Dylan’s “We better talk this over”: the meaning of the music and the lyrics

We better talk this over is hardly a great song, but it does have a way with words that is unusual even for Dylan.

The start does not auger well with the opening lines still jarring after all these years

I think we better talk this over
Maybe when we both get sober

I can still hear myself shouting, “Oh no,” as I heard that for the first time. It is just so naff. And worse the opening is followed by two throw away lines which make one think that the great lyricist has lost it 

You’ll understand I’m only a man
Doing the best that I can.

But then in the next verse we suddenly get a surprise… 

Let’s call it a day go our own different way
Before we decay.

Decay? Now that is odd. Love songs – lost love songs indeed – normally speak about “getting older” not decay. This is indeed something new.

Next verse…

I took a chance, got caught in the trance
Of a downhill dance.

Another surprise. Downhill dance. The previous lines of the verse are mundane, but suddenly there’s a jump into this different language.

and just to show this was no accident, it turns up again next time around – again with the 3rd and 4th line 

I’m lost in the haze of your delicate ways
With both eyes glazed.

So it goes on, the mundane clashing two lines later with the extraordinary. I don’t know if Dylan quotes the Zen stories elsewhere, but he brings in the most famous Zen image at this point…

Like the sound of one hand clapping

Followed by more unexpected imagery.

The vows that we kept are now broken and swept
Beneath the bed where we slept.

There is then a musical jump – an instrumental pause which goes nowhere at all, followed by a totally unexpected repeat of the “middle 8” (the B in a ternary analysis). Again I can’t think where else this happens in Dylan – if he is in ternary he stays in ternary, and ternary does not repeat the middle 8…

Why should we got on watching each other through a telescope ?
Eventually we’ll hang ourselves on all this tangled rope.

So is this a song in which Dylan deliberately mangled the mundane with the extraordinary? If so, why? Or is it that he just ran out of ideas, needed another song quickly to complete the album and put in a half finished version of what could have been a masterpiece?

The music is not exceptional, and the story line of lost love is not just commonplace but also obviously what was on his mind at the time. So mundane music, mundane topic, mundane lyrics… but mixed with extraordinary imagery.

As always will don’t know and won’t know. It remains a curiosity, but with some moments to treasure.

The Discussion Group

We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase in, on your Facebook page or go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/254617038225146/

The Chronology Files

There are reviews of Dylan’s compositions from all parts of his life, up to the most recent writings, but of late I have been trying to put these into chronological order, and fill in the gaps as I work.

All the songs reviewed on this site are also listed on the home page in alphabetical order – just scroll down a bit once you get there.

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2 Responses to Dylan’s “We better talk this over”: the meaning of the music and the lyrics

  1. Hello Tony, thank you for posting another interesting analysis of a song from Bob Dylan’s Music Box http://thebobdylanproject.com/Song/id/721/We-Better-Talk-This-Over Come and join us inside and listen to every song composed, recorded or performed by Bob Dylan, plus all the great covers and so much more.

  2. L FYFFE says:

    Many of Shakespeare’s ‘love’ sonnets also speak of decay – that is, life is short so you better get on with living in spite of set backs.

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