The Never Ending Tour Extended: Love Minus Zero / No Limit 1988-1996

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.

Love Minus Zero / No Limit

1988: The 60s revisited

When I start each of these articles for this series I simply choose a song that I know Bob has played multiple times, and go looking for the recordings Mike has provided us with, never really knowing what I am going to find.  Of course I have listened to all the recordings as we have published each of Mike’s articles, but there must be getting on for 2000 recordings all told in series and there’s no way my brain can hold more than a fraction of them in the active part of what passes for my memory.

So this 1998 version really took me by surprise.  There’s a real earnestness and urgency about Bob’s delivery, and the decision to perform the whole piece with just two acoustic guitars really lays the song bare.

But at the same time I am aware that the song is now taken at a slightly faster speed than the original album version.

1989: A fire in the sun

So having given us an extra urgency to the song, what does Bob do?  He next gives us even more urgency, upping the speed but also putting something extra into his voice suggesting he needs to drive this on.  But I am caught wondering, why?   What is there to hurry about?   Has he not already hurried enough?

There’s something, because the whole performance is a minute shorter than it was a year before.   And yes, it is interesting, but also almost unnerving.  “My love she speaks like silence” is one of the great, great opening lines in the history of popular music, and it needs to be considered, and taken in, and contemplated, and then thought about some more, but here it is now just part of an energetic drive onwards.

It’s interesting, but I am left wondering why.

1992  Mr Guitar Man goes acoustic

Now having changed the speed Bob changes the melody – a melody that I have cherished from the moment I first heard the song and compared the lady described in the song with my own girlfriend (a bloody stupid thing to do, but well, I was so much older then…)

There is an utter desperate urgency in the performance now which I never imagined in the earlier editions which to me were reflective love songs; songs of the most fulsome appreciation of a beautiful woman.  But now…  I am not sure.

But then in a later concert in the same year Bob expanded the song giving us an extra minute and a half , as if maybe he realised he’d cut the piece back so much that it was no longer all there.

The extra time is taken up with haronica solos, and the fact that the tempo has been taken down a fraction.    But I am left now, as I was when we first published the article with this in it, profoundly unmoved.  For me this is an experiment that was going down the wrong tracks, and could have been closed up.   But the crowd love it.

So was there anywhere else to go?  Oh yes.  Forward four years and we have found the original song and the original declaration of love to the original lady.

1996 Berlin and Beyond

To me this next version sounds as if Bob finally found a tape of the original song and remembered what he had originally meant the piece to be.  The addition of the double bass and second guitar helps enormously to add a stability to the performance that was perhaps drifting away previously.    Now once more there is love, desire, dedication, and indeed worship of the lady.

It is as if before Bob was singing to a picture of the lady.  Now he has been reunited with her and wants to tell her about his feelings while also telling us all about her, and about his love of her.

And of course it is quite likely that she never existed, and is just the fictional character in a song, but I really, really don’t mind, because I have on my computer this wonderful recording or this most wonderful song, and playing it once more makes me feel that despite the horrors of the world, despite my own failed love affairs and marriages, despite the arguments and fights, despite everything, there is still beauty in this world.  And that, I owe to Bob.

Other articles in this series…

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