Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bob Dylan Song #170: You Angel You

I'm not going to lie - there was a certain amount of temptation to combine this post with "Never Say Goodbye", since both songs are basically the most straightforward love songs on the album (along with "On A Night Like This"), and writing about straightforward love songs is not always the easiest business. This is not to say that I don't think this is a good song; "dummy" lyrics or no, the song has a pleasant MOR sheen to it (especially the opening, with Robertson's oh-so-70's guitar tone soloing next to Hudson's organ stabs) and Dylan puts as much effort into the song as you could reasonably ask for. And hey, this song ended up on Biograph, so it must have stayed with Bob for a while, to the point where he'd make it part of that most definitive (at the time; now kind of outdated) profile of himself up to that point. Had Dylan chosen to pluck any singles from this album (I'd always thought it was strange that he didn't; one would think that "Forever Young" might have both sold well on its own and helped move a few more copies of the album proper), this song would've been a fine, maybe even natural choice.

That, I should note, is not meant to be an insult on my part. Were I the type that would attempt to come up with or espouse offbeat theories about Dylan's music (*cough*), I might suggest the possibility that our man Bob is actually making a parody of the songs that he heard on the radio leading up to this album, his own version of a Todd Rundgren song or something ("if this is love, then gimme more/And more and more and more", et. al.), the sort of lark that Frank Zappa was ever so fond of throughout his entire career. And that might make a bit more sense if the rest of the album was full of that kind of musical wink to the audience, but Bob plays it entirely straightforward throughout, and I have no doubt that he wrote this song in all seriousness (and, one would have to assume, about his wife), and knowing that he's being totally sincere actually helps to improve the song. Dylan is no particular stranger to parody, anyway, and I think if that's what he'd been going for here it would have been a bit more obvious.

Quite frankly, it's the sincerity of this song (and of a great deal of this album) that would have made this work as a radio single; AM/FM radio is not really the domain of subtlety, experimentation, or a lot of the qualities we find in the greatest of music (until it's reached the point where it can be properly/annoyingly deemed "classic" rock - after all, the chords that the Beatles played and Dylan found "outrageous" back in the 60s are essential parts of rock DNA in 2010). Even a band like Radiohead, which most of us would consider a progressive-thinking band, recently scored rock radio success with "Bodysnatchers", by far the most traditionally "rock" and least subtle song on In Rainbows. That isn't the worst thing in the world - in general, unless you have Sirius/XM, you're not LOOKING for subtlety or experimentation on the radio, but something you can bob your head and maybe sing along to in the car or at the office or wherever people listen to the radio these days. It's kind of the same thing with the music played at clubs (which I have had experience with the past year or so, somewhat unfortunately) - nobody goes to clubs to hear real cutting edge shit, but to hear something with a beat that they can dance to. It's the nature of the beast.

"You Angel You", with its well-produced glossiness (there really isn't a way I can say that without making it sound like an insult, but it's a compliment in this case, trust me), simplistic lyrics about love, and a catchy melody (even that "gimme more" middle eight has a way of sticking in your head), certainly fits the bill of "song you could tap your foot to on the radio". And, as much as I might bag on most popular music, there is most certainly a time and a place for music like that. Most of all, it had a place on the album from which it comes, serving both as an example of the general aesthetic of the album (some good friends getting together to play some fun songs) and a palate-cleanser after the acidic bite of "Dirge". That, to me, is what really makes the song worth its existence - Planet Waves, for the most part, is a fun album to listen to, and "You Angel You" helps make it fun.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bob Dylan Song #169: Dirge

Easily one of Dylan's bleakest tracks in his entire catalog, "Dirge" is a song that not only seems rather decidedly out of place on Planet Waves, but something that seems out of place in Dylan's 1970s output; really, maybe out of place in his output after the motorcycle crash (up to that point, of course). I'm quite certain I will be corrected if I'm missing something, but just about everything between the Basement Tapes and 1974 had been lighter in tone (certainly Nashville Skyline, and the notoriously "friendly" Self Portrait spring to mind), and one could have been justified in imagining that the Dylan who wrote "Positively 4th Street" and other such rapier-brandishing classics had grown up, properly matured, and had left all that poison-pen business behind. This makes "Dirge" all the more fascinating, mainly because there really hasn't been precedent for a song like this after the crash (and certainly not on Planet Waves up to that point - even "Going Going Gone" has more of a tone of resignation than anything else) and because Dylan has always had a way of channeling invective into something poetic (that line about paying the price of solitude is really fantastic, isn't it?). That's not a bad talent to have.

