Commentary by Tony, research and opening comment by Aaron:
Here’s a track which Bob tried out five times in soundchecks in 78, this one is from Paris. It’s called Fix It Ma. Not the best sound quality but here it is. (It does get a little clearer as it progresses, stay with it…)
This was the year in which Dylan wrote a number of songs with Helena Springs. As far as we know the only songs that were not written with Ms Springs that year were (in chronological order)…
- New Pony
- Baby Stop Crying
- You don’t love me no more
- This a-way that a-way.
- Take it or leave it
- Daddy’s gonna take one more ride
- Legionnaire’s disease
- Slow Train
- Do right to me baby (do unto others)
So this would make the 11th Dylan solo composition of the year. But what about the lyrics (apart from “You better fix it ma”)? Earlier we asked if anyone wanted to have a go at writing them out, and Larry Fyffe duly obliged
It was down around Tokyo, ready or not Get out of pokey Ozzie, dead or a alive You better fix it mama, fix it mama You better fix it mama, you better fix it mama You better fix it mama real quick If you wanna get along with me Just fix at me Well you want to go down, and get your bad tooth, slam the door Well you tried to tell the daddy-o that he broke the law Well you better fix it ma You gotta fix it ma You better fix it for me real quick Because I'm outside your gate If you wanna get along with me
Musically it is a standard 12 bar blues. We have two verses here, with the first four lines containing the original lyrics. Then we have four lines of “you better fix it ma”.
I should add that the phrase “12 bar blues” has long since been a misnomer, and is now used to refer not to the number of bars of music, but to the structure of the chord sequence, which in this case would be written…
I, I, I, I I, I, I, I IV, IV, IV, IV I, I, I, I, V, V, V, V IV, IV, I, I
which will mean quite a lot to rock musicians.
The song is listed on BobDylan.com although without any information added to the title. Olof Björner has it listed as being played five times in 1978, but Heylin makes no mention of the song at all. It was included on the bootleg album, “All this tangled rope.”
In fact around 20 websites have the song mentioned – but none go into any detail of the music nor the lyrics. The music is simple to decode, but the lyrics… here is your chance of immortality.
By all means write your version in the comments below, but if you email them to Tony@schools.co.uk (please write Fix it ma in the subject line) I’ll get to see them quicker, and integrate them into this text, with a full acknowledgement.