The lyrics and the music: Beyond here lies nothing


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

By Tony Attwood


Beyond here lies nothing is a 12-bar blues which is written in such a way that at first we don’t actually realise it is a 12-bar blues.   Indeed the first key element that takes us away from seeing and feeling this as the structure is the fact that the second line is not a repeat of the first.

But at the same time one begins to feel there is something else that is different – and it there is because this is a 12-bar blues in the minor key.  The chords are Am, Dm7, Am, Em, Dm, Am.  It is a blues in the minor key – and yet with very positive lyrics.  A contradiction.

However, the melody is so strong in this song (as opposed to many 12 bar blues where it is added as an afterthought), that this, combined with the minor chords, means we don’t really focus on the 12-bar blues construction.

Nevertheless, the music is strophic – that is it is repeated verse after after verse with no variations except for the instrumental break, which in fact musically continues the same construction.  Indeed the fact that the first line of the music on the album version, is just one note, as is the third line, still doesn’t make us think “12 bar blues”.

What I feel, through this repeated line of music on one note, which comes twice, is the dullness and repetition of life – as portrayed in the original video (which I have put on this site with my original review but I really, really don’t like) – when there is no way out.  Yet the lyrics offer a contradiction suggesting life is repetitive but when we are together it doesn’t matter.

That in short is the meaning I take from this: there is just the two of us and we make each other happy, and that’s good because really the rest of life is just dull and boring.  In essence, outside of the two of us, there is just tedium.

But what is curious is the violence of the official video (which is on this site with my original review, but I really don’t want to put it up again) which seems to have nothing at all to do with the music.

The song opens

Oh, well, I love you, pretty babyYou're the only love I've ever knownJust as long as you stay with meThe whole world is my throne

Beyond here lies nothin'Nothin' we can call our own

Thus “beyond here” actually stands for “beyond you and me together as a loving couple”.  And in that regard the song clearly works.

But I do find it hard to get that original video out of my mind, and I wonder if Dylan actually gave the ok for that, or whether making the video to go with a song is totally in the hands of the company that makes them.

However still trying to get that video out of my head what we have is a song with a regular beat, the simplest of chordal structures, a simple melody, and a lilting feel to it, which basically says the relationship with the woman is everything, it is wonderful and nothing else matters.

That is what the lyrics say, and that is what the music says.  It lilts along, it is gentle and it fits the music.  We also know that it wasn’t always like this, but now everything is calm. It is true that…

Beyond here lies nothin'But the mountains of the past

…is rather enigmatic, suggesting that all we are going to do is replay what has gone before – which could well have been the trigger for the video I mentioned above.  We have climbed mountains, but now all that is gone.

And indeed the music makes its lilting way along suggesting everything is running smoothly and without change.

Indeed the verse leading up to the “mountains of the past” line suggests this very strongly

Down every street there's a windowAnd every window's made of glassWe'll keep on lovin', pretty babyFor as long as love will last

Musically, we have the same.  Verse after verse, with four new lines and a repeated title line and then a final variant line.  Nothing changes.

So, to summarise,  and again leaving aside the violent video, this is a gentle lilting song where the unchanging 12 bar format and melodic line fits exactly with the notion of life just going on and on – this time in a happy way, with no thoughts that anything will change.

It is the promotional video that says exactly the opposite, which is really weird because the music and the lyrics are united in projecting the image of a couple, happy together, going on, not changing.

Thus it’s the video maker who is utterly out of tune with the piece.  The music and the lyrics travel in exactly the same direction.

The songs reviewed from the music plus lyrics viewpoint…

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