By Tony Attwood
Aaron Galbraith has been doing an amazing amount of work uncovering Dylan songs that we have not covered already on this site. So that will teach me to claim we’ve reviewed every Dylan song of which there is a recording available! We haven’t. I think there must be about half a dozen more.
“Fur Slippers” is mentioned in Heylin’s “Still on the Road” although very dismissively, calling it “an incongruous attempt at a 50s R’n’B single” and he places it as being composed in April 1981.
What I missed (and which Heylin does mention) is that BB King recorded the song in 1999, at which time Tim Drummond, the bass guitarist, was added as co-composer. That is certainly quite likely as Drummond is often found as the co-composer of songs with artists he worked with, including Dylan’s “Saved”, “Who’s Talking” with J J Cale, “Saddle Up The Palomino” with Neil Young and “Down In Hollywood” with Ry Cooder.
Which part of it Drummond wrote, and which Bob wrote is anyone’s guess, but my take would be that Drummond laid down the basic blues and Bob made up the lyrics as he went along.
There are other versions of the lyrics around, but these are the lyrics I hear from the recording – except one line that I can’t quite hear and as usual I don’t want to make an idiot of myself by guessing. Larry are you there to help me out?
Ain’t got no radio ain’t got no telephone
Ain’t got not girlfriend ain’t got nowhere to go
She was here yesterday but she’s gone today
And when she left she took my fur slippers away.
Where did she go, where can she be
Maybe at a movie show, maybe she’s watching TV
She was here yesterday, what more can I say
All that I know she took my fur slippers away.
They were so soft they look so fine
They felt so good they were all mine
Can’t go outside the ground is too hard
Where can I go, can’t even go in my backyard
?? This is what I’ll say
You can keep my girlfriend bring back my fur slippers today
It is very much a one idea song: I don’t care about the person, I care about my property. A complete denigration of the woman, placing an possession above the life of the individual.
In this regard it is typical of the blues, self-centred, disregarding of the feelings of others, and I guess it is intended to be amusing. Which maybe it is for about 30 seconds, but even then not that amusing.
In essence I see this is a sketch, an idea that is played with, which is never meant to be taken seriously, the sort of thing which any writer in any mode (novels, plays, poems, songs, odes, advertisements…) will either have destroyed, or will have kept in a box in his/her house, amidst hundreds of such sketches that have just popped into one’s mind and not gone anywhere.
Indeed perhaps Bob never wrote those lyrics down, but simply made them up in the studio and forgot about them thereafter. In fact if this had turned up on the Basement Tapes, it would have been just another case of the guys larking about and no one thinking any more about it.
What we should also remember I guess is that this song was recorded at the end of BB King’s career (a career that began with 3 O’Clock Blues way way back in 1951). I am sure others can correct me on this, if I am very wide of the mark, but I just wonder if an association with a Bob Dylan song – any Bob Dylan song, no matter how odd – might have helped him out at this time.
So let’s remember a great performer in a better light. This is the original recording of the very first BB record. And if nothing else reviewing Fur Slippers gives me a chance to put up this record. If you don’t know it, please do spend a moment with it.
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