By Tony Attwood
“Dylan Obscuranti” is an imaginary album, that I have created to highlight just a handful of tracks that Dylan has composed, and specific performances that he (and occasionally others) have given, which I think are sublime in themselves, and are not as well known as perhaps they should be.
Tracks 1 to 12 have been set out along with the “sleeve notes” as we used to call them.
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 1 – Angelina
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 2. Tomorrow is a long time
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 3. I’m not there
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 4. Mama you been on my mind
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 5. Love is just a four letter word
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 6. To fall in love with you.
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 7. Restless Farewell for Frank
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 8. Ballad for a friend
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 9 Dusty old fairgrounds
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 10. What kind of friend is this.
- Dylan Obscuranti: Tracks 11 & 12: When He Returns and I believe in you.
Now my final track. And for me it is Dylan’s riposte to his Christian excursions – “Making a liar out of me.”
Now you may not agree at all that this is a reply to his own Christian writing of the previous year, but then one of the absolutely great things of creating your own album is that you can, by and large, do what you want and follow any argument you want.
And for me this is an absolutely perfect end to an album. Musically, it is simplicity itself. The same vocal line over and over again, with just two chords. The vocal line changes slightly to accommodate the lyrics, with each verse ending with the different final line to “You’re making a liar out of me.”
Just ask yourself, how on earth can anyone make a song out of the same vocal line sung over and over with only minor changes?
I tell people, you just going through changes And that you're acquainted both with night and day That your money's good and you just being courageous On them burning bridges knowing your feet are made of clay Well I say you won't be destroyed by your inventions That you brought it all under captivity And that you really do have all the best intentions But you're making a liar out of me Well I say that you just young and self-tormented But that deep down you understand The hopes and fears and dreams of the discontented That threaten now to overtake your promised land Well I say you'd not sow discord among brothers Nor drain a man of his integrity That you remember the cries of orphans and their mothers But you're making a liar out of me But you're making a liar out of me Well I say that, that ain't flesh and blood you're drinking In the wounded empire of your fool's paradise With a light above your head forever blinking Turning virgins into merchandise That you must have been beautiful when you were living You remind me of some old-time used-to-be I say you can be trusted with the power you been given But you're making a liar out of me So many things so hard to say as you stumble To take refuge in your offices of shame As the earth beneath my feet begins to rumble And your young men die for nothin', not even fame I say that someday you'll begin to trust us And that your conscience not been slain by conformity That you stand up unafraid to believe in justice But you're making a liar out of me You're making a liar out of me Well I can hear the sound of distant thunder From an open window at the end of every hall Now that you're gone I got to wonder If you ever were here at all I say you never sacrificed my children To some false god of infidelity And that it's not the Tower of Babel that you're building But you're making a liar out of me You're making a liar out of me Well you're making a liar out of me
I have listened to this song a thousand times and still never tire of it – and indeed some time ago I wrote quite a long piece going through the meaning of the lyrics, so I’m not going to go through that all again. It’s still on this site if you want it.
But I would say that there are just so many lines in this piece which endlessly mean something to me. Not the same thing each time – but an endlessly evolving and moving set of meanings through phrases that have become part of my life since I first heard the song. As an album ender it is perfection.
So let me, if I may, end my imaginary album notes to my imaginary album with a few of the lines above that still knock me out, and have become part of my life (if both can be true at the same time, which I rather doubt).
The hopes and fears and dreams of the discontented That threaten now to overtake your promised land As the earth beneath my feet begins to rumble And your young men die for nothin', not even fame Now that you're gone I got to wonder If you ever were here at all
These lines mean something different to me each time I hear them. They bring forth images seemingly suitable to one in his later years of life, when I find I do start to wonder about some of the things that happened in my past, but maybe didn’t…
That’s my album of lesser known Dylan songs that are with me day by day. And if by any chance you would like to join in and provide an album cover as a jpg file, I would be honoured to add that to this collection.
If you have enjoyed this you might also enjoy
Dylan 1980: our created album of the great works of that year, which of course also includes the song highlighted here
Play lady Play – the ladies take on Bob’s songs.
Sheep in Wolves Clothing (the replacement to “Down in the Groove”)
Finally, if you have an idea for an alternative album of Dylan’s which you think could make an interesting series here, do say. You can either write it all yourself, or come up with the idea and ask others to join in.
You’ll also find, at the top of this page, and index to some of our series established over the years. Series we are currently running include
- The art work of Bob Dylan’s albums
- The Never Ending Tour year by year with recordings
- Beautiful Obscurity – the unexpected covers
- All Directions at Once
You’ll find links to all of them on the home page of this site
If you have an article or an idea for an article which could be published on Untold Dylan, please do write to Tony@schools.co.uk with the details – or indeed the article itself.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with getting on for 10,000 members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link And because we don’t do political debates on our Facebook group there is a separate group for debating Bob Dylan’s politics – Icicles Hanging Down