In cursory searching for theories and meanings behind this song, I've seen people suggest that the song is about drug addiction (the bit about going down suicide road), Joan Baez (which seems rather unlikely, unless Dylan had a burst of nostalgia listening to all those songs he'd written about her in the 60s and decided to crank out another missive just for old time's sake), Dylan renouncing his status as Voice of a Generation (the entire third verse - I'll get to that in a moment), and, of course, his deteriorating relationship with his wife. Given that in a short period of time he would no longer be married, one has to feel that this is the most likely explanation; a trial run for the real bitterness that we'd get one album later. Even without getting into any sort of specifics about what they shared and their children and so on, you can really easily get the vibe that Dylan's singing about his wife, or at least some woman he feels the need to spit this sort of acid at.

The reason that this might not totally be the case is that - well, have you heard the rest of Planet Waves? The general tone of the album itself is much more genial than this song is, I would say the majority of the songs deal more with love than anything else (for example, the song in the next post), and then we have "Wedding Song", the weird sort of yin to this song's yang, a track that trucks in just as much naked emotion as this one but channels it into a song of undying devotion (rather than undying despair and anger). Now, certainly one could suggest that this song is on here precisely for the yin and yang effect, giving what would otherwise be an album of quiet, gentle emotion along the lines of New Morning an added bite it would not otherwise have, and I would be inclined to agree with you. But I don't think that you could make the suggestion that somehow "Dirge" is more in line with Dylan's thoughts at the time than anything else on the album (as one could suggest, given what ultimately happened), as though all the declarations of love and such were just a cover for how Bob was really feeling. That, to me, seems rather too simplistic, and I generally try not to think of Dylan's in simplistic terms.

So what, then, about the idea that this song is really about Dylan giving up his throne? The crux of that particular argument lies in the third verse, where Dylan sings about "songs of freedom and man forever stripped", and concludes that it's "all for a moment's glory, and it's a dirty, rotten shame"; there's also the last verse's bit about singing "your praise of progress and of the Doom Machine", which isn't quite as suggestive, but who knows, right? It's an interesting idea - Dylan couching his disgust with his life as Sixties Idol and his renunciation thereof as some sort of romantic kiss-off sounds a lot like something he would do. However, I don't see that this theory can stand, and there are at least two reasons why. The first is that there are only a few isolated lines that you can really suggest have to do with Dylan and his reputation renunciation; would anybody pick out the "you used to ride a chrome horse" line from "Like A Rolling Stone" and suggest the song is really about Dylan telling his equestrian instructor to piss off? The second, and more poignant reason for me, is that Dylan didn't need to write a song about renouncing the role thrust upon him - his actions since 1966 had more or less done that for him. If Self Portrait hadn't made it clear that he was no longer going to be shackled by his past, what else would? His feelings didn't need to be made over and over again.

So, ultimately, what we have left is another song by Bob that defies easy analysis (even when the analysis seems like it shouldn't be all that hard - seriously, how can this NOT be about Bob and Sara?), made all the more interesting by the time period that Dylan wrote it in. There's still plenty to chew on here, both from the lyrical standpoint (that business about Lower Broadway - maybe Dylan's talking about the place where he got his drugs???) and the recording standpoint (this was the last song cut on the album, recorded fast like Bob usually does things - maybe he was singing about feelings that had just come up?), but in the end it's hard not to feel frustrated if you're trying to look for something deeper in this song. Ultimately, what we have is Dylan at his most pained and emotional, and the song is worth hearing for that alone.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bob Dylan Songs #167-168: Forever Young

Author's note: Hopefully nobody will feel too cheated if I combine both the well-known version of "Forever Young" and the up-tempo second version last heard in Pepsi commercials into one post. As for the second version, I'll offer my thoughts in Twitter length: Pretty good version, obvious bone thrown to more rock-oriented folk, can't hold a candle to the original. Next!

