Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bob Dylan Song #171: Never Say Goodbye

Hello again.

So I'm not really sure if I've talked about this at any point during the writing of this blog, but one of the issues that I was going to have with this project was with songs just like this one. As I hope I've ably demonstrated so far, there was never going to be much of a problem with coming up with things to talk about for the major songs - even if it meant that I'd have to trod over some ground that has been trod over (and trod over, and trod over, and trod over...) in order to create a post of any substance, there were still some interesting channels to explore in doing so, and it was always fun to look at some of Bob's classics in ways that perhaps the more entrenched Dylan writers might not. But it's songs like this one - a pleasant sorbet of a track, a palate-cleanser leading in to the epic closer that is "Wedding Song", and a way for The Band to do their thing while Dylan sings a charming but ultimately forgettable song about love that charmingly but ultimately forgettably serves as part of the album's overall aesthetic, Robertson's processed guitar tone and all - in which I find myself truly struggling to come up with something to talk about (so much so that it's taken me six months - well, okay, maybe not). There's an interesting bit about "chang(ing) your last name too" (so it's not about his wife, then?), and a lovely opening verse where Dylan seems to be singing about Minnesota, but there isn't much else to distinguish the song other than its inherently pretty melody.

I imagine I will get at least a few comments taking me to task for my apparent offhand dismissal of the song (a song that, I need to point out, I do like, if not love or anything), and that would not surprise me one bit. After all, I've written my fair share of posts about songs that some Dylan fans, even fans of much greater magnitude than I (I've only been to THREE shows, and the last one a couple years ago - I would guess a fair number of readers here have me beat on that one) could care less about, and I see absolutely nothing with that, either. I do not expect people to have the same reaction to "Mama, You Been On My Mind" as I do. That's what fandom at a level beyond "casual listener" brings you - any true fan's mix CD of Dylan would surely go down roads the typical Columbia-issued Dylan compilations would not, and they will always be the better for it.

Look, I'm not going to pretend that somehow it's the "Black Diamond Bay"s of Dylan's catalog that make him the revered artist that he is today, and not the "Subterranean Homesick Blues"s, any more than I would suggest that the people that compile the Dylan compilations that seem to crop up every couple of years should put on more album tracks and less hit singles. But what I will suggest is that it's one thing for Dylan to be a REVERED artist, a man who wrote "Tangled Up in Blue", for the love of Pete, and another thing for Dylan to be a LOVED artist, a man whose catalog can continually surprise, bewitch, and thrill even his most ardent diehard fans. And I honestly think that it's the lesser-known songs that give Dylan the real heft and substance to his catalog beyond "hey, Famous Songs!", you know? Come for the hits, stay for the numbers like these, so to speak. The mere fact that there are YouTube covers of "Never Say Goodbye" says all you need to know; inasmuch as recording your own version of this track and posting it for mass consumption says you love this song, the existence of those videos shows a commitment and love that is as meaningful as any other way to show how much Dylan's music affects you.

Which, I suppose, comes back to this blog and how I feel about it. You might not think it from the protracted layoff (for which I can only offer sincere apologies), but this humble little project of mine is how I show my own love and commitment to Bob Dylan's music. And just as much as I find myself struggling to write about certain songs (like this one), there are any number of posts in which there are so many things I could write about that song that I find myself having to whittle down the potential topics to something easily readable and not Moby Dick-length. I suppose that explanation is as much apology as it is explanation, but that's just the way that this sort of deal works. I can very easily imagine the alternate universe in which somebody is currently writing an opus the size of my "Mama" post about "Never Say Goodbye", about how a certain era of their life was defined and shaped by that song, and about how it has greatly affected their life the way that "Mama" has affected mine.And if that universe, and that person, and that person's blog actually does exist, I wish them the best of luck. Oh, and I'd tell them to give "Sign on the Window" another spin - that one's a real peach.

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Matt Waters said...

Dude. Welcome back. This is fantastic. I am starting a blog of my own and came back just to grab your link as a rec. for whatever readers I gather, and BOOM! By the way, I love this song. -- My dreams are made of iron and steel -- that line gives me chills. He's saying I am one cool guy... when I dream... it's not just this superflous thing... my dreams are made of IRON and STEEL. They will happen. They will be reality. I love that line a great deal.

Pulp Revolution said...

I love Planet Waves, but I find that the songs tend to blend into one great mix of lyrics and riffs. With the exception of Dirge and Wedding Song. Sometimes I can't remember which lyrics belong to which song. It is an odd little record in that way and maybe it suffers from the fact that the next record is so great that it is easy to dismiss... in my opinion.

Keep up the good work.

David said...

I think the song is appropriate after a long hiatus. Love the blog, really keeps me thinking of Bob and his amazing songwriting. Thanks for keeping going on this, looking forward to BOTT immensely.

Anonymous said...

Yay! Welcome Back!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic that you are back, you have been missed! I always loved Planet Waves, especially Bob's voice on the record. so strong and joyful. I agree with you about the lesser known songs, although I couldn't have put it so well, but, you are so right, they add to the depth of our feelings about Bob's music.
Good post as ever, almost time for BOTT, can't wait.

Music of Bob Dylan said...

Hello Tony, thank you for posting this interesting essay. Come and join us inside Bob Dylan's Music Box and listen to every version of every song composed, recorded or performed by Bob Dylan, plus all the great covers and so much more.

Anonymous said...

Dylan has written all kinds of songs. Not all of them are intricately woven as Visions of Johanna. Never Say Goodbye is "just" a love song, but it's fine one.