By Paul Hobson and Tony Attwood
This series of articles looks at Dylan’s reinterpretations of his own work, with video examples from his concerts. The videos are selected by Paul and the commentary is by Tony.
Details of previous articles in this series are shown on the index “Dylan re-imagined”
This time we start with “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine”
Dylan has put a real bounce into the rhythm, but then against that sings in a laid back way. You can say that even for Bob this is a non-movement piece.
As a result the song becomes a simple statement – he is not trying to convince anyone of the truth of what he is saying. He says he’s going to let you pass, not with a sense of regret but as fact. That’s how it is, there’s nothing else to it.
Then, when after the middle 8, the band takes a more back seat point of view, it is just Bob telling us well… it really is just a statement of how it goes. And the focus moves onto the “Time will tell just who has fell” comment. That time, as we know, has passed. It’s a retrospective.
The nearest we can get to dating that recording, and this song below is to say it is in the early 2000s. If you can get us closer, please do say.
So onto song number two: Hard Rain
Dylan rushes the first line and then waits. The melody has almost gone, but the performance emphasises the lyrics, just as should always happen. And suddenly, even though we know the lyrics forwards, backwards and inside out, we are hearing it unlike ever before.
Even the chorus has a surprise – Dylan singing in harmony with the band! Really? Yes it is.
This very laid back accompaniment means we really can focus on the lyrics once more even though we do know it so well. Indeed with this reworking the meanings can being to shift and change in ways that we do not expect. Just listen to Dylan delivering the line “that could drown the whole world”. We know what it implies and symbolises, except this time we are thinking, is there is something else here that we’ve never got before.
And then after five minutes we get the instrumental with Bob leading on acoustic guitar. No fancy electric lead – no of course not – and then suddenly it cuts and we get the softest verse of all for the “darling young one.”
Even then Dylan has more surprises for us for after the instrumental break we get the “What will you do now?” verse, and here we go even more laid back than before. Thankfully there is no audience shouting and whooping to distract us, as Bob gives us a view from a much higher place than normal for the executioner’s face being always well hidden.
And after all that the chorus changes and then we get a completely new instrumental coda which extends the normal chorus lines to take us to the conclusion. Amazing.
Our final piece in this selection is “Big Girl Now” from the Rolling Thunder Revue 1975.
Dylan is careful to use the slow speed of the song to give us the full power of the lyrics – including a long pause after “You’re a big girl now”. This makes the whole piece, which has always been personal, now ever more personal than before.
This in turn means that lines like “Love is so simple” take on even more power. In fact it becomes almost too much. So much so that I found myself wondering how much more of this angst I could take, and was grateful on the five minute mark for the instrumental verse. But really, if you want a song of pain, here it is. And then some.