Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Ramona

Another Side of Bob Dylan was Dylan's fourth studio album, released in August 1964 by Columbia Records. His previous album, The Times They Are A-Changin', has always been one of my favorites with its point social commentary evident in songs like Only A Pawn In Their Game, but there's not a one of these early productions that isn't a treasure. This album, while still acoustic, was criticized by many for the very reason that he did not produce more "finger pointing" songs. There is a lot of great material here, though.

I find it quite astonishing that Dylan could walk into a recording studio with nothing more than a guitar and a harmonica and produce a whole album like this with one take on each cut. That's right. Each song was recorded once. And he even had three leftovers that didn't make the LP including Mr. Tambourine Man.

These songs were months in the making though, with many gems. A number of pieces in this collection were covered by groups like The Byrds and The Turtles, a tradition that has continued now for five decades. (That is, the tradition of other artists performing Bob's songs.) The lines from one song here were written in response to JFK's assassination the previous November. Others show a deeper introspective stance than previous.
The Beatles made their first trans-Atlantic voyage in the beginning of that year, and though they never did a Dylan cover, his influence on their music is clear.

Recorded that evening on June 9th at Columbia's Studio A in New York, To Ramona is both lyrical and poignant.

To Ramona

Come closer
Shut softly your watery eyes
The pangs of your sadness
Shall pass as your senses will rise
The flowers of the city
Though breathlike
Get deathlike at times
And there’s no use in tryin’
T’ deal with the dyin’
Though I cannot explain that in lines

Your cracked country lips
I still wish to kiss
As to be under the strength of your skin
Your magnetic movements
Still capture the minutes I’m in
But it grieves my heart, love
To see you tryin’ to be a part of
A world that just don’t exist
It’s all just a dream, babe
A vacuum, a scheme, babe
That sucks you into feelin’ like this

I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed
By worthless foam from the mouth
I can tell you are torn
Between stayin’ and returnin’
On back to the South
You’ve been fooled into thinking
That the finishin’ end is at hand
Yet there’s no one to beat you
No one t’ defeat you
’Cept the thoughts of yourself feeling bad

I’ve heard you say many times
That you’re better ’n no one
And no one is better ’n you
If you really believe that
You know you got
Nothing to win and nothing to lose
From fixtures and forces and friends
Your sorrow does stem
That hype you and type you
Making you feel
That you must be exactly like them

I’d forever talk to you
But soon my words
They would turn into a meaningless ring
For deep in my heart
I know there is no help I can bring
Everything passes
Everything changes
Just do what you think you should do
And someday maybe
Who knows, baby
I’ll come and be cryin’ to you

Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music


Jerome Clark said...

The "Ramona" in the aong was friend and Hibbing high school classmate Ramona Vincent, usually called Mona, who also figures in "Memphis Blues Again." In his youth my brother was engaged for a time to her
her younger sister Becky. Last time I saw her, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, Mona, still beautiful, still very shy, told me she and Dylan remain friendly. Mona's late father, a railroad man and a hard drinker, is referenced obliquely in Dylan's quote from a traditional folk song in "Memphis."

Jerry Clark

Mark Turnbull said...

Yes, one of his great songs. However, for the record, Mr. Dylan did quite a few takes of each song. I don't know that any of the released performances were first takes.

Ed Newman said...

Thank you for the correction. When I wrote this in 2010 I had that detail (songs recorded in one take) from something I read, but have since wondered if I were mistaken. Perhaps it seemed more impressive than reality because it wasn't. It's my understanding now that it was one night in the studio, which was impressive enough considering the swath of tracks laid down.

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