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Aaron sent me a recording of  this previously unpublished Dylan song over a week ago, and I struggled with the review, and set it aside until Aaron kindly reminded me.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.  This 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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5 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:

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  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:

  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.

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