By Tony Attwood
Under Control is the third of five Dylan compositions on Disc One of the Complete Basement Tapes box set (noting as before that “Spanish is a loving tongue” which is credited to Dylan on the album is certainly not one of his).
The music is a very abrasive, rough 12 bar blues with the accompaniment made up of (I think) three electric guitars all competing with each other to play rhythm and/or lead. The aim clearly was to have the rawest sound imaginable, and then add words that matched with it.
But it certainly sounds to me as if Bob didn’t have any lyrics written down and didn’t quite know where the song was going other than the fact that it had the words “Under control” repeated several times at the end of each verse – and that this phrase related to a woman.
One thing to remember in looking at a transcription of mine is that I’m not familiar with many everyday slang American phrases from the 1960s so I could easily have mistaken a phrase simply by not recognising what was said – so all improvements on the set of lyrics below would be much appreciated.
It is perhaps also worth noting in passing that we have the sad fact that a significant number of websites have put up pages that purport to be about each of the Dylan compositions from this album, but then offer nothing but a blank page. I guess it is excusable for the official Dylan site to do it, but it is still frustrating. One site has every single track from the box set listed with video links that go nowhere. It just wastes people’s time.
Anyway, in one sense the roughness of the track makes it a hard listen, as does the poor recording quality, and I am not at all sure that the lyrics are particularly appealing, but then it was never meant to be anything that a rough and ready sketch, just to see if it got anywhere.
And I think this one did, because lurking in the roughness I suspect I hear elements of “From a Buick 6”. However that is not the only reason to listen, because this working through of very raw blues by Dylan also eventually gave us the fantastic “I once knew a man” which I’ve always rated as one of his great forgotten compositions.
Here’s my transcript. Try not to laugh too much at the ludicrous mishearings which undoubtedly lurk within…
Just how much was too American
Arrows to ashtray say it once more
That she’s ready to go but no she ain’t ready to go
Well she’ told me that she’s taken me underneath the floor
She’s on her hands and then you know your too hot to hold
Comb on his face long underneath her yeah the windows shake
I’ve got the money but she’s too hot to hold
Once more you got her in her soul
She’s a limestone woman
but she’s heart and soul
I said under control under control under control
Don’t mind me brother She said one more time
Don’t mind the mistress once again
She don’t need no gratitude to hold her hand she’s on hold
sure to hold
What else is on the site
1: 500+ 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.
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