Bob Dylan – Love Minus Zero/No Limit

I usually post single releases but this song is one of my favorites of Bob Dylan. I can just read the lyrics of this song and enjoy it. Bob Dylan is the king of song imagery. It was written about his future wife Sara Lownds. It was released in 1965 on the “Bringing It All Back Home” album.

The lyric that hooked me was She knows there’s no success like failure, And that failure’s no success at all. That line is hard to beat.

The song was included on the album Bringing It All Back Home released in 1965. The song was not released as a single but the album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts.

The title of the song is one of a kind. It’s fun to read people’s interpretations of Dylan’s songs. His songs mean so many different things to people and he is never too open about revealing what they are about.

I found this of someone attempting to mathematically break down the song.

 It’s a strange way to title a song, with a slash in the middle. Until you realize that this is not a normal title per se. It’s an equation, like 4/2=2. In mathematics, the forward slash represents “divided by. Four divided by two equals two.

So what’s Love minus zero divided by no limit? Well, no limit equals infinity. It is infinite. Ten divided by infinity would be an infinitely small number. In fact, any finite number divided by infinity would be an infinitely small number.

However, if one’s love is infinite, and you subtract zero from that, the equation now reads “Infinity divided by infinity.” Which equals One. If each human heart is an infinity, it is through love that the two become one.

 

Love Minus Zero/No Limit

My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire
People carry roses
Make promises by the hours
My love she laughs like the flowers
Valentines can’t buy her

In the dime stores and bus stations
People talk of situations
Read books, repeat quotations
Draw conclusions on the wall
Some speak of the future
My love she speaks softly
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all

The cloak and dagger dangles
Madams light the candles
In ceremonies of the horsemen
Even the pawn must hold a grudge
Statues made of matchsticks
Crumble into one another
My love winks, she does not bother
She knows too much to argue or to judge

The bridge at midnight trembles
The country doctor rambles
Bankers’ nieces seek perfection
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Dylan – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

A great song that sounds like a giant statement. It still rings true today and it’s just an incredible piece of work. Dylan sings this song as if every word has a purpose to it and it does. I’ve seen Bob eight times and he has played this song twice and it was one of the highlights when he did perform it.

The song was included on the album Bringing It All Back Home released in 1965. The song was not released as a single but the album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts. The song on the album to make it into the top 40 was “Subterranean Homesick Blues” which peaked at #39.

I haven’t posted many Bob Dylan songs because the original songs on youtube were almost impossible to find but observationblogger posted Tuesday that Dylan has released his songs on youtube. You can find almost everything now. 

From Songfacts

Dylan vents about subjects such as commercialism, hypocrisy and warmongering in this song. In the book, Bob Dylan, Performing Artist, author Paul Williams states this song sees Dylan acknowledge “the possibility that the most important (and least articulated) political issue of our times is that we are all being fed a false picture of reality, and it’s coming at us from every direction.”

Williams adds that Dylan portrays an “alienated individual identifying the characteristics of the world around him and thus declaring his freedom from its ‘rules’.”

This song is one of Dylan’s personal favorites. In 1980, he stated: “I don’t think I could sit down now and write ‘It’s Alright, Ma’ again. I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I can still sing it.”

The opening line, “Darkness at the break of noon,” is referring to a nuclear explosion. After a nuclear explosion, the sky turns black and the sun disappears. >>

The line, “He who is not busy being born in busy dying” is popular with politicians. Jimmy Carter used the line in his acceptance speech at the 1976 Democratic National convention, and while campaigning for President in 2000, Al Gore told talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, that it was his favorite quote. Ironically, the song also contains the line, “But even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked,” which is Dylan alluding to the fact even the most powerful people will be ultimately judged.

The album cover shows a woman lounging by a fireplace with Dylan in the foreground holding a cat. She is Sally Grossman, the wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. The photo was taken in Grossman’s house, and the cat belonged to Sally.

Bob Dylan – It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn that he’s not busy being born
Is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be
One more person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright ma, I can make it

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on 
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say “God bless him”

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright ma, it’s life, and life only

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower

Bob Dylan wrote this song and it was on his John Wesley Harding album. It was the longest time that I finally started to like Jimi’s version. The song peaked at #20 in the Billboard 100 in 1968. This was Jimi’s only top 40 hit in the Billboard 100.

I do like the simplicity of Bob’s original version also.

Bob said this about Jimi Hendrix in a 2015 speech: “We can’t forget Jimi Hendrix. I actually saw Jimi perform when he was with a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Something like that. And Jimi didn’t even sing. He was just the guitar player,” Dylan said. “He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and brought them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere, turned them all into classics. I have to thank Jimi, too. I wish he was here.”

