“Meet Me In the Morning”


The opening of “Meet Me In The Morning” is probably the most slurred line in my lyrical repertoire. I know that there is a whole genre of people mishearing Dylan lyrics and singing bizarre phrases (most of which I assume from this site are just made up by people making internet listicles). Nonetheless, I have listened to this song hundreds of times, including possibly a dozen in the past three days. Yet, still, driving home today I sang the opening as:

Meet me in the morning, whaa bah blah bah bah

I may have been doing that for thirty years. It has never occurred to me to find out what he actually sings for some reason (lack of intellectual curiosity…). If this applies to you, hold on! The first (and second) line is:

Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha

Apparently there is a Wabasha in St. Paul, MN but it doesn’t actually intersect with 56th. So it’s not exactly the same as Portage and Main, which Neil Young and Randy Bachman made famous.

The interesting thing about this song, and, indeed the album, is that it could so easily fit with his very early 1960s material (at least until the semi-psychedelia starts at the end). It seems to me that this is the case with so much of Blood on the Tracks: “Idiot Wind” seems very mid-1960s, while “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome While You Go” seems early-1970s, and “Shelter From the Storm” seems late-1970s. The whole album is like a history of various Dylan styles.

This is a nothing song, but it’s another one that I like. Dylan basically wrote this off – he’s performed it only once – in Nashville in 2007 with Jack White. I guess if you’re going to only do a song once, there are worse ways to do it. I’ll see if I can dig that up in another thirty-three weeks.

This songs is, extremely unexpectedly, the b-side of Dylan’s most recent single, “Duquesne Whistle”. The b-side is a different version entirely, more spare, more bluesy. This is a much stronger version, really, because it doesn’t have the musical bits that I think detract from it.

Someone has nicely uploaded a recording of a turntable playing it onto YouTube. YouTube is weird, but helpful.

“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”


I’m not sure how anyone could actually dislike “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”. It’s an upbeat, poppy love song that is sort of at odds with the themes of its own lyrics. Insofar as it signals an impending break-up it should be a sad song, but in reality it is one of the most upbeat on the album. It has a playful tone that recalls albums like Nashville Skyline. The really remarkable thing about it is that it was written by the same person who wrote “Idiot Wind”.

Dylan is widely credited with having added lyrical gravitas to the pop song, and this is a great example of that. How many ditties, which is what this is, would include lyrics that include:

Relationships have all been bad

Mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud

Dylan had been working the Rimbaud influence – very self-consciously – for a long time, and it is almost funny that this is the song where he makes the most explicit reference to it.

For my money, the best couplet in the song is:

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu

San Francisco, Ashtabula

Of course, this only works when you hear the recording, as anyone can tell you that Dylan sings it “Honolula” to rhyme it with Ashtabula, Ohio. I know nothing more about Ashtabula than what I just read on Wikipedia, but given that Carl Sandburg included the name in the title of a poem, I might think that is where Dylan borrowed it from.

This is a song that Dylan didn’t play much – a number of times in 1976 and then never again. Too bad, it’s quite charming.

Here’s the country version of Miley Cyrus singing it from a couple of years ago. If you watch and feel the need to make a twerking joke, click on the Amnesty International button and make a donation to atone for the obviousness of your sense of humour.

“Idiot Wind”


(For Rusty, who doesn’t like it)

There’s a certain value in singing this song with a voice that sounds like you’re being stabbed in the heart. From the plaintive opening line, “Someone’s got in for me, they’re planting stories in the press”, to the first rejoinder, “I can’t help it if I’m lucky” almost everything here depends on the delivery.

“Idiot Wind” is the distressed heart at the centre of Blood on the Tracks. At 7:50, and only the second-longest song on the album, it is the 1970s version of “Like a Rolling Stone” (or, better, “Positively 4th Street”), the putdown song to end all putdown songs. As we listened to it in the car the other day I said to Rebecca, the moral of this song is don’t ever divorce Bob Dylan because he will fuck you up.

This is another song that has two very distinct versions. The album cut, with its band and the organ parts, actually harkens back to the mid-1960s Dylan epics like “Desolation Row”. It has a feel that is akin to the kinds of things that he used to do. The New York version, which is longer (and which can be heard on Bootleg Series 2) features only acoustic guitar and bass. It’s very minimal, but it is also not as pained. It’s not as powerful as a result. The flat-toned singing doesn’t bring any power to it. This is an angry song, and it should be sung that way.

Dylan has repeatedly denied that this song is about him and his wife, from whom he would divorce in a year. That seems improbable. Check this out:

People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act

Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts

Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at

I couldn’t believe after all these years, you didn’t know me better than that

Sweet lady

It’s almost impossible not to read that as an autobiographical statement of the marital breakup of a very famous man. It’s easy to see why Dylan might disclaim its personal intensity though – this is a rage-filled song if there ever was one:

One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes

Blood on your saddle

Ouch. If he wrote that about the mother of his children I just have to repeat: Do not divorce Bob Dylan! He’s not very nice!

The New York version of this song is mostly the same at the beginning, but the final two verses have substantially different lyrics (beginning: “I threw the I-Ching yesterday they said there might be some thunder at the well”) but the meaning is still the same. It also ends with a minute and half long harmonica solo that probably pushes the song too long.

Dylan didn’t perform the song at all in 1975. His website says that he played it fifteen times in 1976, making it a regular staple of the second leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue. An epic version of it closes the Hard Rain live album. Not having listened yet to any of the 1976 tour, I would place the Hard Rain version as my favourite because it is the most pained. It is all in the way that Dylan hits those barbs at the end of every verse. As with a lot of Dylan’s poetry, it’s all in the performance.

Here’s a 1976 live version. I haven’t listened to this yet because I adhere to strict rules, but you can watch.