That’s the Breaks. Bob Dylan’s melancholia etched out for all to see.

By Tony Attwood

There are around 22,000 pages listed on Google which have the phrase “That’s the Breaks” listed along with a mention of Bob Dylan.  Unfortunately, 21,998 simply consist of a list of tracks, or a notice that the lyrics will appear here, which they don’t.   Neither entry really helps any of us very much.

In the entire history of mankind (or at least the part of humanity that writes in English about Dylan) only two writers have attempted to travel further.  With this little piece I claim third spot.  And I’m happy to stay in third.

Rolling Stone says. “On ‘That’s the Breaks,’ the singing is hard, extreme, the Blue Sky Boys’ “The Sunny Side of Life” turned inside out – an old, common song that’s gone wrong, that took the wrong road: ‘That’s the breaks/On the other side of life.’ This might be the deepest mine here, where at the end of a tunnel John Henry finds the alchemist’s cave where folk songs are made and found.”

I am not sure I follow that completely, but as far as it goes I suspect that if I’d come up with that final sentence I’d have said this represents the end of the tunnel where John Henry finds the alchemist, old, decrepit, as without his powers endlessly throwing metal into the pot, hoping for gold, but not realising that the fire below the tub has long since gone out.

But if you can do better than me, or at least be more positive than me, please do write in.  To get you going here is the Sunny Side of Life by the Blue Sky Boys

And here is my version of the lyrics, which are pretty much the same as the writer of the Haikus.

I doubt that much if any of this was written down – Bob just had this mawkish sort of song and the idea of the title line and sang – at least that is my guess.

Quite honestly this song, and indeed this type of song, is very much not for me, and leaving it tucked away on disc six of the Complete Basement is probably the very best thing to do with it.

On my pillow last night
I thought I saw you dreaming
Just a sudden glance of happiness gone by
Suddenly came to me
Just a while ago when you left me, say your heart was broken little girl

But that’s just the breaks of life
When you’re breaking me.

Well it’s a time of day
You’re nice, but you’re not that nice
If you’d only come and go a while with me.
But when you’re old and grey, sweetheart, you’re my salvation
But that’s the breaks of life, you see, that’s the breaks.

Well, when I saw and looked so hard
And you know it ain’t always right
Honey you know it’s true for a while
What I say is only to my own appetite
Well, in the morning when you come back and saw me
Please and then be mine
You hang your head by the roadside
And then cry cry please be mine, cry and cry

Rest my head in my pillow
In my great, great whole delight
Please  what more can I cry
My darling, hold me, by my own grave
But that’s the breaks, you see, on the other side of life

Well, when your flowers are falling my way
And your grace is all ado
When your head is lonesome that way
It’s a hard way, might as well too
But when your picture’s overcrowded
Like your buckles on your waist
Oh in my teardrops dropping
Don’t you think that’s a disgrace?

Now you were there from me at midnight, broke my heart
And it’s too late to cover that up all you see
But when you’re see future is hanging low
But it’s always right down as my wife
But that’s the breaks on the other side of life

If you’d like to hear the song there’s not too much you can do except buy the whole box set, but really I wouldn’t recommend it.  There are, to my mind, better things to do with you time, and your money.   Having written my review I doubt that I’ll ever play the song again.   I guess I’m just too protective of my mental health.

What else is on the site?

You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.  It contains links to reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

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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 like this song just fine. It’s maybe not worth buying the complete box set to hear, but it’s well worth hearing. It’s a cover, in a way—a cover of a song that doesn’t happen to have been written yet, though maybe in another world it’s a country classic. It sounds like something Dylan heard once, on a jukebox somewhere, or on a radio from another room, and is trying to remember. And listening to it creates something like the same feeling, as if there’s a song playing and I can’t quite make out the words, just a few phrases here are there, because people are talking too loudly. But it’s a beautiful song, and I’d like to know what it is. One of those songs from the Great Country Songbook, like “A Picture from Life’s Other Side,” “The Last Letter,” and “Crying My Heart Out over You.” If you don’t care for songs like that because they’re too depressing, then I really don’t know what to tell you.

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