So I'm not really sure if this has ever been or currently is a debate, but "Forever Young" is basically the best song on Planet Waves, one of the best songs Dylan's ever recorded (top 10 at least, maybe top 5 depending on whether or not you're actually a parent), and a song so good that you could actually posit that this is Dylan's finest song without getting weird stares (that doesn't mean that it IS, but you wouldn't be lambasted over it, if you know what I mean). Much like how I'd described "Like A Rolling Stone" in my entry for it somewhere around the Ming dynasty, "Forever Young" (the first version - let's not get silly here) is one of those songs that has been burned in our consciousness in a way where it's impossible to imagine it in any other form - Bob surely didn't have this whole song pop out of his brain fully formed, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had, y'know? Everything about the released master take, from Robertson's gentle solos to the harmonica stabs throughout and to Dylan's incredible vocal performance, maybe the greatest of his career ("Something There Is About You" is a personal favorite, but I will fully admit that this performance here blows it out of the water), is so inch-perfect that every time I listen to the track it takes all my, erm, inherent manliness to not just weep at how amazing the track is.

There is a story on the Wikipedia page for Planet Waves about how this song was going to be left off the album because one of Dylan's childhood friends had brought a girl in the studio and she'd goofed on him about become a big old softie in his old age (the ripe old age of 32, but I digress), so Dylan decided that he didn't want the song to be heard. Now, I'm pretty glad I don't live in the parallel universe where Bob hadn't eventually listened to the voice of reason and stuck this song on the album after all, but suffice to say that if Bob had thrown the song into the vaults, not only would this instantly become the greatest song Bob never officially released (snatching the crown away from "Blind Willie McTell"), but - and I'm not sure how else to say this - I think I would actually have liked Bob less if he hadn't recorded the song. I mean, this is purely hypothetical of course, but let's think about this. I think we're all okay with Bob having consigned "Farewell, Angelina" and "Series of Dreams" and, yes, "Mama, You Been On My Mind" to the vaults - they are all great songs, sure, but Bob has surely built up enough goodwill to let those omissions slide. But a song like "Forever Young"? If any other person recorded that song, could they ever possibly say "meh, not my A game" and toss the song aside? How could you ever possibly live with yourself? It would have been the greatest mistake of Bob's career (and he's had a few); that, I think, says a lot about this song.

Okay, so. I think it would be safe to say that, like anywhere between 99-100% of Bob's songs, the reason that people love this one so much is because the lyrics are so incredible, as beautiful and heart-wrenching a summation of the parenting experience as you could ever hope to find. And I think that we can also agree that, in terms of just simple and direct songwriting, this might be as simple and direct as Bob ever got in his entire career outside of Nashville Skyline (John Wesley Harding is pared-down, but occasionally veered on the cryptic side; perhaps you could argue for "Wiggle Wiggle", but that's an argument I urge you not to make). In fact, the main argument a person could make against this song, if they so chose/were lacking human emotion, would be to point out that the lyrics occasionally veer towards a mawkish bent, the sort that might turn off a listener. There might be a point there - after all, "may you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong" is a little too simple and direct, y'know? Most Dylan fans have always thought of the man as a poet; it can be a bit uncomfortable when said poet starts writing numbers a little too close to something out of his diary. Getting soft in his old age, right?

Now, you could certainly pen any number of responses full of spluttering outrage to that bit of drivel, but my own personal response would be rather more measured, as well as my own personal feelings as to why I think the song is a) so amazing and b) has the staying power that it does (apologies in advance if this seems too obvious, but sometimes obvious things need to be written about). Personally, what I think makes "Forever Young" the song that it is is the fact that the lyrics ARE so simple and direct. As previously mentioned in my award-winning post for "Mama, You Been On My Mind"*, a great deal of art has been created in order for us as human beings to allow us to properly understand the Great Issues of Life that we otherwise have trouble understanding, stuff like love and death and infinity and all that fooferaw. Now, that's not to say that the issues themselves can't be simple, of course - it's that there's so much stuff that gets in between the cracks and gums up the works of those issues that we have trouble wrapping our heads around. And I would say that the process of caring for children and watching them grow qualifies on both counts - we understand all this on a gut level, but when you introduce stuff like, say, the entire world into the mix, things can become a bit complicated.

