This is one of those places where I’m a little bit lost in the details. According to the font of truth, Wikipedia, the first single from Shot of Love was the title track. I can’t find much else that supports that – a quick google search doesn’t turn up a single sleeve, for instance – so I’m a bit wary. Anyway, I kind of hate that song, so I’m moving on to the other (?) single: “Heart of Mine”.
This is Dylan’s first love song not written to God in several years. As befits Dylan, it’s not a straight up love song: he sings it to his own heart, counselling it “don’t let yourself fall, don’t let yourself tumble”. It’s a great lyrical conceit, and the Tex-Mex flavour generally works pretty well.
This is another of a seemingly endless number of examples of Dylan (or his producers) picking the wrong version of a song to put on the album. Dylan apparently did this a number of different ways, and chose this one not because it was the best, but because Ron Wood played guitar on it and Ringo Starr played drums. I can see the logic – you hang out with big name rock stars and then cut them from your album, it’s kind of gauche – but it made for a weaker single than was necessary. Live this song is far superior, and a live version shows up in 1985 on Biograph.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this single is that it made the b-side something of a hit. As this didn’t get much airplay (it charted nowhere), its flip side did. “Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” is a rollicking romp of a song with strong Biblical overtones and a killer chorus (“West of the Jordan, East of the Rock of Gibraltar”….). This is one of the two really great songs on Shot of Love (the other, obviously, being “Every Grain of Sand”, but it wasn’t originally on the album at all. It was only after it started receiving some radio attention that it was added as the first song on the second side of the album when it was re-released. Crazy given how great I think this one is. Dylan never played it much live, so he must not have thought that much of it. Still, I think this is pretty close to being a two-song album, and this is one of them.
Here’s Dylan (with Mike Bloomfield) playing the song in his San Francisco residency in 1980 (one of only five live performances of this song):
Oh, by the way, apparently “Shot of Love” reached #38 on the US chart. So I guess it was a single too. Oh well, I’m not writing an entry for it. So there.
Here’s Bob singing “Heart of Mine”, the album version, inexplicably not deleted from YouTube by his copyright lawyers: