Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Shelter From The Storm





Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country but I’m bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm

Thank you! This is the story of my life, this next song.
~Bob Dylan (before Shelter From The Storm – Earls Court, London, England – 20 June 1978)

“Shelter from the Storm” on Blood on the Tracks is a beautiful performance-and a very intimate one, relying on the closeness of the studio microphone (picking up subtleties of guitar playing as well as voice) and the passionate commitment of the singer to create a delicate framework of call and response around a tune that would otherwise be rather monotonous in terms of melodic and verbal structure.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

TOC

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

@#18 on my list of Bob Dylan’s top 200 songs.

Facts

Wikipedia:

..released on his 15th studio album, Blood on the Tracks, in 1975. Along with “Tangled Up in Blue”, “Shelter from the Storm” was one of two songs from Blood on the Tracks to be re-released on the 2000 compilation The Essential Bob Dylan. The song also appears on two live albums by Bob Dylan — Hard Rain (from a May 1976 performance) and At Budokan (recorded in February 1978). A first take of the song, from the same recording session that produced the album track, was first featured on the soundtrack to the 1996 motion picture Jerry Maguire. The same take was also featured on The Best of Bob Dylan the following year.

Known studio recordings:

A & R Studios
New York City, New York
17 September 1974
2nd Blood On The Tracks recording session, produced by Bob Dylan.

5 takes:

  • Take 1 released on JERRY MAGUIRE – MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE, December 10, 1996.
    Also released on THE BEST OF BOB DYLAN, Columbia, June 2, 1997.

  • Take 5 released on BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, January 20, 1975.

The “Jerry Maguire” version also includes an extra 7th verse:

Now the bonds are broken, but they can be retied
by one more journey to the woods, the holes where spirits hide.
It’s a never-ending battle for a peace that’s always torn.
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.

—-

That first line represents the only moment in the song where he explicitly expresses the hope that she may once again provide shelter. This could be why it stayed a part of the song long enough to be recorded; as fans discovered when an alternate take was used for the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s jerry Maguire movie.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006)

Musicians:
  • Bob Dylan (guitar, vocal)
  • Tony Brown (bass)
Technical Team:
  • Producers: Bob Dylan
  • Sound Engineers: Phil Ramone & Glenn Berger

Live:

  • First known live performance: Civic Center, Lakeland, Florida – April 18, 1976
  • It has been performed 376 times live – last performance: Marktplatz, Lorrach, Germany
    – July 16, 2015
  • Top year 1978 – 109 performances

Quotes

On Blood on the Tracks and the next album, Desire (1976), Dylan is trying to do a balancing act
— trying to fuse God and MGrayWoman:
‘In a little hilltop village / They gambled for my clothes / I bargained for salvation / And they gimme a lethal dose / I offered up my innocence / Got repaid with scorn / Come in she said I’ll give ya / Shelter from the storm . . . / If I could only turn back the clock / To when God and her were born / Come in she said I’ll give ya / Shelter from the storm.’
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

..the ‘Shelter’ narrative descends from some mythopoeic realm, its mournful message operating almost as ‘Wedding Song Part 2’. This time he does not explicitly state that ‘she’ saved his life, rather describing how he was ‘burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail’. Or, as he originally wrote it, ‘Bushwhacked on the prairie, rolled on New Year’s Eve I Poisoned in the orchard, buried in the leaves.’ In its original guise …
That word-perfect fifth take survived all the reconfigurations the album underwent, emerging as one of its real highlights. And though Dylan went on to perform it a number of different ways – almost always effectively – the nature of the song remained fixed. Whether singing it loud and clear to its subject at Fort Collins in 1976, introducing a full- blooded arrangement as ‘the story of my life’ in 1978, noodling back to a mellower self in 1987, or getting back to the country at the Warfield in 1992, the song has endured as long as that yearning for ‘a place where it’s always safe and warm’.
-Clinton Heylin (Still On The Road)

The mastery of form shown on “Shelter From the Storm” simply leaves one breathless; Bob Dylan uses just three chords and a simple but sublime melody, delivered with a deep passion, to convey the narrator’s sense of loss: “I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose…If I could just turn back the clock to when God and her were born…try imagining a place that’s always safe and warm/’Come in’ she said ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm.'” In the Grammy-winning liner notes for Dylan’s relationship post mortem, Blood on the Tracks (1975), Pete Hamill was moved to quote W.B. Yeats: “We make out of the quarrel with others rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” Dylan’s narrator certainly sounds like a man out of balance in “Shelter From the Storm.” With a heightened sense of drama, he pictures himself before he met the object of his affection as “burned out from exhaustion/I was buried in the hail/Poisoned in the bushes/An’ blown out on the trail/Hunted like a crocodile/Ravaged in the corn.”
-Bill Janovitz (allmusic.com)

