Monday, November 24, 2014

She Belongs To Me Is Classic Dylan

Haight-Ashbury Mural, 2008
As everyone following the current edition of the Never Ending Tour is aware, the playlist is pretty much set in stone, beginning with "Things Have Changed." Most of the songs in the two-part show are of more recent vintage, many from his last studio album Tempest. The second song of the set, "She Belongs To Me," is not. With the exception of his eternal classic "Blowing in the Wind" which has become the kickoff to his encore, it's the only one from the Sixties, with Bob at center stage and Donnie on pedal steel.

"She Belongs To Me" is a song Dylan has now performed 362 times as of Saturday night, and in some ways it seemed a curious selection considering all the scintillating songs of that period. But then, there may be good reasons for its inclusion.

First off, maybe it gives him a chance to play his harp early in the show, though a hundred songs could have given him that chance. So maybe the answer lies elsewhere.

It's a truly intriguing song. When you inhale the lyrics you find it contains a variety of flavors difficult to identify. Perhaps when released on Bringing It All Back Home it got lost between the kicker "Subterranean Homesick Blues" which opens the album and "Maggie's Farm" which produced a deep resonance with a portion of that generation, my generation, when it appeared. In fact, that whole album is so loaded with treasures it's easy to see how a subtler, nuanced song might get lost.

The song's structure is traditional blues where the first line is repeated twice followed by a payoff. The Delta blues classic "Rolling and Tumbling" is an example of such a structure, recorded by a host of performers from Muddy Waters and Cream to Jeff Beck and Fleetwood Mac. (Dylan himself created a whole new set of lyrics for his Modern Times CD, only retaining the first lines, tune and structure.)

"She Belongs To Me" carries this same format, but what a marvelous piece of lyrical craftsmanship. John Hinchey, whose book Like A Complete Unknown analyzes the poetry of Dylan's Sixties music, writes this about the song:

"She Belongs to Me" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" are the other two songs that magnificently manage to escape the limitations of the simplistic myth that informs side one. [of Bringing It All Back Home] In both songs Dylan invokes his muse -- perhaps for no better reason than to flaunt her before the bourgeoisie -- but having invoked her, he finds himself in the presence of someone beyond his reach. Her very inaccessibility seems to activate Dylan's deepest artistic impulses, forcing him to acknowledge -- and provoking him to attempt to overleap -- the limits of his imagination.

"She Belongs To Me" demolishes bohemian sentimentalities from the inside, with a surprising portrait of the muse as unapproachable yet imperious dominatrix.

The song's complexity is part of what makes it compelling. And if you've ever been there, you understand.

SHE BELONGS TO ME

She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime black

You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees

She never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She’s nobody’s child
The Law can’t touch her at all

She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She’s a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique

Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
For Halloween give her a trumpet
And for Christmas, buy her a drum

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

Here's how the song sounded when he performed it live at the Manchester Free Trade Hall during Dylan's world tour in 1966, the famous "Judas" Concert which preceded his retreat from touring, ultimately resulting in The Basement Tapes.


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