*note: this post did not win any awards

And, thus, we get "Forever Young", a song that so brilliantly and neatly takes something incredibly massive and unwieldy and makes it something simple and direct, a song that both engages our brain and our heart in equally powerful ways. Would this song have possibly been improved with the dense allusions and wordplay of 60s Bob, or even BOTT Bob? I can't imagine that possibly could be true. A parent might not be able to think of his experiences with his children in a complex song-story or even through the filter of something like "Something There Is About You" - but a parent will surely understand and identify with a line like "may your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung/and may you stay forever young". And that is how we understand who, and what, we are.
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Bob Dylan Song #166: Something There Is About You

On an album that features the debut of my favorite period for Bob Dylan's singing voice, this song stands as a personal favorite in terms of just hearing Bob sing. I'm not the sort of person that feels any particular need to make excuses for Bob's singing style, even his present day voice (which, like it or not, is a voice that a person not already part of the Dylan club is probably going to have trouble with) - his reputation lies mainly on his songwriting, he was "blessed" with a gritty voice that could hit the notes but not too much else, and he made the very best of it for a very long time (until about 1977, when he blew it out trying to overexert himself for the ill-advised 1978 world tour - but hey, at least we got Live at the Budokan out of it, right? Right?), which is about all you can ask for. But when Dylan decides he's up for a vocal performance, he can deliver - the quintessential example being the Montreal '75 performance of "Isis", where he turns up the vocals to 11 in order to match the RTR's dramatic performance. And this song is another example, at least for me, as Bob hits all the right notes, adds some nice flourishes at the end of every verse, and sounds like he's giving the metaphorical 110% all throughout. The Band gives a sympathetic backing, and the result is another strong tune.

Listening to this song, one could very easily marvel at just how well Dylan crafts even the most straightforward of love songs (how many people would think to describe a ghost as "something that used to be/something that's crossed over from another century?"), pulling out brilliant turns of phrase like "the phantoms of my youth" and wrapping it around a simple yet earworm-ready melody. One could, I imagine, also marvel (and chuckle) at how Bob devotes half a verse to telling the object of his desire "hey, I COULD say I won't sleep around, but that's a bit much" (yes, he says it a bit more eloquently, but I think I got the gist of what he was shooting for), both a sign of his humanity and of his wry, puckish humor. Whenever I listen to this song, though, I now think about that great second verse, the one with "phantoms of my youth" in it, and the one where, right out of nowhere, he starts singing about his childhood in Minnesota, a glimpse into his past that we very, very rarely ever got out of him (I forget if Danny Lopez is a real person, and I can only hope one of you intrepid readers will remind me, as my copy of Behind the Shades has long since gone AWOL). Considering that there were probably still people back then that thought Bob grew up in New York City (so easily identifiable is he with both the city and the state), it must have been a shock to hear Bob going on about how this woman has reminded him of a past that, apparently, he just can't seem to shake.

So much of our collective cultural work has dealt with the notion of running away from your past and from where you came from, whether it's because you had a terrible childhood or because you're a rich kid who wanted to make something of yourself or whatever, and yet for the most part Bob has resisted bringing that into his own work. It's probably because he got his fill of it telling all those tall tales in his early years, or just as likely because his actual upbringing was really not all that particularly bad, or (this is probably it) because it would run counter to his ever-present mystique - either way, Bob has generally left those autobiographical elements out of his songwriting. Of course, the other autobiographical elements - i.e. his love life - have been present more or less since day dot, but that sort of thing tends to fuel your songwriting if you've already got the talent for songwriting. That's not always the case with your upbringing (unless you're Springsteen or somebody); often the past is meant to be just that.

And that's what makes that sudden, odd little peek into Dylan's past life all the more interesting and exciting. So deep is Dylan into his "I'm making (x) up to you, Sara" period (the apotheosis being "Wedding Song") that he forgets himself for a moment here, allowing a peek at young Robert Zimmerman hiding behind the Bob Dylan mask. And who knows, maybe Bob had it in mind all along to throw that in there, sort of a reminder to everybody of where he came from and what it meant to have those memories come rushing back, and what kind of woman it would have to be to dig through the layers of past history and Greenwich Village nights and concerts in Dublin with The Hawks and hanging out with Johnny Cash to reach the former Elston Gunn underneath it all. I like to think that Bob just had his guard down, just for that moment, and we got to see something we very rarely see. It's moments like that that can make a fan, well, a fan.
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Bob Dylan Song #165: Hazel

