The best songs: Bob Dylan’s Call Letter Blues

Bob Dylan call letter blues

The children cry for mother
I tell ’em, “Mother took a trip.”
Well, the children cry for mother
I tell ’em, “Mother took a trip.”
Well, I walk on pins and needles
I hope my tongue don’t slip.
~Bob Dylan (Call Letter Blues)

Such self-consciously autobiographical imagery probably told for it in the end. I just can’t imagine Dylan releasing the line ‘Children ask for mother, I tell ’em mother took a trip’ into the world back in 1974. But at least he got as far recording this one with Weissberg’s band on that first night, cutting it in three takes, before deciding that he would rather replace it with an entirely fanciful morning blues, a.k.a. ‘Meet Me In The Morning’. The tune, he kept. Literally. As the 1991 release of ‘Call Letter Blues’ fully revealed.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)

Spotify:

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

Musically more or less the same as “Meet Me In The Morning“, but with better lyrics & far better vocal in my opinion.

Facts

bob dylan blood on the tapes

Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series 2

Known studio recordings:

  • A&R Studios, NYC, September 16-3 takes, take 3 released on The Bootleg Series (rare & unreleased) 1961-1991, Volume 2, March 26, 1991.

    Bob Dylan (guitar, vocal)
    Charles Brown III (guitar)
    Barry Kornfeld (guitar)
    Eric Weissberg (guitar)
    Thomas McFaul (keyboards)
    Tony Brown (bass)
    Richard Crooks (drums)

Recording session:

Live:

  • Never been performed live.

Lyrics

Well, I walked all night long
Hearin’ them church bells toll
Yes, I walked all night long
Listening to them church bells tol
Either someone needing mercy
might be somethin’ I’ve done wrong.

Well, your friends come by for you
I don’t know what to say
Well, your friends come by for you
I don’t know what to say
I just can’t face to tell ’em
Honey you just went away.

The children cry for mother
I tell ’em, “Mother took a trip.”
Well, the children cry for mother
I tell ’em, “Mother took a trip.”
Well, I walk on pins and needles
I hope my tongue don’t slip.

Well, I gaze at passing strangers
In case I might see you
Yes, I gaze at passing strangers
In case I might see you
But the sun goes around the heavens
And another day just drives on through.

Way out in the distance
I know you’re with some other man
Way out in the distance
I know you’re with some other man
But that’s all right, baby
You know I always understand.

Call girls in the doorway
All givin’ me the eye
Call girls in the doorway
All givin’ me the eye
But my heart’s just not in it
I might as well pass right on by.

My ears are ringin’
Ringin’ like empty shells
My ears are ringin’
Ringin’ like empty shells
Well, it can’t be no guitar player
It must be combat bells.

There are the conflicts between all these people in their different roles: the woman at the centre who is absent friend, absent mother, absent lover; the man who is the lover walking all night long, ears ringing “like empty shells”, the social diplomat Hand ling the unknowingly intrusive enquiries of those “friends”, and the protective father. Given this savage pull between the fury of betrayal and the galvanising of inner strength, it is a deft touch, psychologically right, that the song contains one of Dylan’s characteristic bumpingstogether of two cliche´s to produce something new: furious duty walks a razor’s edge on the surreally painful, black-humorously vivid “I walk on pins and needles – I hope my tongue don’t slip”.
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

Further comments on the lyrics & it’s sources:

Check out:

Sources

-Egil

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