By Tony Attwood
These are three songs from disk 2 of the Complete Basement Tapes set.
Big Dog sounds an interesting song but we only get about 20 seconds of it with some sort of technical glitch in the middle. But we have a haiku for it
After this we get I’m your teenage prayer, which has already been reviewed.
So I’m going to jump on to One Man’s Loss which is a much more interesting song, for here we have Dylan working with a serious idea. OK it is just a 12 bar blues, but at least he’s stopped fooling around and I get the feeling that with a big of work this could have turned into something worth considering for an album.
The always excellent Dylan Chords site has given us a good bash at the lyrics other than the first verse which due to the mix makes the vocal pretty hard to decipher. The song has a very rough feel, and it is quite possible that Bob was nowhere near the mic when he sang the first verse.
But then he steps up
[Let's take a cherry], I can't make it no more Can't stop, she's breaking all time on the floor Better come down easy or don't come down at all You don't try and to please me, somebody's gonna fall One man's loss always is another man's gain Yes, one man's joy always is another man's pain . Eight o'clock in the morning, [better] step aside [let me be to your] warning, you better go by Three times a loser, number 45 better not lose her, best stay alive One man's loss always is another man's gain Yes, one man's joy always is another man's pain . Wish I'd have found me [...] at the wall One look at the watch, you better [lord at all] You can't stop it or wait it [...] at night Too hard to keep you waiting, calls me aside One man's loss always is another man's gain Yes, one man's joy always is another man's pain
It is quite extraordinary to listen to the CD, and hear all the bits of inconsequential playing and singing and hear the band slowly settle themselves down a bit – although not that much because the song that comes immediately before this one is “Be careful of the stones that you throw.” Which if you don’t know it, is one of those mawkish country and western pieces in which the verses are spoken.
And then we get some real solid blues from Bob.
“One man’s loss” is track 22 on disc two, but only the fourth Dylan composition on the disc – all the others being traditional, blues or older pop songs.
But assuming that the tape is reproduced on the CD in the order it was recorded, Bob clearly was building up to trying to get his compositional act together. The Dylan compositions thus far were
- See you later Alan Ginsberg
- Tiny Montgomery
- Big Dog
- I’m your teenage prayer
But “One man’s loss” starts a run of seven originals, and it really brings hope that the messing about, and just playing through old songs. OK, that promise isn’t always maintained because the next song is another snippet of just a few seconds (“One man’s loss”) but there is a suggestion that at last we are getting somewhere.
And even “One man’s loss” is annoying because it really does sound promising, but we have what we have, and ultimately that missing track might have been really good – or just another half idea.
As this disc of the Basement Tapes Complete suggests there is a lot of incidental music on the set, and its prime purpose is as a historical document that shows us just how Bob got things together. Indeed it is not until we are onto disc 3 and some 55 songs on from the start that we start to hear the Band go back over songs to explore different ways of approaching them.
We are witnessing the artist in progress. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it gives us clues as to how the great songwriter worked.
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