Given that most of this post will be dedicated to The Last Waltz (don't worry, there will be some Dylan-related content), I might as well get my feelings about "Hazel" out of the way here. I like the song just fine (even though Dylan spends the middle eight groping around for the proper vocal key), and I think of it as a fine piece of the album's overall aesthetic, but it's not particularly a song that I would hold up as a classic or anything. To be honest, It makes me think more of the kind of song Dylan might have heard on WABC or something in the '70s and decided "hey, I'm gonna give that a shot"; couldn't you just imagine this song sandwiched between "Same Old Song and Dance" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" during some imaginary DJ's 7-11 shift as he blathers on about how you can get tickets at your local YMCA for the Neil Young show? Even the lyrics kind of leave something to be desired ("ooh, just a touch of your love", indeed), which is a slight disappointment considering how accomplished the songwriting on this album is otherwise. Maybe I'm making too much of this song - I can't imagine Dylan and the Band imagined this song to be much more than a trifle anyway - so I'll just move on.

Now, then. The Last Waltz is interesting for any number of reasons, a few of which I'll list here - Scorcese directing at the height of his drug addictions (but not at the height of his fame - his reputation at the time basically rested on Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, which are two incredible pillars to rest a reputation on, but still); trying to figure out which of the musicians on stage was the most coked-up (one would imagine Neil Young takes that prize, although sadly you never do see that massive chunk of cocaine stuck in his nostril); seeing Neil Diamond back when he had any cultural relevance; and, yes, Dylan's last collaboration with The Band, with two Planet Waves songs (including this one, a song choice I will go to my grave not understanding) and two songs from the legendary 1966 tour serving as the mini-setlist. That The Last Waltz is a movie that has to be seen is not much in doubt (Allen Toussaint's horn arrangements take the songs to a whole other level, and it's SCORCESE directing, for God's sake); what The Last Waltz actually means is something else entirely.

I imagine that if you polled any number of casual music fans, even fans of rock music, about what the first thing is that they would think of when they think of The Band, The Last Waltz would surely top the list (either that, "The Weight", or Music From Big Pink, I'd guess). And that's not without good reason, obviously - given its status as The Band's (supposed) retirement, the heavy hitters that guest starred, the man who directed the documentary, and the time period that it was made (the mid-70s, with the excesses of rock at their apex before punk music came along to change a thing or two - I'd say "change everything" but that is simply not true), it's probably the most obvious choice. But here's the thing - The Last Waltz is not only way more famous than The Band itself actually is (if that makes sense), it also makes The Band seem like a more popular band than they ever had been during their career. After all, this is a band with one platinum album, two gold albums, and one Top 5 and one Top 10 album - a great haul by most measures of the imagination, but certainly not what you'd expect for a band deserving of that lovingly crafted a documentary, right? Even their #1 album was a collaboration with a more famous artist, and by their 3rd album they'd pretty much peaked as a popular force. And yet The Band is still fondly remembered by many, and probably as a bigger band then they ever were at their peak. That has to be because of The Last Waltz, right?

Perception, especially perception after the fact, has always been a funny thing. Think of The Sex Pistols, a group as cobbled together as any number of boy bands, yet held by many even today as the pinnacle of what punk music is/was supposed to mean. Or think of Sylvia Plath, whose most well-known work was published after her death and who never lived to reap the rewards of The Bell Jar, yet who has a critical reputation that far outstrips her sales or the regard she had during her lifetime (kinda like The Band, actually). We never know what it is that will change our legacy, let alone the legacy of famous artists; sometimes only one thing can completely change a legacy, either for the better or worse. It is the great artists, ultimately, that can resist that sort of legacy-shifter, those that have built a body of work so great and massive that ultimately nothing short of something truly awful can change the public's perception. After all, not too long ago the same Mr. Scorcese filmed a documentary about the first part of Bob Dylan's career (with a lucid and thoughtful Bob providing an interview - wonder how many directors he'd have done THAT for?), a documentary that surely would have done for most artists what The Last Waltz has done for The Band, and yet it serves mainly as an interesting adjunct to Bob's career, a long and interesting way to tell us something we most likely already knew. That, to me, is the mark of Dylan's staying power - his work is so strong it even resists boosts to its credibility.
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Bob Dylan Song #164: Tough Mama

If choosing a song that's most emblematic of the style of Planet Waves, I think I would go with "Tough Mama". Everything that you can find throughout the rest of the album is here - the Band's rough-and-tumble playing style (the guitar, in particular, comes flying at you - it sounds like something out of a Jim Croce track, which might very well have been the point); Dylan's raw, more raunchy singing voice; somewhat cryptic lyrics in the vein of his 60s work (without actually sounding like his 60s work - a pretty neat trick, that); and, ostensibly, lyrics about Sara Lowndes. The sum result of that, as you would probably expect, is a pretty damn fantastic song, certainly one that I find myself returning to whenever I pull this album out for a test run. In fact, back in the days when I was obsessively collecting Dylan bootlegs, I would often single out shows that had this song on it (more on that in a moment). I can't really tell you why this song has stuck with me for so long; then again, I'd have difficulty saying that about most of my favorite songs.

