Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Not Dark Yet





Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Environment affects me a great deal, a lot of the songs were written after the sun went down. And I like storms, I like to stay up during a storm. I get very meditative sometimes, and this one phrase was going through my head: ‘Work while the day lasts, because the night of death cometh when no man can work. ‘ I don’t recall where I heard it. I like preaching, I hear a lot of preaching, and I probably just heard it somewhere. Maybe it’s in Psalms, it beats me. But it wouldn’t let me go. I was, like, what does that phrase mean? But it was at the forefront of my mind, for a long period of time, and I think a lot of that is instilled into this record.
-Bob Dylan (John Pareles Interview, Santa Monica, California – September 1997)

Youtube:

TOC

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

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

Facts

Wikipedia:

Recorded in January 1997 and released in September that year on his album Time Out of Mind. It was the first single from the album.

“Not Dark Yet” subsequently featured on the Wonder Boys soundtrack. The song also appeared on the album The Passion of the Christ: Songs Inspired by The Passion of the Christ.

Christopher Ricks has remarked on the song’s close affinities to John Keats Ode to a Nightingale.

Known studio recordings:

  • Real Music Studios, Oxnard CA, September-October 1996
  • Criteria Studios, Miami FL, January 1997 – “Time Out Of Mind” version.

 

Live:

  • Dylan has played “Not Dark Yet” 152 times live
  • First time was @ Columbus Civic Center, Columbus, Georgia – 30 October 1997
  • Last performance: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut – 8 September 2012
  • Peak year: 1999 with 57 renditions

Quotes

Listen to how Dylan sings ‘Not Dark Yet’ from start to finish. The fit between every element in the song seems perfect, including Dylan’s immaculately felicitous vocal. This is surely one of Bob Dylan’s first-rate achievements: a song that can hold its own with those of earlier eras, in that it confronts a theme and pioneers a concentrated treatment of it.
If you were to ask for a work that expresses with dignity and fortitude the conviction that only de- cline lies ahead—decline of your powers and your capacity for openness to the world of colour and feeling—you could hardly ask for a better attempt than this: a better fusion of scrupulously concentrated singing, fittingly contemplative melody and resonant words.
Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

‘ Not Dark Yet ‘ is many folks’ favourite song on Dylan’s 1997 album, and for sure it pushes all the right buttons: a gorgeous vocal, a brooding melody, the darkling worldview and that seemingly effortless way he captured the dusk in his veins.
~Clinton Heylin (Still On The Road)

“Not Dark Yet” marks the aesthetic and poetic pinnacle of Time Out of Mind; it is among Bob Dylan’s most poignant songs. From the first line, it’s obvious where the songwriter wants to lead us: “Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day.” The chorus focuses on the end of life: “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” “Not Dark Yet” deals with our inevitable aging and death. The atmosphere is oppressive. Is there life after death? Or nothing at all? The singer does not know, but he does know you should never rely on others. “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal,” he sings; they are the reminders of disillusionment. He goes on, “Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain /… I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies.” Then he adds a moral as realistic as it is implacable: “I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes.”
Philippe Margotin & Jean-Michel Guesdon – Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track

A few months before Dylan released 1997’s Time Out of Mind, he was hospitalized with a severe heart infection that made him believe that he’d “be seeing Elvis soon.” “Not Dark Yet” was finished long before this illness had set in, but the hauntingly beautiful song seemed to almost foretell it. Against Daniel Lanois’ trademark swampy production, Dylan sings in the weary and weathered voice of a man facing the twilight of his life. “I was born here and I’ll die here against my will,” he sings. “I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still.” Dylan had been recording death-obsessed songs since his very first album in 1962. Here, he was a road-weary 55, in the middle of his Never Ending Tour, and you can hear every one of those years in that voice.
RollingStone Magazine – 100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

