By Tony Attwood
After the extraordinary outpouring of compositions by Dylan in 1977 in terms of the Street Legal songs, Dylan went in a different direction. The songs that he added in 1978 to the Street Legal collection (New Pony and Baby Stop Crying) are not, in my opinion, anything like the standard of the previous year’s songs.
But for most of the time in this year Dylan worked with Helena Springs to produce a collection of ok songs, but by and large nothing really special although there is one rather good piece towards the end of the year, in my opinion.
The undoubted highlight for me is I must love you too much after which Dylan composed the decidedly odd (at least in terms of subject matter) Stepchild and Legionnaire’s disease before utterly changing direction with Slow Train which took us into a completely new Dylan World.
Slow Train is not a religious song as such, although it heralded a new Dylan era, but rather as I noted in the review it is a song which tells us we have become disenfranchised because we choose to see ourselves as disenfranchised. If Dylan had continued with that theme who knows what amazing, radical, and indeed revolutionary songs he would have written in the following year.
But he didn’t – he went instead down the exact opposite direction. Instead of saying that the world we see around us is the world we choose to make, he said that we were here because of the design of the Supreme Being. We had to worship the Lord in order to avoid eternal damnation, rather than find a way to change how we look at the world.
Dylan thus chose the much simpler religious route and this song became associated with that religious approach. It need not have been however, and without the future Slow Train it would have stood alone as a bold statement of man’s ability to screw up his own mind and his own future.
But this is all a completely different world view from “I love you too much” and potentially a much more complex world view. But to be complete, to my mind, it needed to be followed through. Which is why “I love you too much” remains my choice for the Dylan song of the year, although as a stand alone song I have to give Slow Train Coming second billing. If the next album had not been 100% religious we might have seen Slow Train in a new light, but as it was, its message was immediately undermined.
An index to every song reviewed on this site is on the home page – just scroll down.
The Discussion Group
We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase in, on your Facebook page or go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/254617038225146/ It is also a simple way of staying in touch with the latest reviews on this site and day to day news about Dylan.