From Songfacts

This was written and originally recorded by Bob Dylan in 1967, but it was the Jimi Hendrix cover that made the song famous. Many other artists have covered it, including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, U2, Dave Matthews Band and The Grateful Dead. Dylan was so impressed with Jimi’s version that Dylan for years played it the way that Jimi had recorded it. 

This was Hendrix’ only Top 40 hit in the US, where his influence far outpaced his popularity. He charted a few times in the UK, where he rose to fame before making a name for himself in America.

This was recorded while Hendrix played with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hendrix on guitar, Noel Redding on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. For this song, however, Redding was not on bass; Hendrix did it. Redding was also the guitar player for his band Fat Mattress, which Hendrix referred to as Thin Pillow. Hendrix often felt that Redding did not put his heart into the bass and was concerned that Redding concentrated more on Fat Mattress than he did on the Experience. Things like these led to him being replaced by Billy Cox. >>

The original version of this song is very slow. Jimi Hendrix’ version had a large impact on Dylan which made him make his own version “heavier.” 

Hendrix: “All those people who don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs should read his lyrics. They are filled with the joys and sadness of life. I am as Dylan, none of us can sing normally. Sometimes, I play Dylan’s songs and they are so much like me that it seems to me that I wrote them. I have the feeling that Watchtower is a song I could have come up with, but I’m sure I would never have finished it. Thinking about Dylan, I often consider that I’d never be able to write the words he manages to come up with, but I’d like him to help me, because I have loads of songs I can’t finish. I just lay a few words on the paper, and I just can’t go forward. But now things are getting better, I’m a bit more self-confident.” >>

Hendrix had been working on and off with the members of the band Traffic as he recorded Electric Ladyland. Traffic guitarist Dave Mason caught Hendrix at a party and the two discussed Bob Dylan’s newest album, John Wesley Harding, containing “All Along The Watchtower.” Hendrix, long fascinated with Dylan, decided to cover the song on the album. On the resulting track, Mason plays rhythm on a 12-string acoustic guitar.

In our interview with Mason, he explained: “Hendrix just happened to be sitting in one of those semi-private clubs in London. He was there one night just sitting alone, and it was like, “F–k, I’m just going to go over and say hi and talk to him.”

Mason recorded the song himself in the Hendrix arrangement for his 1974 self-titled album. He also made the song a mainstay of his concerts. Mason says it’s a deceptively simple song: “It’s just the same three chords, and they never change.”

This was used in an episode of The Simpsons when Homer’s mother was telling him a story that took place in the ’60s about why she had to leave him. 

In a 2008 poll conducted by a panel of experts in the Total Guitar magazine, this was voted the best cover song of all time. The Beatles’ rendition of “Twist and Shout,” first recorded by the Top Notes, came second, followed by the Guns N’ Roses version of the Wings song “Live and Let Die” in third place.

This was used in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump shortly after the title character arrives in Vietnam.

Yes this is Bob’s version…the only one I could find.

All Along The Watchtower

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief

Business men, they drink my wine
Plowman dig my earth
None were level on the mind
Nobody up at his word
Hey, hey

No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s getting late, hey

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Outside in the cold distance 
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue

This was on the great album Blood on the Tracks. In my opinion Bob’s best album of the seventies. When I first got this album I couldn’t quit listening to it and I really wore this song out. I could sing this song in my sleep…I know every word because it’s ingrained in my head.

This would make my top 10-15 Bob Dylan songs. I’ve seen Bob 8 times and the first 6 times I saw him I kept waiting for this song because with Bob you don’t know what you will get live. He finally played it on the 7th time and I was surprised the next time because it was the only older song he played.

The song peaked at #31 in the Billboard 100 in 1975.

Talking to  Ron Rosenbaum, Bob Dylan once told him that he’d written “Tangled up in Blue”, after spending a weekend immersed in Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue.

From Songfacts.

Dylan wrote this in the summer of 1974 at a farm he had just bought in Minnesota. He had been touring with The Band earlier that year.

Blood On The Tracks was Dylan’s first album under his new contract with Columbia Records. He left the label a year earlier to record for David Geffen’s label, Asylum Records.

This was influenced by the art classes Dylan was taking with Norman Raeben, a popular teacher in New York. Dylan credits Raeben for making him look at things from a nonlinear perspective, which was reflected in his songs.

This is a very personal song for Dylan. It deals with the changes he was going through, including his marriage falling apart.

Dylan sometimes introduced this on stage by saying it took “Ten years to live and two years to write.”

