Another new old Bob Dylan song: Too Late

By Tony Attwood

Aaron sent me a recording of  this previously unpublished Dylan song over a week ago, and I struggled with the review, and set it aside until Aaron kindly reminded me.  Making up excuses by the ton, I’ve rushed around and caught up.  So here we are.

It is “Uncut” magazine that has come up with this previously unheard Bob Dylan track – which will become song number 625 in terms of the list of Dylan compositions.  Several people have commented it sounds like an early version of Foot of Pride.

You might be able to make sense of it at once, but if not try listening with the lyrics below – that’s how I gradually got the hang of what is going on here.

If that doesn’t work, try the one below.   And below that is my (Tony’s) version of the lyrics and I am notorious for inaccuracies.

Here are the lyrics…

Whether there was a murder, I don`t know, I can`t say, 
I was visiting a friend in jail. 
There were only two women at the scene at the time, 
neither one of them saw a thing, both of them were wearing a veil.
I said it was a natural situation, and it reached too high,
???? (missing section)
It`s too late to bring him back. 
Too late, too late, too late, too late, too late to bring him back.
He got a brother named Paul, hanging out at the Cafe Royale, 
where the all of the company is mixed. 
He is pretty to look at, he wants someone to throw the book at, 
but you know he drinks, and drinks can be fixed. 
Sing me one more song about your summer romance, 
Or maybe the one about you`re one night stand with Erroll Flynn. 
In these times of compassion, with conformities and fashion, 
say one more stupid thing to me, before the final nails driven in. 
You know it`s too late to bring him back, 
Too late, too late too late, to bring him back
Dr Silver Spoon from the ecstasy ballroom, he`s a retired businessman, 
who feeds off everyone he touched. 
He gives money to the church foundation for research, 
he`s not someone you can play around with too much. 
Miss Rose in a plate from spinning both sides of the lake, 
she`s rough to look at, but she`s safe, 
She`ll give you coconut bread and spiced buns in bed, 
and you won`t have to worry about 
sleeping with your head face down in your plate. 
But know it`s too late to bring him back, 
too late, too late too late, to bring him back
You gonna arrange to see a man tonight, 
to tell you some secret things that you think might open some doors. 
How to enter the gates of paradise, 
No, not really, more like going crazy from carrying a burden 
never meant to be yours. 
On the stage ever doing the bumps and the grinds, 
A whore will pass the hat, collect a hundred grand, 
and say, "well boys, thanks." 
They like to take all this money but then build castles to study in, 
and sing `Amazing Grace` all the way to food bank, 
But it`s too late to bring him back, too late, too late 
Too late, to bring him back.

Incidentally if you leave the video running, or indeed flip on to the next song, you get a different from normal version of “Serve Somebody” – quite an improvement to my ear!

As for the lyrics, they are a stream of consciousness approach – ideas pouring out in all directions.  This really is a very early draft of what could have been a most exciting song with just a little more work on it – the sort of work Bob would have put into his songs that he finished and offered to the public.  Bits and pieces sound awkward here – but that is how it is in composing a song from scratch – with the normal rehearsals lines get changed and the final edition emerges.  It could really have been a great song.

As it is, we have an early sketch.  I can only hope that somewhere on another tape there’s a recording of the same song made about a week later.

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16 Responses to Another new old Bob Dylan song: Too Late

  1. We are actively promoting a link to this interesting topic on The Bob Dylan Project at:
    https://thebobdylanproject.com/Song/id/195/Foot-of-Pride-Too-Late

    If you are interested, we are a portal to all the great information related to this topic.

    Join us inside Bob Dylan Music Box.

  2. Vineeta Ganju says:

    Who/what are the lyrics in Too Late about? The references are all specific but I cannot find any information about it.

  3. Theo Axner says:

    I just found a band version of “Too Late” with all six verses (the last two are very close to the “Foot of Pride” lyrics but not identical) from the upcoming Bootleg Series #16 on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/6MtopcoEtOrRRuV7at6AUX?si=95bab356196d4d13

  4. Simon mayhall says:

    It must be Christ who is not coming back.

  5. Chouteau says:

    Could it be that this is about his Christian covenant, evanglical, Gospel phase? Yes, there was a murder. Yes two women were there at the time. Yes He climbed up a hill (no, it was not a wall) … I think he might have been saying at infidels that he couldn’t get Him back in his life. But of course, trying to parse Dylan’s nobel prize winning lyrics is a fool’s errand. It might be about something else entirely.

  6. TOM MCMAHON says:

    Whatever it means and whoever he’s talking about this song is amazing! Only Bobby D could fit this fusillade of words into song form. Can somebody say phrasing? And he’s on fire and so is his voice.

  7. Mirte says:

    At the official Dylan site, it is said that the song is written by Chuck Willis. When we search Chuck Willis, he indeed has a song called ‘Too Late’, these are the lyrics:

    Track 5 On
    It’s Too Late
    Chuck Willis

    [Verse 1]
    Stayed in bed all mornin’ just to pass the time
    There’s somethin’ wrong here, there can be no denyin’
    One of us is changin’, or maybe we’ve just stopped tryin’

    [Chorus]
    And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late
    Though we really did try to make it
    Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide
    And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no

    [Verse 2]
    It used to be so easy, livin’ here with you
    You were light and breezy, an’ I knew just what to do
    Now you look so unhappy, and I feel like a fool

    [Chorus]
    And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late
    Though we really did try to make it
    Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide
    And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no

    [Verse 3]
    There’ll be good times again for me and you
    But we just can’t stay together; don’t you feel it too?
    Still I’m glad for what we had and how I once loved you
    [Chorus]
    And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late
    Though we really did try to make it
    Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide
    And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no
    No, no, no, no

    This is the story of Dylan, like we know it from other songs. Also a lot of the other songs of Chuck Willis are about this Theme.
    So I think this was the message for his – former – girlfriend at the moment.

