Dylan’s “We better talk this over”: the last ever performance changes the feeling

By Tony Attwood

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

That comment above was made when I first wrote this review.   Over the years I have changed my mind and in March 2020, I added the above live version, which I really love, and which transforms the song – and I am so grateful to mr tambourine for finding and preserving this video.  Apparently it was the last live performance; it happened in 2000, and it totally transforms the song.

Here’s the original review…

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.


What else is on this site?

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to all the 594 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article.  Email Tony@schools.co.uk

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, links back to our reviews

 

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2 Responses to Dylan’s “We better talk this over”: the last ever performance changes the feeling

  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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