Tangled Up In Blue

Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’
I was layin’ in bed
Wondrin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like
Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bank book wasn’t big enough
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes
Heading out for the east coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues
Gettin’ through
Tangled up in blue

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out west
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
We’ll meet again some day
On the avenue
Tangled up in blue

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind
And I just grew
Tangled up in blue

She was workin’ in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept lookin’ at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I’s just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered somethin’ under my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces
Of my shoe
Tangled up in blue

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
I thought you’d never say hello, she said
You look like the silent type
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And everyone of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafes at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on
Like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point
Of view
Tangled up in blue

My Favorite Songwriters

This one was the most fun to do. These are the songwriters that I have listened to and admired the most.

 

1… Bob Dylan – There was no one else I could remotely place as number 1.

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2… Lennon – McCartney – As a team…it was quantity and quality. Their music will live long after we are gone.

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3…Chuck Berry – He wrote the blueprint for future rockers.

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4…Jagger – Richards – For blues rock it doesn’t get much better than these two.

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5…Paul Simon – One of the best craftsman of pop songs there is…

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6…Bruce Springsteen – One of the best writers of his generation.

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7…Goffin and King – Wrote some of the best known and successful songs of the sixties.

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8…Smokey Robinson – Bob Dylan said of Robinson…”America’s greatest living poet”

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9…Pete Townshend – Took the “Rock Opera” to new levels.

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10…Hank Williams – The country poet.

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Honorable Mention

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ray Davis, Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Leiber and Stoller, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Robbie Robertson, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Tom Petty, Curtis Mayfield, John Prine, George Harrison, Steve Wonder, Warren Zevon, Brian Wilson

My Favorite Singers

There are so many singers that I cannot possibly list them all. I could make a top 30 and not get them all. This is my personal favorite top 10 plus some extra.

For the most part, I like singers with soul and meaning to their singing…not vocal gymnastics.

1…Aretha Franklin – Aretha could make any song better by singing it.

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2…Van Morrison, Them and Solo  – Probably my favorite male singer.

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3…John Lennon, Beatles – John hated his voice and always wanted an effect on it…It didn’t need it…one of his best performances was “A Day In The Life”

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4…Bob Dylan – Bob changed popular singing.  I would rather hear Bob sing than many of the great traditional singers.

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5…Elvis Presley – Hey he’s Elvis…

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6…Otis Redding – Just a fantastic singer and performer and just taking off before he was killed in a plane crash.

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7…Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones – Mick makes the most out of his voice.

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8…John Fogerty…CCR – If I could have the voice of anyone…it would be Fogerty. The power that John has is incredible…his voice is its own instrument.

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9…Janis Joplin – She put everything she had in each song. Her last producer Paul A. Rothchild was teaching Janis how to hold back and sing more traditional to save her voice for old age…which never came.

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10…Johnny Cash – Last but far from least.  Only one man can sound like Cash…and that is Cash

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Honorable Mention…any of these could have easily been on the list.

Steve Marriott, Paul McCartney, Levon Helm, Bessie Smith, Little Richard, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Elton John, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Joe Cocker, Billie Holiday, Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Rodgers, David Bowie.

 

 

 

 

Byrds – My Back Pages

Possibly my favorite song of the Byrds. I like the Byrds arrangement of this great Bob Dylan song. Roger McGuinn’s voice plus Rickenbacker is always a winning combination. Dylan recorded his version in 1964 on his Another Side of Bob Dylan album. I fell for the song because of the line, I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. Just a great phrase…

On the countless Dylan songs that are covered, I will usually like Dylan’s version better…on this one I prefer the Byrds. The song peaked at #30 in the Billboard 100 in 1967.

From Songfacts.

Already skilled at turning acoustic Dylan folk tunes into melodic, electric folk-rockers, the Byrds struck gold when they decided to take this somewhat nondescript Dylan tune from 1964 and electrify it for their fourth album. Leader Roger McGuinn cut out two of the more abstract verses and fashioned a chorus where there really wasn’t one, utilizing David Crosby’s harmony singing. McGuinn also does a classic 12-string Rickenbacker solo and Van Dyke Parks fills things out with a soft but essential organ part. As a single it stalled at #30 in 1967, but its reputation as a rock classic has grown through the years. 

In his Songfacts interview, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds said: “I don’t try to interpret what Bob meant when he wrote the song. He doesn’t do that, and to do that, you spoil it for people who have a different meaning of the song.”

The phrase “back pages” never shows up in the lyrics, but it became a favorite saying amongst music writers, who used the term to describe an archive, either literal or figurative. A notable use is the music journalism collection Rock’s Backpages.

My Back Pages

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Countless with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
We’ll meet on edges, soon, said I
Proud ‘neath heated brow

Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
Rip down all hate, I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
Sisters fled by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

My guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now