Don’t think twice by Bob Dylan. Looking back to 1962 and a beautiful live version

This article was updated in May 2018.

This song is based on the folk song “Who’s gonna buy you ribbons” which has both music and some lyrics that closely resemble Bob’s song. This version recorded in 1960 was made by a friend of Bob’s.

Bob has played this over 1000 times in concert, here’s one picked at random which turned out to be utterly beautiful to my ears, after a rather haphazard start.

Sometimes it is a little too easy to forget just how perfect some of the early Dylan works are, and that is why the demo version of Don’t think twice is so welcome on the “No Direction Home” album. Beautifully understated, lovingly caressed, it seems the most perfect version of the song ever.

There are thousands of cover versions.  This is one of the best, but that of course is just my opinion.

This is the start of the goodbye songs that occupied Dylan so much in the early years – “You just kind of wasted my precious time” – so much the precursor of It ain’t me babe and the other early songs of that genre.

From the instrumental introduction there is the feeling of oneness between Dylan, the song and the guitar. Through this early version you feel for him, and you even feel for the girl who is cast as the outsider – Dylan walks off with the guitar and the song, the girl has nothing save humiliation.

After all, “You’re the reason I’m travelling on” is one of the harshest lines anyone has ever sung to a woman.

It is such a perfectly simple song – the simple strophic verse-verse-verse, which makes the words become understated. Sometimes it seems that “I give her my heart but she wanted my soul” needs to be accompanied by a clash of drums, with possibly some lighting and thunder to help us along.

And this simplicity is why it can work. It is so beautifully understated. Even though “You just wasted my precious time” we have that simple chord structure and elegant melody. How could someone write such a beautiful farewell song?

Here’s the original

The general belief is that this is written in relation to Bob’s relationship and breakup with Suze Rotolo.  Ultimately the whole thing comes from “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone” although unfortunately I can’t find a version on line at the moment.  If you know one please add it.

There have been a number of arguments about whether Bob actually played the rather difficult guitar part on the recording – the official story is that the whole song was recorded in one take, which if that is the case requires a guitarist of enormous ability to get such a complicated part perfect in one go.

Certainly Dylan didn’t normally play it like this when it played it in live shows, although the early concerts did, so I guess it was just a perfect take.  And that idea is backed up by the version on the Witmark Demos (Bootleg vol 9) which is certainly worth listening to if you haven’t heard it for a while.  It is on Spotify if you don’t have the album.

What else is on the site

You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.

We also now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.



  1. I purchased “Freewheeling” in the Fall of 1964, having seen Bon Dylan at Newport that past Summer. But it was not until Feb., ’65 that I was given a great insight into Dylan’s early life. My wife and I had invited my high school civics teacher, Dr. Walter Schuling and his wife to dinner, and we had introduced them to this album. When we were halfway through “Don’t Think Twice” they both were very startled. “This guy’s from Hibbing”, they both said. How did they know? It was their hometown. The rhythm and the harmonica sound was that of the ‘narrow gauge’ coal train that moved through Hibbing. They were from Hibbing and they later attended the University of Minnesota where Walt was awarded a Phd. in Far Eastern History. Because it was the McCarthy period, Walt ended up in San Bernardino teaching in a progressive public high school in 1953. The Schuling’s had never heard of the author of “Blowin’ in the Wind” , but they remembered his father’s store!
    It was at that moment that I realized that I was going to depend upon many other people, my teachers, my colleagues , my friends, and my future students (both young and adult) to understand the meanings of Bob Dylan’s art.
    When in 1973 I met a ‘budding’ “Dylanoligist” here in Santa Cruz, Ca., who later was caught going through Dylan’ trash in NYC, I realized my collective insights were more valid and insightful than what was being published.
    For example: In a graduate English class in the Summer of 1965, a fellow student, older than I, pointed out that the cover of “Bringing it all Back Home” was filled with references to many of the songs in the album. The most obvious ‘artifact’ was a Cellini freeze on the mantle of the fireplace of Diana at the moment of turning her “peeper” into a stag, thence being killed by his own hunting dogs. She’s the “artist”!
    He also pointed out to me that that “Crimson Flames tide through my ears” is the vision of Att. General Katzenbach and Gov. Wallace of Alabama standing in the “doorway” of the University, The Harvard “Crimson” vs. the Crimson Tide.
    More, later.

  2. It ain’to use to sit and wonder why, babe
    If you don’t know by now ….
    I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
    (Don’t Think Twice)

    It ain’t no use to sit and sigh now, darlin’
    And it ain’t no use to sit and cry now
    T’ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, darlin’ ….
    So I’m walkin’ down that long, lomesome road
    (Paul Clayton: Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons)

  3. In his early years, when Dylan adapted existing songs, mostly traditional, his versions were memorable masterpieces. The originals, in nearly every case, were very forgettable songs that had very little impact.

  4. You say: “After all, “You’re the reason I’m travelling on” is one of the harshest lines anyone has ever sung to a woman.”
    Really? You did not read this sentence I suppose:
    ‘Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
    To try and make me change my mind and stay‘

    I think she was harsh to him, that’s the reason he is travellin on but he would rather stay and he thinks she makes a wrong decision and should have think twice.

  5. These love songs were written early in his career when he was fairly young. Once he gets to Time Out of Mind his attitude for fault and responsibility for relationships drastically changes. His breakup for his divorce was dramatic and perhaps because it was single important relationship, but I believe it also shows a maturity and personal responsibility.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *