“Tight Connection to My Heart”

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With “Tight Connection to My Heart”, Bob Dylan’s first single from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque, we catch up with my initial interest. Empire Burlesque was the first new Dylan that I bought. Sadly. What’s even sadder, I bought it on cassette. Also, I no longer have that cassette. I’ll talk more about that cassette when I write about the whole album later this week. Let’s start smaller.

“Tight Connection to My Heart” is a rewritten version of “Someone’s Got A Hold of My Heart”, which was left off of Infidels (but which you can hear on Bootleg Series v3). This version strips out the religious overtones. It’s the first song on the album. Click through to take a look at the lyrics.

These are good lyrics. Some of the lyrics are actually excellent. This is just a great verse:

Well, they’re not showing any lights tonight

And there’s no moon

There’s just a hot-blooded singer

Singing “Memphis in June”

While they’re beatin’ the devil out of a guy

Who’s wearing a powder-blue wig

Later he’ll be shot

For resisting arrest

I can still hear his voice crying

In the wilderness

What looks large from a distance

Close up ain’t never that big

Now watch the video.

See what he’s done there. That is just awful. The back-up singers detract a great deal. The musicianship is mediocre. The singing is, actually, not wholly terrible, but it is fairly uninspired. What absolutely kills this thing, though, and I mean actually murders it dead in its crib, is the keyboards (honestly, it might even be a keytar….). Listen to the first verse. Listen to the high-pitched whimper that ekes out after the word “yet”. It re-occurs at the midpoint of each and every verse. It sounds like a toy. Once you notice it, by the way, you can never unhear it. Every single verse I wince in anticipation of it. I’ve actually gotten to the point this week that I can’t listen to this song because of it, and it’s only Monday.

The problem with this song is that as a song it actually could be quite good. Read the lyrics and you could imagine a really great version of this. The problem is that Dylan hasn’t taken the road suggested by his Letterman performance with The Plugz, instead he is channeling all of the very worst aspects of mid-1980s pop. It’s pretty unbearable. Important note: this is the first album that Dylan produced himself. Bad choice.

Now, a word about this video, which was directed by Paul Schrader. It really only exacerbates the problems. This is one of those “story videos” that were popular in the 1980s for tacking a plot seemingly completely divorced from the actual lyrics of the song onto the whole project. Here there’s something about a threesome in Japan with some gangsters and cops and karaoke singers and a jail with red-white-and-blue bunting on the cell walls. It makes no sense at all. Given how visual the song is (“They’re beating the devil out of a guy wearing a powder-blue wig” – if that doesn’t evoke things for you, I don’t know what will) I just don’t comprehend how you make this as the video, other than to throw up your hands, roll your eyes and sigh. It was the 80s…

Not sure which is the worse look: the Dylan Miami vice jacket or the leather jacket, trucker hat and no shirt.

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