By Tony Attwood
Dylan Obscuranti is an imaginary album consisting of lesser known Dylan songs performed either by himself or (mostly) other people.
You can hear the opening tracks on our You Tube channel or via the articles…
- Track 1: Angelina but not as we know it
- Track 2. Tomorrow is a long time
- Track 3 – I’m not there
- Track 4 – Mama you been on my mind
- Track 5 – Love is just a four letter word
- Track 6 – To fall in love with you.
Everyone’s favourite obscure track, “To fall in love with you” has been reviewed over and again on this site, but nothing compares, in my opinion, with Jochen’s wonderful point that,
“Dylan tackles this song as he will later weld his large, metal gates: a fixed fillet and a strong framework, filled with an explosion of erratic, alienating objects.”
The point about the song, for me, is that having created the chord sequence and melody, but not been able to find the lyrics, Bob then didn’t go back and pick up what for many lesser songwriters would have appeared to be a masterpiece in waiting.
He didn’t go back, I think, because it didn’t quite fit the type of song he wanted to write at the time. Not because it wasn’t right, but because it wasn’t right for that moment.
So he just leaves it. The lyrics are unfinished, but the music is there ready, waiting, like a child outside the school gates when all the other children have been picked up and taken home. Forgotten, alone, until some kindly strangers come along to the rescue.
But there was something very strange going on here because this was not a period like the early parts of Dylan’s writing career where songs were just pouring out of him day by day. The song was recorded at the end of August 1986, so I think it is fair to take it that since it is unfinished the melody and chord structure were created just before the recording. Here are the antecedents.
- Band of the Hand (It’s hell time man)
- Rock em Dead
- You wanna ramble
- Got my mind made up
- Jammin Me
- Had a dream about you baby
- Ride This Train.
To my ear this quite a collection of songs that have enormous potential. I won’t go through the whole list because they are all reviewed on this site, but I would single out “Rock em Dead” (which I have on my list as a possible contender for this imaginary “Obscuranti album). Likewise “Had a dream about you baby” is also not a song to be cast aside quite so readily as Bob did, in my opinion. Not as magical as
But this was a time when Bob was playing other people’s songs full-time, and it maybe that he was searching for something that simply wasn’t there – searching for an ideal song in such a way that anything that didn’t reach the pinnacle of what he was seeking was simply cast aside.
For maybe he realised how influenced the song is by all the cover songs he had been singing of late. Indeed as Jochen pointed out,
“The tears also flow in “Crying In The Rain”, in “That Lucky Old Sun”, and in Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town”, for example, the rhyme right and night Dylan also sings in “Justine” and in John Lee Hooker’s “Good Rockin’ Mama”, mind and find in “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted” and in “So Long, Good Luck And Goodbye”, it is also dark in the daytime in “Trying To Get To You” by Elvis, in Ray Charles’s “Lonely Avenue” and in Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and so on – one can find almost the entire vocabulary of “To Fall In Love With You” including matching rhyme in those fifty covers Dylan sang over the previous months.
“Characteristic of the poet’s artistry is that from all those pieces welded together a coherent image emerges nevertheless; that of some pitiful fellow who is kept afloat by that one bright spot in his life, by his crush on a you, a Don Quixote that conquers all setbacks because there is a Dulcinea. And along the way a few Dylanesque oneliners pop up too. I see it in your lips, I knew it in your eyes for example, and The day is dark (or: done), our time is right; enthralling, poignant verse lines of poetic beauty.”
And there is the point that as all of us who did this hunting around to try and understand what Bob was up to have noted, the song is not even listed on BobDylan.com – which is interesting given the endless debates there have been about Bob and co protecting his copyright, while nicking other people’s lines.
Indeed in the light of the recent sale of all of Bob’s copyrights for multiple millions of dollars, I wonder if “To Fall in Love With You” was included in the list (or whether they cheated and added “and any other songs Bob wrote which we have forgotten to include” to the bill of sale).
It is also strange because no one tries to cover it either.
What is it that stops everyone having a go at the song? I must say I don’t really know, but then given that I am writing this at a time when I am forbidden from going out of my house except for essential purposes (like buying food or taking a walk for the purposes of exercise) I ask myself why, just for my own amusement, don’t I have a bash at recording the piece.
And the answer is, well, actually, I wouldn’t know quite where to begin. There is something about it, musically, that is really odd, and which needs resolving. It’s not that I don’t feel able to fill in the words and make a recording which could be put up on this site, it is rather I don’t feel I could even play it on guitar or piano.
There is indeed something very strange lurking in the midst of this piece, which I can’t explain. That is why we need it on this album. It is haunting, it is strange, it is unfinished.
To fall in love with you
- To fall in love with you: the origins and the evolution
- To fall in love with you: the greatest of all the lost masterpieces
- To fall in love with you: all the versions of the lyrics
- To fall in love with you: the lyrics and the meanings (revised edition)