The Never Ending Tour Extended: To Ramona. 1989 to 2000


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


The Never Ending Tour Extended: This series uses recordings selected by Mike Johnson in his inestimable masterpiece The Never Ending Tour, and looks at how those performances of individual songs change as time goes by.   The selection of songs from the series, and the commentary below, are by Tony Attwood.

And first, a note about the dates.  The performance data for To Ramona initially surprised and puzzled me.   For according to the official website this song has had 381 outings on the Tour but all them were packed in between 2014 and 2017, which is interesting given that  the song was written so many years before, and if these dates were right it would mean around 100 performances a year across four years, then a dead stop.

In fact I think this is just a misprint on the official site – but it is a misprint that has never been picked up.  It might be the only one in the song list, but there could be many others.  In short, if using the data on, take care.

As for the song, I had a go at disentangling it myself some years ago, just in case you are interested, and it also turned up in the Cover a Day series with the title, Ramona, unexpectedly yes!

So the Official Bob Dylan Website list of songs is wrong at least in this instance, which is rather troubling because until now I had assumed that if there were errors on it, they would over time be corrected.  But then, some of the Dylan co-compositions we have found  were not only the official site when I looked.   So maybe it should not be me looking up data on the official site, but them looking up data on Untold Dylan.  That makes me feel rather smug!   Now back to the music.


This first recording is from  1989 part 2 of the Never Ending Tour series: A fire in the sun. 

So here we have the first recording we find from the tour.  Most of the melody is there as we will recall it, but with the usual Bob exaggerations and unexpected changes of the vocal line as with “From fixtures and forces and friends Your sorrow does stem…”

It is slightly faster than the original now, but not that much faster.   What there is however, is an absolute urgency about the song.   In the original Bob seems just to be reflecting on the lady with a bit of a sad shake of the head.  Now he is shouting out to her, “What’s going on, what happened???”

And please do spare a moment to focus on the two instrumental breaks they really do add something extra to the song.  And that slowing down at the end, really is a wonderfully deep insight as the past is put away.

1992 – All the friends I ever had are gone

So we move on a couple of years and the song has now done two things – for it feels faster and more gentle at the same time – which is quite a trick to pull off.  And the instrumental verses are indeed just Bob.   It is as if all the affection for the lady has come rushing back to him.   The fact that the final verse is at least in part virtually a harmonica solo without any guitar work – is quite a shock too.   As if “I’ll come and be cryin’ to you” is being spelled out.

Yet I am indeed puzzled by the overall emotion conveyed in this version – perhaps the line “I cannot explain that in rhyme” is the dominant force here.  The memory is still there but he really cannot explain his feelings, and now finally admits it.

The final instrumental verse however leaves me feeling uneasy – but for the purpose of writing this I went back and played the opening again, and I now feel much more positive about the whole performance.  Especially the guitar solo that starts around 1’50”.  It is worth going back to that and playing it again after you have heard the whole piece.   (And a thank you from me for the audience staying quiet.)


1996 More Liverpool

So we jump on another four years and the speed, which means the incredible urgency, of the performances four years before has now gone.   Now we are back to a slow gentle reflection on just what it is that Bob cannot explain in rhyme.

And although it is not easy to pick up all the time there is a string bass (double bass) playing there which adds to the solemnity.   Lines like “nothing to lose” now reflect the whole essence of the song.

Indeed recordings like this make me so utterly grateful yet again to all the people who made the effort to record these concerts.  I know it was against the wishes of Bob, and/or the record company, but for those of us who love this music, I think these recordings are of inestimable importance.

2000: 2000 Master vocalist

And so for our final visit to this song, a total contrast because now we have percussion, and not just any percussion but an absolute thumping percussion and what I take to be a banjo as well.    I can get the point of the banjo part, but not the percussion – or at least not at the volume we perceive on the recording.  Although of course that might just be the recording, or a problem with the balance in the theatre.

Either way, the whole essence of the piece has now changed.  The way Bob sings, the thump of the drum, the banjo – it takes us to a totally different place.

Indeed this is one of those recordings that makes me think that Bob sat down with the guys and said “what else can we do o this song?”   So they came up with this.  In musical terms we originally had a lilting song in 12/8 – an unusual time signature for popular music but still a perfectly legitimate well-known style in which there are four groups of three beats in each bar, the first of each three having the slightly heavier accent.

Now we have a ponderous 6/8 piece, which when accompanied by the almost sneering voice of Bob.  Before he wanted her to resist.  He was feeling sorry.

From fixtures and forces and friendsYour sorrow does stemThat hype you and type youMaking you feelThat you gotta be exactly like them

Now I have the feeling he is blaming her for giving in.   But then as he says at the end

Everything passesEverything changesJust do what you think you should doAnd someday maybeWho knows, babyI'll come and be cryin' to you

It is now that ending which has become the focus.  Although curiously the instrumental verse at the end of the piece is for me, by far the most successful, pleasing moment of the whole performance.   Ah well, that’s just me.

Other articles in this series…


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