Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Abandoned Love





Bob Dylan & Sara Dylan

I can hear the turning of the key
I’ve been deceived by the clown inside of me
I thought that he was righteous but he’s vain
Oh, something’s a-telling me I wear the ball and chain

‘Abandoned Love’ marks the very point at which Dylan decided to (temporarily) abandon love, and particularly forsaken love, as the prime subject-matter for his songs.
~Clinton Heylin (Still On The Road)

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TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Quotes
  3. Lyrics
  4. Cover versions

A lovely song recorded for (but left out of) the brilliant album “Desire” in NYC, July 31, 1975. It was later released on Biograph in 1985.

The only live version of the song is even better.

Facts

Known studio recordings:

Studio version:

Studio E
Columbia Recording Studios
New York City, New York
31 July 1975
5th Desire session, produced by Don DeVito.

Musicians:
  • Bob Dylan (guitar, vocal)
  • Scarlet Rivera (violin)
  • Sheena Seidenberg (tambourine & congas)
  • Rob Rothstein (bass)
  • Howie Wyeth (drums)
Technical Team:
  • Producer: Don DeVito

Live:

  • First (and only) known: Other End Club, NYC, July 3, 1975.

bob dylan ramblin jack elliott

… After a couple of lines, we realized he was performing a new song, with each line getting even better than the last. The song was “Abandoned Love,” and it still is the most powerful performance I’ve ever heard. Ramblin’ Jack started strumming along in the beginning, but he soon realized the rarity of the moment and stopped and stepped to the side. As Bob sang, the nervousness so evident earlier vanished completely. He was so moving. There he was, hitting us with new material, with everyone hanging on his every word. It was an incredible feeling to be in that small club listening to Bob Dylan perform a new song. We all felt we were watching history in the making. After he finished, he returned to his seat near the back of the club and quietly watched the rest of the show. Jack appeared so speechless and overwhelmed by Dylan’s performance that he started his next song with Bob’s buzzing guitar.
~Joe Kivak (from: Encounters with Bob Dylan)




The performance is one of the finest documented stolen moments Dylan ever spent on stage … after a few gentle strums he launched straight into a narrative no less haunting and lovelorn than the songs on his most recent album [Blood On The Tracks] …
~Clinton Heylin (Still On The Road)

Quotes

A mid-Seventies castoff, with Scarlet Rivera’s fiddle carving up the melody across a loose, bouncy country two-step. The lyrics, however, are no tea dance: a chain of couplets that keep cinching tighter as they chart a destroyed relationship in cutting detail. “Everybody’s wearing a disguise/To hide what they’ve got left behind their eyes,” Dylan wails. “But me, I can’t cover what I am/Wherever the children go I’ll follow them.” Recorded in 1975, it was dropped from the Desire LP in favor of “Joey.” But “Abandoned Love” eventually surfaced on Biograph, where it was revealed as one of Dylan’s most tortured, heartbroken recordings.
rollingstone.com

And “Abandoned Love,” with its related but dissimilar sound (not so basso mournful, all that trebly acoustic guitar stronger for once than the violin keening), weaves magnificently in and out of these other three lyrically, tying up all threads and opening every end:

I can see the turning ofthe key.
I’ve been deceived by the clown inside of me.
I thought that he was righteous but he’s vain
Oh something’s telling me, I wear the ball and chain.

Isn’t this amazing? Precisely the self-insight and self-indictment of “Like a Rolling Stone,” but so calm, straightforward, mockingly humorous, painfully honest. There’s anger in the song, and we canhear it in the “Other End” version, but in the studio, with Sarapresent, Dylan deadpans brilliantly, pushing through to a level of bitter, loving self-awareness (and relationship awareness) beyond irony, beyond anger, resting finally on nothing more than the reality of the two opposing concepts side by side: love and abandonment. How it is possible to walk away but still feel it, how it is possible to feel it but still walk away. And not only possible, necessary.
-Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

Lyrics

Live version:

I can hear the turning of the key
I’ve been deceived by the clown inside of me
I thought that he was righteous but he’s vain
Oh, something’s a-telling me I wear the ball and chain

My patron saint is fighting with a ghost
He’s always off somewhere when I need him most.
The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is telling me I love ya still.

I come back to the town from the flaming moon
I see you in the street, I begin to swoon.
I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won’t you let me in your room one time before I disappear?

Everybody’s wearing a disguise
To hide what they’ve got left behind their eyes.
But me, I can’t cover what I am
Wherever the children go I’ll follow them.

I can’t play the game no more, I can’t abide
by their stupid rules which kept me sick inside
They’ve been made by men who’ve given up the search
Whose gods are dead and whose queens are in the church.

I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I’m not free.
How long must I suffer such abuse
Won’t you let me see you smile before I cut you loose?

Send out for Saint John the Evangelist
All my friends are drunk, they can be dismissed.
My head says that it’s time to make a change
But my heart is telling me I love ya but you’re strange.

So step lightly, darling, near the wall
Put on your heavy make-up, wear your shawl.
Won’t you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it.

Studio version:

I can hear the turning of the key
I’ve been deceived by the clown inside of me
I thought that he was righteous but he’s vain
Oh, something’s a-telling me I wear the ball and chain

My patron saint is a-fighting with a ghost
He’s always off somewhere when I need him most
The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is a-tellin’ me I love ya still

I come back to the town from the flaming moon
I see you in the streets, I begin to swoon
I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won’t you let me in your room one time ’fore I finally disappear?

Everybody’s wearing a disguise
To hide what they’ve got left behind their eyes
But me, I can’t cover what I am
Wherever the children go I’ll follow them

I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I’m not free
How long must I suffer such abuse
Won’t you let me see you smile one time before I turn you loose?

I’ve given up the game, I’ve got to leave
The pot of gold is only make-believe
The treasure can’t be found by men who search
Whose gods are dead and whose queens are in the church

We sat in an empty theater and we kissed
I asked ya please to cross me off-a your list
My head tells me it’s time to make a change
But my heart is telling me I love ya but you’re strange

One more time at midnight, near the wall
Take off your heavy makeup and your shawl
Won’t you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it

Cover Versions

The Everly Brothers:

George Harrison:

Paul Rodgers & Nils Lofgren:

Sources

-Egil

2 thoughts on “Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Abandoned Love”

  1. I totally agree that the Other End performance is one of the most powerful he’s done of any of his songs. I had a copy of this recording not long after it was made and it floored me.

    I believe, too, that this was one of his most productive periods with regard to his songwriting. So many great songs came out of this period in his life.

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