What I've always enjoyed about the lyrics of this song is that, to me at least, they serve as a pure example of Dylan's artistic progress during his third peak as a songwriter, a synthesis of his dizzying ability to harness the English language and his equally dizzying ability to mine the unconsciousness of our American psyche and draw from it to make art. For me, the closest analogue to this song is "Isis", which tells more of a story than the wandering verses of "Tough Mama", but employs the same mythical, dreamlike imagery (compare "Jack the Cowboy went up north" to "she was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise") to give the song a character different from much of what Dylan had written before. If you want to take things to more of an extreme, one might suggest that "Tough Mama" is the prologue to the epic that is "Isis", where the narrator offers a golden ring and states that it's his duty to take her to "the field where the flowers bloom" - that sounds like a meadow to me. Every time I hear this song I think about the heady rush that love brings, and every time I think of "Isis" I think about the extreme lengths one will go to in order to keep that love (or, in some cases, to save failing love). It's not often that one can link songs like that in any artist's catalog, but whenever you can it certainly enriches the listening experience.

Of course, the stuff of myth is one thing, but Dylan's real life was already beginning to intrude on his songwriting, and it's pretty tempting to read into a song like this and attempt to pick out elements that have to do with what was going on with Bob at this time in his life. Is he the Lone Wolf that "went out drinking - but that was over pretty fast"? (After all, once Bob hit the road again after his divorce, especially during both RTRs, the drinking would return with a vengeance.) What exactly does Dylan mean when he says he "stood alone upon the ridge, and all [he] did was watch"? Is he singing about himself when he says "I gained some recognition, but I lost my appetite" (surely a reference to his wilderness years)? Maybe that's why people like Planet Waves as much as they do - Dylan fans always seem to be hankering to get some songs we could go over with a fine tooth comb again, another round of music's greatest parlor game (name me three other artists that have written - or theoretically written - as much about themselves in their music as Bob has). For many of us, THAT is what enriches the listening experience, and I certainly would not begrudge anybody that.

I mentioned earlier about how I collected bootlegs that featured this song for a while (which was a good thing for my listening experience, as not only does it appear on much of the earlier - and superior - '74 setlists, but also on many of his '98 shows, which I've always felt was one of his best touring years); it's not a song that's so rare that you'd want to break your back looking for it (like, say, "Romance in Durango" in its one lone non-RTR appearance), but it's just rare enough that having the song appear on the setlist lends a show a cache that "All Along The Watchtower" simply does not anymore. On top of that, there's something that I just sort of enjoy about Dylan breaking that song out, one that presumably the majority of his listening audience has no particular regard for. However, I have wondered why it is that Dylan gives this song its occasional workout, far more so than any other song on here except for "Forever Young" (then again, I'm more curious why Dylan doesn't play more songs off here anyway - how many major artists virtually ignore one of their #1 albums on stage???). It's a good song, sure, but is it really that much better than "Going Going Gone" or "Something There Is About You"?

I wrote about the nature of Dylan playing and not playing his songs on stage in my "Temporary Like Achilles" post, and this song serves as an antithesis to my theory about "Temporary", even though the aesthetic created by Planet Waves is arguably just as strong as the one on Blonde on Blonde. The thing about Blonde on Blonde is that it's such a special case, at least in my opinion, because it so recognizably has its aesthetic, because the album as a whole has settled into myth and legend the way few, if any of his other albums have (certainly none of his other 60s albums, maybe Blood on the Tracks, definitely Under the Red Sky - just wanted to see if you were paying attention), and it makes it harder to draw out the lesser-known songs the same way you can draw out the classics from there. Planet Waves doesn't really have that problem, and so it's probably not that big a deal for Bob to trot out this song or "Hazel" every once in a while. And I, personally, am thankful that he does.
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