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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)


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Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Queen Jane Approximately

When your mother sends back all your invitations
And your father to your sister he explains
That you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

E/E: Who is Queen Jane?
Bob Dylan: Queen Jane is a man.
-Nora Ephron & Susan Edmiston Interview (late summer 1965)

“Queen jane Approximately” is an underrated song, modest in what it tries to do lyrically and musically, brilliant in what it achieves. .. The musical achievement of “Queen Jane Approximately” is harder for me to point to – it has to do with the deceptive simplicity of its sound. The melody is sweet and appealing, with an insistent build-up and release of rhythmic tension underlying it that is striking, surprising, full of vengeance, violence, suppressed power.
– Paul Williams (Bob Dylan Performing Artist I: The Early Years 1960-1973)


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Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Just Like A Woman

She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

No, no. I knew a lot of those people but I also know a lot of lesbians. They’re not going to ask me to join a lot of campaigns just because I wrote Just Like A Woman
~Bob Dylan (to Philip Fleishman, Feb 1978)

Well, that’s true, that’s true, I believe that. I believe that that feeling in that song [Just Like A Woman] is true and that I can grasp it, you know, when I’m singing it. But if you’re looking for true companion in a woman, I mean… I can’t stand to… to run with women anymore, I just can’t, it bothers me. I’d rather stand in front of a rolling train, y’know. But if you find a woman that is more than a companion, that is also your sister, and your lover and your mother, y’know, if you find all them ideas in one woman, well, then you got a companion for life. You don’t ever have to think about.
~Bob Dylan (to Matt Damsker, Sept 1978)

First of all, the song (the performance of the song included on Blonde On Blonde) is affectionate. This is evident in the opening harmonica notes, and the vocal that follows is affectionate in tone from beginning to end; there’s never a moment in the song, despite the little digs and the confessions of pain, when you can’t hear the love in his voice..
~Paul Williams (BD Performing artist 1960-73)


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Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Scarlet Town

In Scarlet Town where I was born
There’s ivy leaf and silver thorn
The streets have names you can’t pronounce
Gold is down to a quarter of an ounce

“Scarlet Town” was inspired by “Barbara Allen,” a seventeenth-century English or Scottish traditional ballad brought by immigrants to the New World. A recording of “Barbara Allen” can be found on the album Live at the Gaslight 1962, a collection of early Dylan performances at the Gaslight Cafe in New York City. “Scarlet Town” has other allusions as well, including echoes of the children’s nursery rhyme “Little Boy Blue,” the country hit “I’m Walking the Floor Over You” by Ernest Tubb, and even a reference to Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe with the line in the first verse, “Uncle Tom still workin’ for Uncle Bill.” But beyond these references, the picture drawn is pure Dylan. He clearly describes a damned city, a new alley of desolation with “beggars crouching at the gate,” where “evil and the good [are] livin’ side by side.”
-Margotin, Philippe; Guesdon, Jean-Miche (Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track)


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Bob Dylan’s Best Songs: Nettie Moore

Lost John’s sittin’ on a railroad track
Something’s out of whack
Blues this mornin’ fallin’ down like hail
Gonna leave a greasy trail

..the song is pure Dylan invention, on the face of it an absurdist assortment of images that take the listener in all sorts of directions, incorporating fragments of other songs and texts, for instance quoting from Delta bluesman Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail”: “Blues this morning falling down like hail.” Dylan can juxtapose a reference to his own band (“I’m in a cowboy band”), to the excesses of Dylanology (“The world of research has gone berserk / Too much paperwork”)—and then throw in a reference to the traditional folk song “Frankie and Albert,” which he had covered on the 1992 anthology Good As I Been To You: “Albert’s in the graveyard, Frankie’s raising hell.” And yet it works as a song whose sorrow reflects that of the 1859 slave song whose title it takes, but is intensified by the melody, the images, and above all by Dylan’s voice in all its aged richness.
-Why Bob Dylan Matters, by Richard F. Thomas


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