The Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour part 7: “I’ll be your baby tonight”


I don’t know what it means either: an index to the current series appearing on this website.

The Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour

I’ll be your baby tonight

The song starts around the 31 minute mark.

Another Dylan long-term favourite on stage with over 600 performances, differentiated this time by the thumping accompaniment: it has become a straightforward rocker.  But generally straightforward rock songs have some sort of distinguishing feature for Bob, either in the unusual accompaniment or in the instrumental break, or the way in which Bob himself performs, but there is nothing really here to distinguish this version.

However there is an oddity, for suddenly, without any warning, the song goes down to half speed for the last run-through.

Now I really don’t get this at all; I can’t understand any of the decisions made in the arrangement.  So I thought it might be interesting to look at the last recording we have of this song from the Never Ending Tour series – this being in 2015

Now there is not too much that is different in terms of Bob’s approach which is partly declaimed and partly sung, but what made it work back in 2015 was the gentle and almost lilting nature of the accompaniment.

And indeed on hearing this once more, it really leaped out at me that the lyrics are “I’ll be your baby tonight” which is gentle loving phrase, linked to the romantic nature of the lyrics throughout.  Take the “middle 8” for example

Well, the mockingbird's gonna sail awayWe're gonna forget itBig old moon's gonna shine like a spoonWe're gonna let it - you won't regret it
Now I don’t mean to say that all music should slavishly follow the style and tone of the lyrics, nor indeed vice versa, but as a general rule that is not a bad starting point.  Then if there is a good reason, and ideally a novel approach, one can do something different, and sometimes that can work.
But here it just seems to me that Bob is simply declaiming the song above a rock arrangement while singing
Close your eyes - close the doorYou don't have to worry any moreI'll be your baby tonight

Shut the light - shut the shadeYou don't have to be afraidI'll be your baby tonight
Of course contrasts between the music and the lyrics can work, but for me there has to be a reason, and I simply can’t find either an artistic or intellectual reason here.  Now I am sure that is my fault; there is something here I am just not getting, but that’s how it comes across to me.
Obviously this is not the first time I’ve not been impressed with something Bob has done and sometimes in situations like this I try and imagine that I’d never heard a Dylan song or Dylan performance before and this was the first time; then would I be impressed?  Would I come back for more?  Would I think (as in fact I have so often thought, and noted on these pages) “Wow, that’s amazing, how on earth did he come up with that?”
And the answer is no. I didn’t the first time on hearing this, nor the second, nor the third.  My fault, I am sure, but I just don’t get it, either emotionally, musically or intellectually.
A couple of days ago I wrote a little piece for this site, in “The lyrics and the music” series,  Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall. A musical and lyrical revolution. and tried to point out there what an utter revolution Bob had created in that song.   And that revolution worked perfectly in every regard – in the music, the lyrics and the overall approach.
Here I think we are at the opposite end of the scale.  I just don’t think it works.  It’s an experiment, but it’s a dead end for me.

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