“Is Your Love in Vain?”

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The first of three singles from Street Legal was “Is Your Love in Vain”. Greil Marcus accused this one of sexism, which is kind of funny given how many more of Dylan songs evince a greater distrust for women. Sexist or not, it’s not really that much of a song, and it actually might be the least interesting thing on the album.

Dylan performed this for the first time on February 28, 1978 at one of his Budokan concerts (it makes it onto 1979’s At Budokan from one of those shows). Like a lot of the material on Street Legal, it was written before the Australasian tour at the beginning of the year, and then recorded in the break before the European leg of the tour. It didn’t really survive past the tour either: Dylan played it 31 times in 1978 (out of more than 110 shows) and then never again. It’s another in a long list of Dylan singles that Dylan seemed to lose interest in.

It’s not a terrible song, but it’s too slow and too deliberate, so it comes off as a bit of drudgery. The lines:

I have dined with kings, I’ve been offered wings

And I’ve never been too impressed

Seem sort of like an early attempt at a humbelbrag.

Some live Dylan starting to crop on YouTube in this era for some reason. Here are two very different vocal performances of the same song, the first from Goteborg, Sweden from July 1978 and the second from Toronto in October of the same year.

 

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