By Tony Attwood
The story surrounding this song is a little complicated but seems verified by the announcement made at the start of the track in the video below.
The song started as a track called “Shirley Temple Don’t Live Here Anymore” and it was either an outtake from “Under the red sky” or was written during the Red Sky sessions for Paula Abdul, the choreographer who went on to have six number one hits in the 1980s and 1990s.
For whatever reason she decided not to record the song, and at some time after that Dylan wrote some new lyrics for the song and it was then left for about 15 or 16 years until Was Not Was put it on an album.
That is the only recording I can find of the song, and here it is…
And here the lyrics
Well they came and they corrupted
And they took what was theirs
Your sorrow and your pity
Leaving ’em upstairs
You might think that it matters
But it ain’t like before
Mr Alice doesn’t live here anymore
Where that old drugstore was
Is now a museum
You can’t hardly see ’em
All the piano players
Have gone off to war
Mr Alice doesn’t live here no no more
Now the chimney is rotten
And the wallpaper’s torn
The garden in the back
Won’t grow no more corn
The windows are boarded
With paper mache
And even the dog
Just ran away
Judy Collins went downstairs
With her brother Phil
Bloody Marys through the wind and the air
His brother and sister
Are waiting by the door
But that old maggot doesn’t live here no no more
I get the hang of this all the way through to the last verse – the world is falling apart and everything has cracked and broken which is a way of seeing the story of “Alice doesn’t live here anymore” as she leaves her home and heads for California. But the Judy and Phil Collins reference seems … well, what? Nonsense? Or a reflection that the world of music has fallen apart just as every other aspect of life has?
Is the Phil Collins reference related to his abandoning his family when he daughter was young. The Bloody Mary reference might be a note about his infamous drinking life style. A “Shirley Temple” is a non-alcoholic cocktail, but I doubt that this helps. I think I’m trying to analyse something that isn’t there.
So quite clearly, I don’t know, and I’m not really intrigued enough by the song to make much more effort to sort this out.
After all it doesn’t really sound like a Bob Dylan piece, but I am putting my review in here in the hope that someone will be able to tell me I have completely got this all wrong and for anyone with half a brain the answer is…
Or maybe someone else has another recording?
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