Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Why would Bob Dylan misquote his own lyrics?

The penultimate verse of Isis on the LP version (as MetroLyrics confirms) are clearly audible as follows:

She said "Where ya been?", I said "No place special"
She said "You look different", I said "Well, I guess"
She said "You been gone", I said "That's only natural"
She said "You gonna stay?", I said "If you want me to, yes"

I Binged this a couple of days ago because I wanted to pin down some lyrics that are mumbled (what I thought was "the borderline" is actually "dividing line", not that it makes any difference) and was surprised to see that Bob Dylan's official site gives the penultimate verse as:

She said “Where ya been?”, I said “No place special”
She said “You look different”, I said “Well, not quite”
She said “You been gone”, I said “That’s only natural”
She said “You gonna stay?”, I said “Yeah, I jes' might”

This might be some bizarre copyright wrangle, where Bob Dylan doesn't have to hand over a share of the royalties if he publishes his own version of a song which he co-wrote, but FFS.


Scrobs. said...

When 'Subterranean homesick blues' came out, it took several 'stenographers' quite a long time to work out what he was going on about!

I still don't really know, but there again, as my masterpiece at parties, 'The lonesome death of Hattie Carroll' didn't include the name 'William Zanzinger', because a chum had told me it was 'Williamson Singer', I'm not really the exponent of good judgement on any of his lyrics!

However, I always got a laugh when '...she was fifty-one years and gave birth to ten children', so that wasn't too bad then was it!

Rich Tee said...

I noticed this quite a lot with a lot of artists when I was a teenager.

I think this is because they submit the lyrics to the song publisher, but when they actually record the song they sing it slightly differently. The website lyrics are probably the ones submitted to the song publisher. The one I always remember is the Rio album by Duran Duran.

I don't trust those song lyric websites personally as sometimes it is obvious that somebody has transcribed them from listening rather than having access to the official lyrics.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Scr, I find "Subterranean" to be be reasonably intelligible. Plus, that song is just a list of characters, if there are bits you can't understand it doesn't matter. "Isis" is a proper story with beginning middle and end, so you need to understand key bits.

RT, "I don't trust those song lyric websites personally as sometimes it is obvious that somebody has transcribed them from listening"

For sure, but the more sources you can check the better. Other people's ears can be better than mine. And in this case, the 'official' version is clearly wrong and the transcribed version is correct.

Frank said...

Dylan's lyrics are not set in stone, he often changes them in his live performances and for different recordings. A small example. Tombstone Blues: On the Highway 61 Revisited recording he splits the infinitive: “My advice is to not let the boys in”, on the Unplugged album he corrects his grammar: “My advice is not to let the boys in”. I think the original sounds better.

Mark Wadsworth said...

F, for sure, but I assume that 'lyrics' means 'the original studio version' not endless live variations.

I also prefer the split infinitive, the other way is harder to get in time.

James Higham said...

Maybe the dilemma can be summed up thus:

He said, are you lookin' for somethin' easy to catch
Said, I got no money, he said, that ain't necessary

Mark Wadsworth said...

JH, fair point :-)