By Tony Attwood
Links to examples changed, April 2017
Almost Done is one of the most tantalising of Dylan half-written songs, first because it has two titles (one of which seems irrelevant) and second because the normally 1000 per cent reliable Dylan Chords website has lyrics which don’t seem to relate to the copy of the song that I have found online.
But never fear – I’ve got it worked out, and of course it was me that was going around in circles, no one else.
Just to add a little to the confusion Heylin reports that before the May 1984 tour gigs, journalists were given a set list for the tour which included “Angel of Rain”.
That song did not make it into the concerts, and indeed nor did it make it into the sound checks and rehearsals. But the rehearsal and sound check tapes do have a song with the line “Almost Done” in it, and this seems to be what I have been listening to. There was no Angel of Rain.
Also it appears that there are multiple versions of this song sung at this part of the tour, and the lyrics changed day to day, and between events at the Beverly Theatre, Los Angeles, on 23 May 1984, and in the Arena di Verona, on 27 May 1984. But it never made the shows and was never recorded in the studio.
Now I am including, in this part of my attempt at a chronological review of Dylan, songs like this, because (particularly at this time) they all seem to me to be part of Dylan trying to find his new muse in 1984, and even snatches like this give us a valuable insight into how Dylan faced the era. He wanted a new “voice” – a new style, a new approach, and he wasn’t finding it.
So he kept looking and looking, trying things that were half done, just waiting for something to hit him full on with the message, “this is it.”
It is a soft gentle ballad with a delicate slide between the minor chords (C#m, G#m, C#m, F#m, E.) Indeed it is that chord sequence that tells me that the version Eyolf Østrem transcribed was the same as I have been listening to.
Indeed Eyolf Østrem writes, “It seemed meaningless to try and transcribe the mumbling on the Beverly Theatre version (May 23). Verona was a little less meaningless…” Here are the opening lines from his Verona transcription.
I stood by I stood by you Stood by her Oh don't be untrue It's already there for to see the one oh now she rode She's almost done
In the second version Dylan seems to have got a clue as to where this is going with the notion of trust as the centre of the song…
All the night fortune don't last Gonna be lucky, more than in the past It's already there, Already new Oh, trust in me, I'll trust in you
Heylin suggests that the reason for the song not being completed is that Dylan was thinking about songs for the tour, not something (like Dark Eyes perhaps) for the end of an album – which this song most certainly could be. And since the tours have always had loud audiences who want to make their own noise, an unknown gentle lilting ballad wasn’t going to fit.
It is a tragedy not to have a song like this, but at least this recording gives us a bit of an idea even though the lyrics here seem to be quite different. (And this time I am not going to attempt to transcribe them – although if you would like to, please be my guest.)
Try this one first
- Who loves you more? One of Dylan’s not quite lost songs from the Empire Burlesque recordings
- Go ‘way little boy – Bob Dylan meets Maria McKee. The meaning behind the music and the lyrics.
- From Danville Girl to New Danville Girl to Brownsville Girl. Dylan’s epic journey.
- Drifting too far from shore: a Dylan song with a rather bad press
- Solid Rock – Dylan as a full on preacher; God meets rock n roll
- Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature