- Never Ending Tour – the absolute highlights. 1: John Brown 1987
- Never Ending Tour: the absolute highlights 2: Desolation Row. 1990.
She Belongs to Me is one of those songs to opens itself up to being performed in many ways at many speeds, with any sort of accompaniment one wants. Which is pretty amazing for such a simple song. Three chords, two lines of lyrics per verse, one of which is repeated and one can do so much with it.
And so given that functional description, it is easy to see why an arranger might be tempted to add violins, slow the whole thing down, and squeeze whatever one can out of the lyrics.
But not Bob. In this version, he not only takes it at speed but gives us two instrumental verses with the harmonica and then for good measure a strummed acoustic guitar solo, after which his voice changes and he appears to be in more reflective mood… before we have another instrumental break.
The whole re-working gives me new thoughts about the relationship described within the song: this is playful, joyful, adventurous and outgoing, rather than the reflective piece that “She Belongs to Me” had always been before hearing this.
And I find it interesting to contemplate how the title of the song changes its meaning in relation to the performance. The whole notion of the woman “belonging” to the man is not something I warm to; although from the very start the description of the free-thinking artist seems in utter contradiction to the relationship described or implied in the lyrics.
To me, what happens with this re-arrangement is that the vibrancy of the woman, her outgoing-ness, her artistry, her independence now come shining through in the music, making the “She Belongs to Me” title utterly contradictory.
What’s more the last verse highlighting the implication that she is a child now has much more power. I’m not really trying to suggest that this implication was not there before, but the joy and vigour in this approach makes it much clearer an implication than it was before.
The point I’m stumbling toward is that if the subject of the piece is a child then the joy of a child’s life and daily experience needs the vigour expressed in this rendition, rather than the original approach found on the album.