25 January 2012

Simple Twist of Fate (30 Jun 1981)

He walked along through the city blocks
All the time he remembers Suze when she talks
Hunts for her by the waterfront docks where the sailors all roll in
Maybe he'll find her there once again, how long must he wait
One more time for a simple twist of fate

London, England

ListenForYourself

There are many fictional characters mentioned in Bob Dylan songs, and many famous people, but few names belong to those who are personally close to Dylan. It is believed the "Suze" here is Suze Rotolo, Dylan's girlfriend and muse from the early 1960s. You can read about her life and her time with Bob Dylan in A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.

Evolution of a Bob Dylan Lyric

We thought we would take a look at how this particular lyric developed. Here we have a collection of consecutive performances of the first two lines taken from the shows before, after, and including the June 30th outing.

Colombes, France, 23 June
He heard the tickin' of the clocks/ And walked down through the city blocks

London, England, 26 June
He walked along through the city blocks/ Sometimes down sometimes at the knocks

London, England, 28 June
He walked along through the city blocks/ Oh down by and the tree full of rocks

London, England, 29 June
He walkin' down through the city blocks/ Way down far but know she talks

London, England, 30 June
He walked along through the city blocks/ All the time he remembers Suze when she talks

London, England, 1 July
He walked along by the city docks/ Oh but down though she way she talks

Birmingham, England, 4 July
He go by there by the city blocks/ But oh my by the way she talks

Birmingham, England, 5 July
He walk through the city blocks/ Well [...] to talks

Stockholm, Sweden, 8 July
He walk along through the city block/ Pulled down by the way she talks

Dramman, Norway, 9 July
He walked along through the city blocks/ Hunts for her by the way she talks

ListenForYourself

It is interesting to note that this pair of lines is not found in the few performances prior to these. Note how pieces of the Suze line gradually materialize (blocks -> rocks -> knocks -> talks), with Suze clearly mentioned only on June 30th. By the show in Dramman on July 9th, Dylan has settled on the less personal but very clearly sung, "Hunts her down by the way she talks." While Suze may arguably still be in Dylan's mind when performing the song at this stage in 1981, he is at least no longer calling her out by name.

03 January 2012

If Not For You (17 Nov 2004)

Today we offer not one but two different transcripts of the same alternative lyrics, at no extra charge. The dylyricus team simply could not agree what Dylan was singing for the first line. Please enjoy.

Version 1:

If not for you, babe, I’d be even lost around the trail
Without for you, I’d be, I might be in jail
I just wouldn’t have a clue
Well, if not for you

Version 2:

If not for you, babe, I live and lost I'll survive the trail
Without for you, I’d be, I might be in jail
I just wouldn’t have a clue
Well, if not for you

Kingston, RI

ListenForYourself

This is an entirely new verse with nothing similar appearing in the original New Morning album version from 1970. If Not For You entered Dylan's live repertoire many years later in 1992 and made an appearance every year afterwards through 2004.

We listened to the other five performances from 2004, where the song moved from early in the set all the way to the encores, and found the lyrics of the others kept close to the original. That is, except for in Asheville, NC on 9 April 2004, when he sang: "Ah, what would I, what would I do - I don't know! - if not for you."

At time of writing (January 2012), this 17 November 2004 performance remains the last public outing for the song. We will never know quite what prompted Dylan to create unique lyrics on this particular occasion but, as always, we are thankful he did.

In Dylan's early to mid-career he sang stories about romanticized outlaws (Jesse James, Pretty Boy Floyd, Joey), about an innocent man in jail (Hurricane Carter), and about travesties of justice (Hattie Carroll). In recent years, however, the focus appears to have shifted to take on a more directly personal note. He sings from the perspective of a person who, in different circumstances, left to his own devices, if not for the help of others, would inevitably and deservedly end up in trouble with the law. We hear this in songs like Workingman's Blues #2 in the words, "I got to be careful, I don't want to be forced/ Into a life of continual crime." We also hear it in live lyric variations like the above example, and in several others to be published here later.