The definitive example of the Daniel Lanoi production technique. Big, echoey chambers, swampy, haunted loping drums, the lonesome guitar and Dylan’s voice, old, gnarled, corroded. It’s musiccas prayer, a song as a candle of hope lit in a cathedral. It’s Rothko’s “Red Over Maroon” as a piece of music. One of the greatest works of art across any discipline by anyone.
Nick Johnstone (Uncut Magazine – Bob Dylan’s 40 best songs)

The end of the retreat and the beginning of the resignation. It’s the first thing Dylan’s done that sound to me like he’s singing about himself, and seeing as it took the miserable sod nearly 40 years, I find it very moving. Only he could make getting old and giving up so utterly beguiling. Imagine Lennon trying that at 60- he’d be so humourless and self pitying. Dylan still has a lightness of touch that everyone of his contemporaries lost at least two decades ago. And he’ still funny as fuck. Not like Macca or Brian Wilson. He means to be. This is a man who sings on “Highlands”, “You could say I’m on anything but a roll.” Well, in that case the rest of us are in a rut and as long as Dylan shuffles along with the kind of sarcasm that can stop trucks and melt meteorites we all might just have a chance.
Justin Currie (Uncut Magazine – Bob Dylan’s 40 best songs)

I don’t think I’ve ever heard music quite as languorous. It feels very big-old- river, moving very slowly, like the Mississippi when it gets very close to the sea, edging along. It’s very Louisiana, hot and sweaty. It’s the most incredible atmosphere that you get drawn into. You absolutely sense that the sun is just beyond the horizon, it’s not quite dark, but it’s just going down, and he’s sitting there, hot as fuck, and it’s the end of his life. The drums and the bass and the guitar lick is all so very simple, but every time I hear it, I think, how did they get to play that so well? How many times did they rehearse that? It sounds like they played that song 200 times because of the finesse and the relationship between the instruments. Nothing slips. And then his voice on the top, which sounds amazing. He’s croaking away like he’s about to pass out but in the most extraordinary musical way.
Andy Gill (Gang Of Four) – MOJO Magazine – Mojo – The 100 greatest Dylan songs (september 2005)

Lyrics

Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there




Live versions

Hallenstadion
Zürich, Switzerland
25 April 1999

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

Halle D
Wiener Stadthalle
Vienna, Austria
30 April 1999

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

Madison Square Garden
New York City, New York
30 June 1999

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Eric Clapton (guitar)
  • Andy Fairweather Low (guitar)
  • Nathan East (bass)
  • Tim Carmon (keyboards)
  • Steve Gadd (drums)

Meadows Music Theater
Hartford, Connecticut
24 July 1999

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

University Of Illinois
Champaign, Illinois
27 October 1999

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

Sun Theatre
Anaheim, California
10 March 2000
Early show

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)


Civic Auditorium
Santa Cruz, California
15 March 2000

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)


Stirling Castle
Stirling, Scotland
13 July 2001

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

Bournemouth International Centre
Bournemouth, England
5 May 2002

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • Jim Keltner (drums & percussion)


Capital FM Arena
Nottingham, England
11 October 2011

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & keyboard)
  • Stu Kimball (guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Donnie Herron (violin, mandolin, steel guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • George Recile (drums & percussion)

Cover Versions

Micah P Hinson – Not Dark Yet:

Bobby Long & John Fullbright – Not Dark Yet (Sofar DFW):

Robyn Hitchcock – Not Dark Yet:

Megan Bonnell – Not Dark Yet(audio):

Jimmy LaFave – Not Dark Yet (North Shore Point House Concerts 2013):

Sources

-Egil

One thought on “Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Not Dark Yet”

  1. This is a personal fave, if there can be such a thing — because that can turn on a dime. … During a recent bout with the flu, I immersed myself in a live dylan playlist, tweaking and altering and re-structuring the thing over several hours across several days. great fun when you’re battling a fever (if that’s possible), and every time i listened i decided the sequence just might require additional tinkering. going through assorted versions of assorted songs just never gets old.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.