The Never Ending Tour Extended: Long and Wasted Years


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 primarily 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.   A list of all the songs covered in the series is given at the end.

Long and wasted years was played 328 times between 2013 and 2019.  We first pick it up in 2014 – The Setlist: The second half 

The musical introduction of course tells us what we are going to get in terms of the song.  And Bob declaims the lyrics with not so much a melody more simply a change of pitch.  This is a performance of anguish, anguish and then more anguish.    Indeed at times he’s almost shouting the rush of words, as the band just plays the same accompaniment over and over again.

It is obvious what the song is about – the opening verse tells us that –

It's been such a long, long timeSince we loved each other and our hearts were trueOne time, for one brief day, I was the man for you

and this could turn into a song of regret and sadness, but with this performance it is a song of utter bitterness.  There are some lyrical changes but that’s not the point.   It is the pure venom that pour out that dominates.

It doesn’t get any better than this

By 2015 we get a somewhat different version.   This is slightly slower version, with more melodic variations in the voice, and when Bob says he ain’t seen his family in 20 years he really is bitter – and there certainly is no recognition in the voice that this could be the singer’s fault.  No, we are clear, everyone else is to blame, not him.

Given this delivery, some of the lines however are hard to believe.  For example

Come back babyIf I hurt your feelings, I apologize
That doesn’t sound at all apologetic to me.   Likewise…
You don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine

Is that really meant?  It is hard to believe it when performed in this way.  I wouldn’t believe it, but the audience certainly seemed to love the pain and anguish.

And so on to 2017…

Riding the Setlist Wave

And instantly from the opening notes of the changed accompaniment, we know we are into something else here.   Dylan confirms that within seconds and if it were not confirmed already: the “Oh Baby” does it once more.

The problem is that there is not too much that can be done with the almost non-existent melody and that eternal descending accompaniment line.   Yet there is a tiny element of gentleness that was not there before, and we get some variation from the band between the verses.  Tiny changes but they do make a difference and hint at more to come…

In fact, I get the feeling here that Bob really would like to do something else with the song, and these slight changes are a hint in that direction.  But the song itself is very limited, and the title of “Long and Wasted Years” doesn’t leave too much to the imagination.

And yes there is a journey going on because in 2018 we find…

Hell bent for leather

The move towards a less angry and more sympathetic version has been a step-by-step progression, and yet here we are, along with an extra occasional moment from the band.  Not much but it is there between verses, and it is different.

Bob is still declaiming rather than singing, but he is no longer calling out in anger – and those extra moments from the band between each verse express that well.

The Greatest Band Ever To Hit The Stage

And so we come to the end for the song in the Never Ending Tour, in 2019.   And yes that announcement introduction from the band is there, but consider how Dylan’s declamation of the song has changed from the first edition we had just four years earlier.

Sadness now dominates, and yet again there are slight changes in the accompaniment – an extra chord at the start of each year.   And just consider how Bob declaims, “Twist and Shout” – there is no anger any more, just that sadness of a lost past.

Indeed musically the extra chords between the verses signify this too.   In the end even after hearing the song five times one after the other, I am sad and sorry, not just for the singer but for the lady involved too.

Plus yet again I really do appreciate how the song has developed.   There really is little one can do with this song while keeping it as the original song, because of the constrained nature of the composition and the clarity of the meaning of the lyrics.  But Bob has found all that he can do.   And for me, it was worth the journey.

Other articles in this series…

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