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.