  8. Mirte says:

    Edit: In the lyrics of Dylan ‘Too late to bring him back’ means: too late to bring the boy back that he was, because ‘somethin’ inside has died, and he can’t hide’.
    The “two women” means that the girlfriend had two sides, one beautiful and one ugly side. Like the story of the Two Sisters. Dylan made also a painting named ‘Two Sisters’.

    “The Twa Sisters” (“The Two Sisters”) is a traditional murder ballad, dating at least as far back as the mid seventeenth century. The song recounts the tale of a girl drowned by her jealous sister. At least 21 English variants exist under several names, including “Minnorie” or “Binnorie”, “The Cruel Sister”, “The Wind and Rain”, “Dreadful Wind and Rain”, “Two Sisters”, “The Bonny Swans” and the “Bonnie Bows of London”. The ballad was collected by renowned folklorist Francis J. Child (Child 10) and is also listed in the Roud Folk Song Index (Roud 8).[1] Whilst the song is thought to originate somewhere around England or Scotland (possibly Northumbria), extremely similar songs have been found throughout Europe, particularly in Scandinavia.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twa_Sisters

  9. Mirte says:

    It’s a very cryptic lyric, but I see humourous things, like the sentence:

    Sing me one more song about your summer romance, I know
    You don’t know ‘marvelous children’*, sing me the one about you and Errol Flynn

    I found out that ‘Marvelous children’ is – probably – from a song, called ‘You’re Wonderful’, a nursery rhyme , lyrics:
    I think you’re wonderful. I think you’re marvelous.
    I think you’re beautiful, and magical and filled with curiosity…. and dreams.

    You think I’m wonderful? You think I’m marvelous?
    You think I’m beautiful, and magical and filled with curiosity…. and dreams?

    You’re right I’m wonderful. You’re right I’m marvelous.
    You’re right I’m beautiful, and magical and filled with curiosity…. and dreams.

    I think you’re wonderful. I think you’re marvelous.
    I think you’re beautiful, and magical and filled with curiosity…. and dreams.

    You’re right I’m wonderful. You’re right I’m marvelous.
    You’re right I’m beautiful, and magical and filled with curiosity…. and dreams.

    That means we’re wonderful. That means we’re marvelous.
    That means we’re beautiful, and magical and filled with curiosity…. and dreams.

    He says to his girlfriend, ‘you don’t know that song about how wonderful we are together in our summer romance, you only can be cruel to me now, so sing me the song about you with that Errol Flynn guy – Errol Flynn had a bad reputation, we can read on Wiki.

  10. Loekie says:

    Tony, maybe you can put the correct text above?
    These are the correct lyrics:
    https://letras2.com/bob-dylan-too-late/

    I believe this cryptic sentence:
    ‘They can put your face on a postage stamp’

    has the same meaning as:
    ‘But it’s like I’m stuck inside a painting
    That’s hanging in the Louvre
    My throat start to tickle and my nose itches
    But I know that I can’t move’

    from one of my favorite lyrics: ‘Don’t fall apart on me tonight’

    and by that he means there was no proper conversation between his girlfriend and himself because for some psychological reason he was unable to, it was as if his head was on a postage stamp, or hung like a painting in the Louvre.

  11. Ian Long says:

    It’s clearly an early version of Foot of Pride, released on the first Bootleg compilation. Almost all the lyrics are broadly the same.

  12. Bobdylan0318 says:

    In the second verse, it’s definitely:

    “Sing me one more song about your summer romance, I know you don’t know *Motherless Children*, sing me the one about you and Erroll Flynn”

    Reference to the old standard. Also in the second verse, believe it is:

    “He is pretty to look at, he wants someone to throw the book at, but you know he drinks, *and drinks can be fixed*”

    As in, he could be poisoned if need be. I think this line sounds more clear when sung in Foot of Pride.

    Ah, and one more that seems to be disputed: I’m pretty sure the first line is “whether *it was murder*”. Since we are later told about 2 ladies on the scene who thought it was “natural”, I feel it’s safe to assume that someone has definitely died in the narrative. The singer is responding to being asked if he thought it was murder or “natural”, an accident or something similar.

  13. P Spencer says:

    “In these times of compassion where conformity’s a fashion
    Say one more stupid thing to me before the final nail is driven in’

    Dylan predicts cancel culture.

  14. Phil says:

    Mirte, that “Chuck Willis song” isn’t. It’s a Carole King song, with lyrics by Toni Stern. His song is completely different.

  15. Jim says:

    This is simply a draft, working out version of “Foot of Pride”.
    It is on an album of out-takes and rehearsals. Dylan works things out as he goes along.
    Why people think this is a “new” or “different song” is baffling. It was a working draft, completed with “Foot of Pride”, with Dylan refining the lyrics, discarding verses, etc.

  16. Garry Williams says:

    Hi Loekie,
    I think the lyric ‘They can put your face on a postage stamp’ is reference to the fact they are killers. Until 2011 only dead people could have their faces on stamps.

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