan do a jump like that from the G to the B flat.  It is not that it is unheard of, just that it is not Dylan.  I don’t mean that he hasn’t thrown a B flat into a song in G but rather that I can’t think of anywhere that he has suddenly changed keys in this way and then instantly come out again.

What I am saying is that the way musicians create song is like the way people speak with an accent.  When you hear someone speak, you don’t have to see them to know who it is.  Same with songwriting.

So what strikes me as odd is that this is just not Dylan.  You only have to listen to that “middle 8” to think “Dylan? absolutely not. Not in 1 million years.”  It is not that it doesn’t work, it is not Dylan.

And still I am back to the basic point, is this musician seriously telling us that Bob came in, did something on guitar or keyboard that he has never ever done anywhere else in his music, and then left it with the performer, while the performer says “wow what’s that?” when anyone working in music would be able to hear it and play it.

No, sorry I really, don’t believe it.  For goodness sake, I listened to the song once and knew the chords and I haven’t earned my living as a musician for years and years.  And this professional musician couldn’t catch the chords?  No, really, no.

But if you want to believe all that, and believe that Bob didn’t then want his part of the copyright, when he has so assiduously worked to protect his rights on every other song, even to the point of claiming rights on songs because he “arranged” them, well, that’s up to you.  You can of course believe.  All I can do is tell you how it seems to me.

Here are the lyrics

I’m waiting for the morning light
Then every night I wonder why
I always try to play it cool
I mean hello, but say goodbye
And I can’t help myself
I’m wide awake all through the night
Keep waiting for the morning light

Chorus:

And here I’m all alone
Sitting by the telephone
And I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder why
I keep laughing when I wanna cry
And I wonder why

Every day seems like there’s no tomorrow
And every night I wonder why
Do I always seem to say it too
When things don’t always turn out right
And there you sit inside my picture frame
But it’s not the same
Ever since you said good bye

I always try to play it so cool
And I don’t know why…
Gotta keep on smiling
Gotta keep on laughing
When I want to cry…
I do believe it

What else is on the site?

Untold Dylan contains a review of every Dylan musical composition of which we can find a copy (around 500) and over 300 other articles on Dylan, his work and the impact of his work.

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 alphabetical index to the 552 song reviews can be found here.  If you know of anything we have missed please do write in.  The index of the songs in chronological order can be found 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.

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