By Tony Attwood
Jochen has written an excellent series on “Love is Just a Four Word” (links at the end of this piece) and at the end he considered the cover versions of the song.
And in reality, there’s nothing to add about the song, which is what I invariably find with Jochen’s commentaries (although that doesn’t always stop me) – but I thought I would do a little exploring to see if anything else had turned up since he wrote his piece. And to remind you, in case you need reminding, of the covers that Jochen covered (if you see what I mean).
One that Jochen did find was the recording by John Winn which is quite remarkable
And he surprised me (even if no one else) with this version from Darren Holter – and returning to that today I really did enjoy it again.
Anyway, trying to find something new, what was new (for me at least) was the Sound Symposium…
which just shows what can be done with a song if one starts with a desire to go in a new direction. Of course, it is the lyrics that power the song as much as the music, so a lot is lost here, but it made an interesting diversion on a wet saturday morning in July.
I did find one which is a version by Earl Scruggs and Joan Baez.
And I know this is going to look like the Joan Baez show but it is interesting to contrast this with her original recording, and what really is surprising is that someone thought that it was a good idea to put in an extra bit of instrumental whatnot after each line. It is particularly pronounced in the first verse, although the twangy guitar does get occasional outings throughout the piece – which I find extraordinarily annoying. I mean, what sort of person listens to this song and then says, “Hey, let’s put in a bit of twangy guitar.”
Besides, didn’t anyone then reply, “Errr… why have we got that in there exactly???”
It really is as if the producer thought, “Actually this song is rather dull, we’d better throw in some random sounds here and there – I know let’s put in some twang, twang is always good.”
For me the accompaniment in this piece absolutely destroys the song and all its meanings.
Thankfully Ms Baez later realised that she had been betrayed by the production team and doing it her way was a much better idea. That doesn’t mean singing it solo, but it means keeping the accompaniment in the background. The song has a natural bounce, the lyrics really are fun (which is why the repeated melody works so well), and yes it can be an enjoyable experience.
Why the Lord allowed humankind to invent musical producers is completely beyond me.
Which finally brings me to the ultimate, ultimate. And if you have been plodding through the examples I have offered above will come as a contrast. The melody is dropped to a new lower key, and everything starts off sounding a little bit more like a song with an edge – which is what Dylan wrote. “Kept my mouth shut” stands out now, those changing and unexpected vocal harmonies add back in the element that Dylan had in the lyrics from the start.
We no longer need and certainly don’t want any more meandering ideas in terms of accompaniment. Who needs instrumentation when this sort of inventiveness in terms of harmonies is on offer?
If you have a mind to, and the time, please just listen to the multiple vocal lines and how they change the meaning of the lyrics, as well as change themselves verse by verse.
It is a stunning masterpiece of performance.
In fact, this is a song that has quite a covering on Untold Dylan. We even included it in our Dyaln Obscuranti album – of which more below.
First, here’s the index to Jochen’s series on the song…
- Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word (1965): 1 – Anything goes
- Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word: Part II: Can ya dig this?
- Love is just a four-letter word – Part III: Good and evil are but four-letter words, too
- Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word – Part IV: Tennessee
- Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word (Part V): Are you going away with no word of farewell?
- Love is just a four letter word Part VI: You been double-dealing
- Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word; Part VII: Now I understand
- Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word. Part VIII: But it’s all over now
- Love is Just a Four-Letter Word: Part IX: I sit and watch the children play
And to conclude, a reminder of the Dylan Obscuranti album we created
- 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.
- Dylan Obscuranti: Track 13: Making a liar out of me
As you can see, it is a bit of a favourite.
If you feel you’ve something new and different to say about Bob Dylan or his music, and would like to offer it to Untold Dylan for publication, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Please write to Tony@schools.co.uk
If you’d like to explore other thoughts on Dylan and his music please do visit our Facebook group which has over 14,000 members. Just go to Facebook and search for Untold Dylan.
And finally, here’s a list of the earlier articles from Dylan Cover a Day
Here’s a list of most of the articles from this series…
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- 42 Heart of Mine
- 43: High Water
- 44: Highway 61.5
- 45: Hurricane
- 46: I am a lonesome hobo
- 47: I believe in you
- 48: I contain multitudes
- 49: I don’t believe you.
- 50: I love you too much
- 51: I pity the poor immigrant.
- 52: I shall be released
- 53: I threw it all away
- 54: I want you
- 55: I was young when I left home
- 56: I’ll remember you
- 57: Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- 58: If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- 59: A Dylan cover a Day: If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- 60: If you see her say hello
- 61: Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- 62: I’m not there.
- 63: In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- 64: It ain’t me babe
- 65: It takes a lot to laugh
- 66: It’s all over now Baby Blue
- 67: It’s all right ma
- 68: Just Like a Woman
- 69: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- 70: Lay down your weary tune
- 71: Lay Lady Lay
- 72: Dylan Cover a Day 72: Lenny Bruce
- 73: That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
- 74: Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- 75: Dylan Cover a Day: License to kill
- 76: Like a Rolling Stone