In this song, Dylan was probably inspired by the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, which, according to Christian believers, announces the coming of the Messiah. In fact, the experience of the character in the song, being offered shelter from a storm by a benevolent woman, takes on a special dimension: “‘ Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm.’” The reference is even more explicit in the fifth verse: “She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.” Dylan creates this Christ-like figure in an undeniable Western atmosphere, with open spaces, the deputy sheriff, the preacher, and the one-eyed undertaker. This “Christ” who bargains for salvation and offers his innocence but receives only scorn asks the right question: is it all only despair? His only desire is “turn back the clock to when God and her were born.” In this interpretation, the song appears to be a metaphor: love as an act of redemption, eternal love beyond the rapture, which is only ephemeral. This can still be a metaphor for rebirth. Thus, the kindness and sense of mercy of a woman allow the “rebirth” of the narrator. “Shelter from the Storm” included an eleventh verse that was removed from the final version.
-Margotin, Philippe; Guesdon, Jean-Michel (Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track)

The twin moods of “Shelter From the Storm” are best captured in two wildly different performances. On Blood on the Tracks, the song is an acoustic reflection on a relationship mysteriously gone bad, a fond remembrance of a woman who, for all her faults, provided the singer a respite, however brief, from the world’s trials. On the live album Hard Rain, meanwhile, the song is a roaring rock & roll juggernaut, a sneering denunciation of a hypocritical lover whose offer of a warm, safe haven is dismissed as a cynical joke.
 Encompassing such emotional extremes within a single song is one of Dylan’s most distinctive gifts – in this case, a song that took shape as his marriage to Sara was disintegrating. “Beauty walks a razor’s edge,” he sings, and as the song makes clear, when you pursue it, you sometimes bleed.
-rollingstone.com (100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs)

..And Shelter From The Storm is also an example of how good he is at making a verse melody so circular it becomes the hook and he doesn’t have to use a chorus. It’s almost like a nursery rhyme. “‘Come in, she said, I’ll give you shel- ter from the storm.” You never really know who she is. A spiritual figure? Is she a prostitute who took him in after he took his woman ‘for granted, got my signals crossed’? Although with all of his relationship songs I’ve assumed they’re about Sara. Maybe that’s wrong, but that touches the music for me.
“I read one Dylan interview where he said the perfect song for him would be where every line could be the first line ofa new song. And I think there’s just so little fat in lyrics like Shelter From The Storm that really is true.”
-Sheryl Crow

Blood on The Tracks is a break up album but songs like “Shelter From The Storm” are a lot more tender than many of Dylan’s songs. It’s very warm and human. When I’ve had a really bad time I hear that song. I’ve got like a jukebox in my head and that song’s on it.
-Kathryn Williams (Singer-songwriter)

It’s the most biblical,apocalyptic song in terms of the Jesus fixation and the way people look at him. It’s very dark, great poetry.
The Blood on The Acetates version is great, too.
-Judah Bauer (The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion)




Lyrics

#1 ’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#2 And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#3 Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#4 I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#5 Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

[extra verse – jerry Maguire version]
Now the bonds are broken, but they can be retied
by one more journey to the woods, the holes where spirits hide.
It’s a never-ending battle for a peace that’s always torn.
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.

#6 Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#7 Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#8 I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#9 In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an’ they gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

#10 Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country but I’m bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

The jerry Maguire version includes an extra verse (as indicated) and verse #6 is moved between #8 and #9. There are also other minor differences as: “…they/she gave me a lethal dose”, and others.

Live versions

Hughes Stadium
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
23 May 1976

Festival Hall
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
March 1978

Treptower Festwiese
East Berlin, East Germany
17 September 1987

Le Grand Rex
Paris, France
31 January 1990

Zirkus Krone
München, Germany
21 June 1991

Hiroshima Koseinenkin Kaikan
Hiroshima, Japan
16 February 1994

Roseland Ballroom
New York City, New York
19 October 1994

Kongresový sál, Palác kultury,
Prague, Czech Republic
March 11, 1995

To close a remarkable evening, instead of running through a couple of standard encores Dylan returned for a magnificent “Shelter From The Storm”. The song started quietly, with phenomenal care taken over the vocals, before building up to a climax infused with extensive and intense harmonica playing. It was another performance of epic stature..
~Andrew Muir (One More Night: Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour)

Five Flags Center Arena
Dubuque, Iowa
12 November 1996

The Theater
Madison Square Garden
New York City, New York
21 January 1998

First Union Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
15 November 2002

Piazza Grande
Locarno, Switzerland
July 15, 2015

xx

Cover Versions

Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris – Shelter From The Storm (live, The Late Night Show, 2006)


Cassandra Wilson (Belly of the Sun)


Jimmy LaFave (Austin Skyline)

Sources

-Egil

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