By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
Just recently we’ve been engaged in a project listening back to some of the outtakes from the 1986 and 1987 sessions that produced the majority of Bob Dylan’s “Down In The Groove” album, as well as some of the live shows from the era.
And between us we reached the conclusion that, as many people said at the time, the album is, to be fair, not very good. Robert Christgau called the album “horrendous product”.
So we decided to see if we could compile a better album ourselves from the outtakes and live shows from the period. Just in case the guys upstairs fancy issuing a new version when they run out of materials for the Bootleg series.
The song we have selected for track 2 of “Sheep In Wolves Clothing” is a song originally written and recorded by Randy VanWarmer. It’s a song and artist that neither of us were familiar with, so before we move onto Bob’s take here is the original version.
The track was VanWarmer’s biggest hit, it reached number 4 in the USA and number 8 in the UK in 1979. And indeed the track has 13.6M plays on Spotify which shows how out of touch we are – or perhaps just how many men have gone bleating to a woman after a breakup saying how much, how desperately, how utterly the man needs this woman.
Does she ever come back to such pleading? Rarely.
I must say, I kind of like the original version. I like his voice and guitar accompaniment, and whilst it is in some danger of edging too far into schmaltz territory for my liking, I find it to be quite an effective and affecting song.
Now, onto Dylan’s version, which was recorded almost directly after “Twist And Shout” on the same day, which goes to show Dylan and this particular bands’ versatility quite nicely.
The version presented here has a definite feel of having been worked through. It has an interesting drum pattern, an instrumental break with a guitar solo and all the musicians begin and end together. If you leave it playing you can even hear Bob talk about some potential overdubs he wants to complete. He even gets all the words correct and sings it beautifully so there is a feeling that he is striving towards potentially completing this for inclusion on the upcoming new album.
Dylan had just recently married so one can assume that’s why this was dropped from the album, and something like “When Did You Leave Heaven” was included. For my money “Just When I Needed You Most” is not only a better song but a much better performance than “When Did You Leave Heaven”, the original album track 2.
As to why Dylan choose to record this at all, it’s a lovely song for sure but perhaps he just got a kick out of the fact it was actually written about the author’s beloved car which broke down on his way to work one day after many years of service.
You packed in the morning, I stared out the window And I struggled for something to say You left in the rain without closing the door I didn't stand in your way But I miss you more than I missed you before And now where I'll find comfort, god knows 'Cause you left me just when I needed you most Left me just when I needed you most Now most every morning, I stare out the window And I think about where you might be I've written you letters that I'd like to send If you would just send one to me 'Cause I need you more than I needed before And now where I'll find comfort, God knows 'Cause you left me just when I needed you most Left me just when I needed you most You packed in the morning, I stared out the window And I struggled for something to say You left in the rain without closing the door I didn't stand in your way Now I love you more than I loved you before And now where I'll find comfort, God knows 'Cause you left me just when I needed you most Oh yeah, you left me just when I needed you most You left me just when I needed you most
The song also has a very un-Dylan melodic and rhythmic content – it is possible that Dylan chose it because he wanted to show he really could handle a different type of song from all the songs he normally performed.
Randy VanWarmer said that the success of the song is that the situation has “happened to everyone. That emotion is universal…I always hoped the record wasn’t wallowing in self-pity and it had some redeeming value, and I guess it does.”
He also particularly noted the autoharp instrumental break between the second and third verses, performed by John Sebastian.
What else is on the site?
We have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 3600 active members. (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm). Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.
The index to all the 602 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.
If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.
On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, or indeed have an idea for a series of articles that the regular writers might want to have a go at, please do drop a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article to Tony@schools.co.uk
And please do note our friends at 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, plus links back to our reviews (which we do appreciate).