Never Ending Tour: the Absolute Highlights

By Tony Attwood

Writing of I and I” on this site Jochen said,

“The song does actually not have any other music history fame; it is no longer performed by Dylan, there are hardly any covers and it does not appear on compilation albums or overview works either. Pity, still. Granted, it does not have the monumental quality of “Hallelujah”, but it deserves more than oblivion.”


This recording was presented in the fourth part of the review of the Tour in 1998.

And although it is true that Bob has not performed it since 2004 – 18 years ago as I write – we have been left with at least one monumental recording of the song which brings across its power.

But it is power without much meaning – at least not much that I can find.  And I guess I thought of this recording and this song for this “Absolute Highlights” series because of that.

For as you may have noticed if you have been paying attention to my ramblings on this site, I don’t need songs to have meanings.  Some of Dylan’s songs do have meanings of course, some of them seem to mean one thing but actually say something quite different (“Times they are a changing” is my favourite example), some have meanings that are deliberately obscure (“Tangled up in blue”, of course) and some are just, well, they just are.

And these are the songs that I think are the hardest to deliver, because there is no coherence.   I mean what are we to make of

Outside of two men on a train platform there’s nobody in sight
They’re waiting for spring to come, smoking down the track
The world could come to an end tonight, but that’s all right
She should still be there sleepin’ when I get back

It is an abstract piece of music, and rather like abstract paintings, I love abstract songs.  But abstract songs are hard to get right unless the musical accompaniment is perfect, and that is so hard to do.  But that is what happens here.

Go back to the start and just listen to the way the guitar sets the scene, and then how Bob’s voice joins in – don’t worry about the lyrics just feel the sound.   For here Bob’s croaking voice is perfect for this piece.

And all the way through I am just waiting for the band to break loose and build upon all that Bob has done through his singing.  Then on two minutes the guitars play their first duet and suddenly I have the feeling this is not tangled up in blue but tangled up in the deepest black – not least as the guitars take it down again ready for the next verse.

For me this is a wonderful live version of an abstract song, which gathers up the idea that music can tell it like it is and be utterly abstract at the same time.

Someone else is speakin’ with my mouth, 
                      but I’m listening only to my heart
I’ve made shoes for everyone, even you, 
                      while I still go barefoot

Absolutely – and I really don’t want to say any more.  If you have the chance, stop doing everything else, go somewhere totally quiet, close your eyes, and play the recording.


  1. Tony has a habit when he’s unable to fathom a message in a song to call it ‘abstract’, or says who cares about meaning anyway.

    Exodus 33: 22
    But He said, “Thou canst not
    see my face:
    for there shall no man see me, and live.

    Possible interpretations:

    If we able to understood the mystery of existence (of the Universe or its personification as God), we’d each be an immortal god, not mortal humans who live and die, but rather all united in Oneness.

    On the micro level, if one person could completely know what thoughts be in another person’s mind, there’d be no ‘selves”, no strangers, no mystery.

    A pretty boring existence, if you ask me.

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