“You’re a Big Girl Now”



“I can change I swear, oh, oh / See what you can do”. This is a pretty remarkable break-up song that picks right up from where “Simple Twist of Fate” left off.

“You’re A Big Girl Now” is one hell of a passive aggressive love song. Parts are pure, beautiful mush:

Bird on the horizon, sittin’ on a fence

He’s singin’ his song for me at his own expense

And I’m just like that bird, oh, oh

Singin’ just for you

I hope that you can hear

Hear me singin’ through these tears

While other parts, much less so:

Love is so simple, to quote a phrase

You’ve known it all the time, I’m learnin’ it these days

Oh, I know where I can find you, oh, oh

In somebody’s room

It’s a price I have to pay

You’re a big girl all the way

The New York version of this song can be found on Biograph. It’s much more spare in the opening, and gets richer as the fiddle and organ come in during the third verse (the fourth on the album version, he reverses the order of the verses in this version). The Minneapolis version has fuller guitar, plus the cymbal-playing of the drummer. The guitar playing is quite lovely, but Dylan’s vocals are better of the New York version with a single huge exception – the “oooooohs” on the album version are superior. It’s a conundrum. Hard to pick which one is actually preferable. He didn’t play this live in 1975 at all (it debuted in 1978, but has been played more than 200 times since then), so he doesn’t break the tie. I think if push came to shove, I’d go with the version on Biograph.

Of course, the great thing about the song is just how ridiculously patronizing it is. Try to sing the title of this song to any woman that you’ve ever broken up with and you’re likely to get punched in the face. For those who want to argue that Dylan’s break-up songs convey a touch of misogyny, this is a good one to add to the argument.

Did you know that Lloyd Cole covered this song? I didn’t!

Scary Dylan photo above has nothing to do with the song, but it’s just so great.

“Simple Twist of Fate”


This album has hit a bit of a nerve. Perhaps it says something about the demographics of my readership, but a skirmish has already broken out on my Facebook page about Blood on the Tracks, with adherents and detractors of individual songs firing their first tentative volleys. There will be Blood on the Net for certain, I’m sure.

This has led me to the conclusion that Blood on the Tracks is just too important an album to write about as a single (“Tangled Up in Blue” was, somewhat surprisingly, the only single from the album) and then a summary post. I’m going to try to write about each of the ten songs on this thing during the week.

So, we might as well do this in order.

“Simple Twist of Fate” is the second song on the album, and the first from the original sessions. Dylan recorded Blood on the Tracks quickly in New York and had the album complete when he took an acetate home to Minneapolis and played it for his brother. His brother convinced him to re-record many of the songs. The reasons for that decision are in some dispute, but he re-cut about half of it. There is a slightly different tone to the works recorded in New York and in Minnesota.

“Simple Twist of Fate” is a great love song. Period. It’s a great song about loss. Period. The image of that simple twist is very potent. The whole song hinges on the switch from the third to the fourth verse, which, on the album version comes after the harmonica solo. In the first half of the song the couple meets and is together, while after that solo they are apart and he endlessly searches for “his twin”. It’s a sad bit:

He woke up, the room was bare

He didn’t see her anywhere

He told himself he didn’t care, pushed the window open wide

Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate

Listen, now, to the live version that can be found on Bootleg Series 5: Live 1975, which Dylan plays acoustic:

He woke up, she was gone

He didn’t see nothing but the dawn

He got out of bed and put his clothes back on, pushed back the blinds

Found a note she’d left behind to which he just could not relate

I’m not really sure which of these verses is actually superior. “Found a note” takes some of the mystery out of it, but it also allows it to a fuller story.

Let’s try the last verse. Album version:

People tell me it’s a sin

To know and feel too much within

I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring

She was born in spring, but I was born too late

Live version:

People tell me it’s a crime

To feel too much at any one time

She should have caught me in my prime, she would have stayed with me,

Instead of going off to sea, and leaving me to meditate

The live version is better here.

What amazes me about Dylan is that he wrote and recorded such a great, great song. Then he rewrote it, and he probably made it better – clearer, more painful and more direct. That willingness to keep going with something that was already finished is what makes him so exciting in this period.

Here’s a clip of Dylan playing this on television from late 1975. That’s Emmylou Harris on fiddle. “Simple Twist” begins about 4:30 in. You can listen to “Oh Sister” too if you’d like to. Note that Dylan sings both revised verses here, and also changes some smaller pieces in two of the other verses.