Bob Dylan in 1997: finishing “Time out of mind” before touring again.

by Tony Attwood

The return to songwriting in 1996/7 did not reduce the level of touring that Bob and the band were doing.  But there was a break from the end of November 1996 until February 1997 when the tour started again in Japan.

This was the period when Bob finished off writing and recording all the songs that could be included in the album – this set being the five noted below.  I should add that since writing the review of 1996 I have slightly revised my view on when a couple of songs were written, and the 1996 report is amended accordingly.

The order for 1997 that I am left with is

It is clear that by the time of the recording sessions in January 1997 Bob knew what the album as a whole was sounding like, and in my estimation (although this of course is a guess) he knew roughly the order he wanted the tracks to appear in.

The fact that Love Sick was the last song written, as far as one can tell from the information available, and yet is the first on the album suggests that the song in Dylan’s mind summed up the whole concept, and so was needed to launch it.

I have always found Love Sick the most amazing opening to an album – and one that very few composers could have got away with.  At the time of writing Dylan has performed the song 791 times live, making it the 17th most performed song by Dylan and his band, and the most performed song from this album.  (Cold Irons Bound is second with 423 live performances).

If one can just stand aside from the music for a moment and consider the lyrics, the sheer power of this song emerges as once.

I’m walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping.

In fact the final three compositions required for the album all have the word “love” in the title, and love is clearly the curse.  As he says in “Til I fell in love with you”

I don’t know what I’m gonna do
I was all right ’til I fell in love with you

And what of “Make you feel my love?”   How does Dylan write “Love Sick” and “Make you feel my love”.  Just look at the opening

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

Now, if you are still with me, go back and consider

I’m walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping.

The total contradiction is overwhelming and so extraordinarily powerful these songs almost seem to defy description.

I am not in the group that thinks “Feel my love” is a mistake for this album or in any way an inferior song.  If I had written it, and never written anything else, I’d spend every day walking around saying to people “I wrote that”.   Of course I’d probably get carried off to a hospital at the same time, but even so…

Dylan is offering us both sides of love – the total and utter despair and the overwhelming yearning to express love.

“Make you feel my love” / “Love Sick” – which is the greatest song?  I have no idea.  It tends to depend what happened to me yesterday.  They are both my songs of the year.

But perhaps I may add a word as to what Dylan now did with the collection of songs in turning them into an album.   He started with “Love Sick” which sounds on first hearing as if it is about as low as things can get.  But then he takes us down, down and down again, until we reach death’s door with “Not Dark Yet”.   And then he brings us back up again until at the end he is with Burns in a mythical highlands of another time and place.

I have often wondered if the central character in the sequence of songs actually does die in “Not Dark Yet” and is spending the rest of the album making his way across the River Styx into the Underworld.  Fanciful I know, but even so…

And all achieved by crafting these songs together in a particular sequence.  For me the album was, and remains, a brilliant piece of work.

What is on the site

1: Over 400 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order below on this page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.  Also a list of the most read articles on this site.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

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

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines

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.

 

 

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6 Responses to Bob Dylan in 1997: finishing “Time out of mind” before touring again.

  1. Hole says:

    One thing is clear — you’ve never written a good song yourself.

  2. TonyAttwood says:

    Really? And which of my songs have you listened to?

  3. Majorlance says:

    You might want to check your 3rd graf:

    “The order for 1967 that I am left with is…”
    should read
    “The order for 1997 that I am left with is…”

    You’re welcome!

  4. Douglas H says:

    Why be negative Hole? Isn’t it wonderful that people write songs, any songs at all? Isn’t there enough negativity, hate and bad talk already? Why carry on like this?

  5. Peter Hyatt says:

    The conclusion of theme from “Love Sick” as album priority is sound. He began the album there (priority) and writing it last makes sense.

    Interesting article.

    Peter Hyatt
    http://www.hyattanalysis.com

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