Touchy Situation, another new-old Bob Dylan song, and it’s a gem

By Aaron Galbraith with a footnote from Tony

They eventually released the YouTube video for the Dylan/Savoretti track Touchy Situation,


Here are my take on the lyrics (with help from my wife on a few places i couldn’t work out!)

I'd like to find out what places she's been
What's behind her locked door
Oh better yet, know if I'm out or I'm in
If the elevator still runs to the top floor
Perhaps she would say
She was a student of hope
And I'm dangling from the end
Of a disintegrating rope
But I don't wish to spark off
Her outraged imagination
I don't wish to get into any double edged conversation

It's a touchy situation
Woah-oh-oh, yes
It's a touchy situation
Oh-oh-oh yeah

Someday I'll find out
What I'm now afraid to ask
And I'll discover what lies there
Beneath the door mats
Perhaps she would say
That I'm just deathly afraid
To see her make the same mistake that I made

And it might lead to
Some sweet revelation
She knows I hate
Meaningless conversation

It's a touchy situation
Woah-oh-oh, yes
It's a touchy situation
Oh-oh-oh yeah

I said, "Are you doing well baby?"
She says, "Go ask your father"
I said, "Give me yes, no, or maybe"
She says, "Why should I bother?"
I said...
She says...
I said, "oh..."

I'll ask you tomorrow
I'll ask you tomorrow

If I could only break the code of her fears
I could expose the secrets to the river of her tears
Rattle her senses
Until she's pouring forthtears
Before she'd exercise
Those powers of manipulation

It's a touchy situation
It's a touchy situation
It's a touchy situation
It's a touchy situation

It's a touchy situation
It's a touchy situation
It's a touchy situation

Footnote from Tony:

I must say I was a little unsure about this song at first, feeling that we were hearing something (in terms of lyrics) that Dylan would have changed and manipulated (as we know happens from the notebooks we have seen and the early versions of songs that have survived) and that had he stayed with it he would have knocked it around.

But then that “middle 8” comes along

I said, “Are you doing well baby?”
She says, “Go ask your father”
I said, “Give me yes, no, or maybe”
She says, “Why should I bother?”
I said…
She says…
I said, “oh…”

and I am suddenly totally in love with the piece.  Yes I am still sure the master songwriter in Dylan would have manipulated some of it, and I am not sure that as a songwriter he would have got that fantastic power out of the music at this point – but he would have got something amazing for those lines, of that I am certain.

The line “go ask your father” – implying (to me, and of course as always this is just my view) that the lady in the song is saying, “you are doing to me what your father has done to your mother” or even “what your father has done to you”, is fantastic.  It comes out of the blue – or at least I was not ready for it, and the musical line and the orchestration are, for me, just right at that point.

“Why should I bother?” is the absolute final put down, goodbye line in a love affair – the opposite end of farewells from “It’s all over now baby blue.”  It is far far stronger than “It ain’t me babe”; we are in the Positively 4th Street world at this point, or Ballad in Plain D, but now from the woman’s point of view.

What a find.

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  1. Hi tony!

    Agreed re the middle 8..its great, also love the “I’ll ask you tomorrow” bit after that.

    Not sure when this was written at all. If it was around the same time as Gone But Not Forgotten this could be seen as a companion piece.

    Lyrically, similar in structure and content. Both about a woman ending a relationship and the man trying to save it, very interesting. No idea what Bob’s relationship status is the last few years! 🙂

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