Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #25: Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance

A companion piece, in a way, with "Corrina, Corrina", even though the two songs are rather different in tone and in execution. Dylan basically took an old blues song, threw out everything except the choruses, added some new lyrics, and threw in not one, but two harmonica solos into the mix. Really, it's incredible to think that this was a serious contender for the album, let alone the penultimate song; at 2:01, the song barely has enough time to register before "I Shall Be Free" brings Freewheelin' to a close.

If "Down the Highway" sounds like it could have been on Bob Dylan, "Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance" sounds like it IS from Bob Dylan and somebody just went ahead and stuck it on here as a prank to see if anybody would actually notice. Dylan's unnaturally guttural, exaggerated vocals, muted throughout the album, pop back up here, which suggests that Dylan himself isn't taking the song that seriously. He punctuates the tune with little "woo-hoo!"s, lets out a laugh in the final verse, and basically sounds like he's having himself a whale of a time. Hell, the harmonica isn't even in tune. The song comes across as a studio toss-off that Dylan played in between takes of a better song and, out of his own puckish sense of humor, decided to slot onto the album at the last second. The fact that it was actually earmarked for a year for the album really feels all the more remarkable.

This leaves me, then, at a quandary for discussion - obviously I'm not going to leave any track behind, no matter how insignificant, but there are only so many avenues to go down for a song like this, and all of them have been traveled. Bob used an old song as the template for this one? Try at least 3 different other songs on this album alone. How about the fact that the inclusion of this tossed-off song, the product of at least one Freewheelin' session, displays the fractured nature of the year-plus that resulted in the album? Just got to that on the previous song. Hell, I even had to mention how this song, like "Down the Highway", bears a closer resemblance to Bob's first album than the album it's currently on.

If there is one new thing to take away from this song, it is the simple fact that, for the most part, a major-label artist is simply not going to get away with this today. There are plenty of indie artists that have no problem slotting something as light and inconsequential as this song onto their albums, mainly because most indie bands still have respect for the album as a concept and enjoy making the songs thereon sound like an organic whole, rather than the collection of 3-4 single and filler an LP of, say, 1958 would probably contain. Major-label artists, on the other hand, have more pressure upon them to write songs that leave more of an impact, that have more substance to them, and feel more important than "hey, we messed around the studio one afternoon, check this out!". And, when you consider just how brutal the music industry is now, how important mp3s and single songs and getting your music passed around is, who wants to waste a precious album or EP track with a bit of fluff? That sort of stuff goes on your b-sides collection in 15 years, buddy.

"Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance" speaks to a different era of music, when the concept of music as product wasn't quite as fully formed, and when artists weren't totally preoccupied with making sure an album was all killer, no filler. Even the greatest albums have their lesser songs, and songs that only fans would love, but most "greatest ever" albums don't have this sort of song on there, one that practically begs for outtake status. And it's not necessarily a good thing, as much as it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just there, just a song to fill a groove on a record side, a brief shot before the closer. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

1 comment:

Tony said...

A Mr. Phil Teece of Australia respectfully disagreed with what I wrote, or at least took a different tack on the inclusion of this song on the album. In the interest of giving every viewpoint its due, here are this thoughts:

To take this song right back, try track 9 on the album Texas Worried Blues: the complete recorded works of Henry Thomas 1927-29.
'Ragtime Texas' Thomas is perhaps best known for his version of 'Fishing Blues' which can also be found as the very last track on the famous Anthology of American Folk Music. The Anthology also includes a second Thomas track 'Old Country Stomp'. Both were recorded June 13 1928.
Because Thomas was over 50 when these recordings were made, he provides almost the only recorded example of archaic 19th century Afro-American music still available.
Dylan has throughout his career always offered 'nods' to genuinely significant musicians and styles of yesteryear. Recall the well-known quotation :
" Dylan was the purest of the pure. He had to get the oldest record and, if possible, the Library of Congress record, or go find the original people who knew the original song" - Henry Abrams, student contemporary, quoted in No Direction Home [Robert Shelton].
In my view, it is very unlikely that the inclusion of 'Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance' on Freewheelin' is 'just a chance'. It seems to me that Bob always knows exactly what he's doing where ancient songs are concerned.