“On a rainy afternoon”: How Bob Dylan could have made use of this later

By Tony Attwood

There are, it seems, two “On a rainy afternoon” songs by Dylan.  One which is one of the Glasgow hotel songs recorded along with “What kind of friend is this” and “I can’t leave her behind” and the other which turns up on The Basement Tapes Complete.  This review deals with the hotel song from 1966.

This swing-along song has always reminded me somehow of the interest Dylan had in the music of earlier days which he indulged in, on some of his later albums, taking themes, lyrics and even music from the great songs of the 20s to the 50s.

However I was forced to rethink that a little when I read an article on Expecting Rain (an excellent website that you really ought to read if you don’t already) in which a correspondent noted a link between Rainy Afternoon and the song “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles, from 1962.

Here’s the link to that song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NYw83uAQig

and to Dylan’s hotel song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE3owtjQmSc

The writer adds, “As you can hear, the phrase at 0:20, “You were my first love/and you’ll be my last” is quite close to the Dylan’s “Now she’s walking in the morning/Howlin’ you come home.”

I find that a very interesting comment, but I would also want to throw in the fact that what is particularly stunning is that this song comes from the time of “Most Likely You Go Your Way”, “Temporary Like Achilles” and “Rainy Day Women”.

It is, stepping back from everything we know about Dylan and his writing, quite extraordinary that one composer could be contemplating both these styles at almost the same time.  It is almost if Bob is saying, “well, here is another direction I could be going in, if the mood takes me.”

And to be clear, it is not a question of whether what Dylan sings is somehow purloined from an earlier song, but rather that he was being influenced by all these different sources at once.

The mood didn’t exactly take him down the route we hear in this song, at that time, because events got in the way, as we know, and the hotel tapes theme turned into the Basement Tapes, which were in part influenced by the musicians Dylan had around him at the time.  But it does give us a clue to the extraordinary range of Dylan’s options and possibilities in the 1960s.

And it possibly is the antecedent to Dylan’s decision to travel in such different directions subsequently, what with Nashville Skyline and so on.

In this incarnation Dylan is taking two different tracks – one lyrical as he gives us a “please come home” song (just about the polar opposite of Rainy Day Women and the like) and a focus on melody (something that Dylan could quite often ignore if he felt like it – as with the monotonal verses of “It’s all right ma”).

Plus the chord sequence is not at all what we might associate with Dylan who was spending much of his time in the studios seeing what could be done with the standard three chords of the blues.  Visions of Johanna, we might recall, for all the might of  expression and possibility of meaning, is a three chord song.

By contrast, at one point in this recording Dylan plays

Dm, F, Bb, Am, Gm, C7, F, Bb, F

as the accompaniment to just one line.

Several writers have been good enough to put down a transcript of what Dylan sings.  There are variations of interpretation but the one below seems as good as any.  Even though these lyrics are clearly not a completed song, and Dylan is making some of them up as they go along, it is a great insight how Dylan can work with songwriting.  What we have is an opening idea, and then phrases and sounds that fit.  If he had wanted to turn this into a song he would record, Dylan would then undoubtedly have written the lyrics thus far in a notebook or on hotel notepaper, and then started to manipulate them as he saw fit.  I suspect virtually many of his songs begin like this; perhaps the majority.

But please remember these lyrics are an approximation of what is sung, in many parts with Dylan making it up as he goes.

Now she’s walkin’ in the morning
Howlin’ you come home
I’ll be on my way, so long, forlorn
You just can’t go

I will get it if I have to
If I have to please come home
Try, but I’ll be dry, and I crave you
If I haunt you back all day

Carry my trouble
Yes you satisfy my mind
I’ll try to tell you, if I can’t come in
And I must stay true

I’ll be happy in the morning
I try my best, I will try to help you
If I can, and I leave it too
But I just can’t find you away
Won’t some time away

That’s the way I think she told me
Heart she bent on me
I’ll be out all morning, for you
But you can’t stop me

Yes, I try my best to please you
Try my best, but if I fail
You must help me to see you
As I go by…

Now, if you send me a letter
I’ll be on my way to get it for you
I’ll be with my sister too
I can’t find me what to do

Yes, I’ve been trying to get a message
To you, but you have to treat me
I won’t let her to
And then I try my best to hunt her, you…

As Bob Dylan himself said in 2016, “Everything worth doing takes time. You have to write a hundred bad songs before you write one good one. And you have to sacrifice a lot of things that you might not be prepared for. Like it or not, you are in this alone and have to follow your own star.”


Think there’s something missing or wrong with this review?

You are of course always welcome to write a comment below, but if you’d like to go further, you could write an alternative review – we’ve already published quite a few of these.  We try to avoid publishing reviews and comments that are rude or just criticisms of what is written elsewhere – but if you have a positive take on this song or any other Dylan song, and would like it considered for publication, please do email Tony@schools.co.uk

What else is on the site

1: Over 490 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken 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 produced 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 our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

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’ve been trying to figure out the lyrics to this song. It is driving me nuts.

    Here is my best stab from listening over and over and over to the youtube video:

    As you’re walking in the morning
    Honey, you come home
    I’m your own. My whistle blows for you
    You just can’t know

    I would get it if I had to
    If I’d to face coming home,
    I’d try but I’d be cryin’
    And I’ll pray for you If I
    Won’t know you’re back all day,all right

    Tell you my troubles,
    If you (taa-bay-blay) my mind I’ll try
    To tell you if a plan comes in
    And I’m not there to plan

    Plan out evry’day in the morning
    I try my best, I will try
    To help you If I can
    And I’d be there too
    But I just can’t. If I knew a way
    I won’t slip now. I’m OK.

  2. ‘Soldier Boy’ from the LP ‘Baby, It’s You’ The Shirelles
    Chosen because of the lyrics.

    Soldier Boy:
    Soldier boy
    Oh my little soldier boy
    I’ll be true to you

    You were my first love
    And you’ll be my last love
    I will never make you blue
    I’ll be true to you

    In the whole world
    You can love but one girl
    Let me be the one girl
    For I’ll be true to you

    Wherever you go
    My heart will follow
    I love you so
    I’ll be true to you

    Take my love with you
    To any port or foreign shore
    Darling you must feel for sure
    And I’ll be true to you

    Soldier boy
    Oh my little soldier boy
    I’ll be true to you

    This is what he wanted to hear her say.

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