If you had put a gun to my head and asked me to stake my life on which album “Shelter from the Storm” was on, I’d probably be dead. I absolutely always think of this as a song from Desire. That is likely because of the live versions on Hard Rain and At Budokan, I suppose, although it’s not like either of those is completely overwhelmed by material from Desire. It’s odd. When it first came while listening to Blood on the Tracks on Sunday I actually thought it was a mistake.
The version on Blood on the Tracks is lovely, and much different than the yelling versions that Dylan often does live, where he really gets across that stormy feeling. It’s the version on Hard Rain that I know best – that guitar breakdown piece after he sings the title – is a Dylan hallmark for me. I know that I made a Dylan mixtape for someone while I was in high school and that version made it onto it. I never gave away the tape, and so it just wound up getting played a lot in my car. It definitely drilled that version into my head (the At Budokan version always seems really odd to me as a result). Listening to the Blood on the Tracks version now at an older age, I greatly prefer it.
I used to have a feeling like this song was getting misused quite often. For instance, an alternate version of this is played over the closing credits of Jerry Maguire. Cameron Crowe, of course. It never seemed to me at all like a song for a character of the likes of a Jerry Maguire, but if I sit and stare at the lyrics to try to tell you why the “Show Me the Money!” guy can’t have a part of it, I can’t find it. It does sort of all seem to fit. If Crowe were to suddenly appear and tell me that he made the film based on the song, I think I could believe it. This is a moral, spiritual vacancy that Dylan is writing about after all. On Hard Rain it is an angry driving emptiness, but on Blood on the Tracks it is a haunting one. As a teenager I definitely preferred the former, but now the latter makes a lot more sense to me.
You had me at “In a world of steel-eyed death”.