Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love is just a four-letter word

Topical one for today. May I wish all lovers a nice Valentine’s day. I hope that it is better than mine (I’ll be spending it in the pub doing manly things like drinking beer and watching football and generally trying to forget that I exist).

One of the reasons why I am in awe of Bob Dylan as a performer and songwriter is his amazing skill at writing love songs. Although he is probably most famous for songs like 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'Like a Rolling Stone', it's the love songs that have always been special for me. We’re not talking about boyband love songs here but proper love songs. Songs that deal with joy, pain, and emotion. In fact he doesn’t really write "love songs" as such, he deals with the entire range of emotions that accompany love. And it seems quite obvious to me that for him love is more than a four-letter word.

Below, I’ve outlined some of my favourite love songs by Bob Dylan and why I think that they are so special.

The "I love you" song – ‘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.”

My favourite Dylan love song of them all. His singing is just so sweet on this. The words on a literal level mean absolutely nothing at all – but when you hear it you understand completely what he’s on about. If you don’t understand this song then you’ve probably never been in love and should take a long, hard look at yourself and your life in the mirror... and maybe split up from your lover. From the brilliant album Bringing It All Back Home. Listen to it here.

The "I love you and want to sleep with you" song – ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’
“Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he's standing in front of you”

Dylan is a man like anyone else and he has needs. This song was written to get women into bed. Pure and simple. This is the song equivalent of Rohypnol. From his country record, Nashville Skyline. Listen to it here.

The "I love you but you’re far away" song - 'Boots of Spanish Leather'
“Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean,
I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss,
For that's all I'm wishin' to be ownin'.”

It’s a song about a love who has gone away. All the protagonist wants is a kiss from his lover, but she’s only offering gifts in return. He ultimately realises that his muse will not come home and then accepts a gift, not of silver or gold, but of Spanish boots made of Spanish leather. To think that he was in his early 20s when he wrote this gives me the chills. From his career changing album, The Times They Are A-Changin'. Listen to it here.

The "I am so in love with you" song – ‘I Want You’
“The guilty undertaker sighs,
The lonesome organ grinder cries,
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you.
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn,
But it's not that way,
I wasn't born to lose you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad, Honey, I want you.”

Poetic images which by right shouldn’t be included in a love song merely add to this song for me. It’s a great, happy song, with brilliant musical backing and Dylan’s vocals are all velvety and warm. A song that I’ve always listened to when I’ve fallen in love with someone, it’s all about that initial burst of happiness and that weird exaltation and energy that new love brings. Available on the best album of all time, Blonde on Blonde. Listen to it here.

The "I love you but I hate you" song – ‘Idiot Wind’
“I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
You'll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I'll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.”

Possibly the best song on hatred born out of love, this is pure poetic bile (I used that in my description on an editorial on break-up albums for Rockbeatstone). This was released on Blood on the Tracks. I love this song, pure anger followed by a final recognition that both parties had been stupid. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been Dylan’s wife when this song made itself known to her. What must she have been thinking? The mind boggles. Listen to it here.

The "I love you and miss you" song: ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’
“I'm going out of my mind, oh, oh,
With a pain that stops and starts
Like a corkscrew to my heart
Ever since we've been apart”

Also taken from Blood on the Tracks, the best break-up album of all time. Not much to say about this one. You have to listen to it to understand the pain that Dylan expresses. It’s just so lovely and sad all at the same time. Will make you cry if you’ve recently split up with a loved one – guaranteed. It’s possibly one of the most moving popular songs ever written. Listen to it here.

The "I used to love you where are you now" song: ‘Shooting Star’
“Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me.
If I was still the same
If I ever became what you wanted me to be
Did I miss the mark or
Over-step the line
That only you could see?
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me”

From Oh Mercy. One of Dylan’s most underrated songs. A simple ballad, you can imagine him playing this song to himself around the fire on a camping trip. He ponders a former lover, wonders whether he ever did become the person that she wanted him to be, whether she ‘broke through’ to become someone else. A stunningly beautiful song, I always like seeing this one in concert. It seems to be Dylan’s ode to former lovers and one that makes me feel all melancholy and blue. Listen to it here.

The “I hate loving you” song: - ‘Love Sick’
“I'm walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping"

From Time Out of Mind. A brilliant song that shows that Dylan still has what it takes to write a killer love song in his later years. He’s sick and tired of being in love with a person who doesn’t seem to want to return the favour and he just can't get her out of his head. It's as if he's saying that he's too old for this but he just can't act in anyother way. This was used in the infamous underwear advert for Victoria’s Secret. Listen to it here.

Love is Just a Four Letter Word


Anonymous said...


How could you forget the "Wedding Song" from Planet Waves. A great love song.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this nice bunch of songs!

the wedding song, well we can do without

I only miss "you're gonna make me lonesome when you go."
an "I-love-you-but-I-know-it-won't-last-song'

James K said...

There are loads of songs that I could have chosen...I just picked my personal favourites

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow Is A Long Time is favorite of mine by Bob

Cor said...

Of course "tomorrow is a long time" it's one of the best.
'Only if my own true love was waitin' and if I could hear her heart asoftly poundin, only if she was lyin'by me, I'd lie in my bed once again'
(He never lies, except when he's in bed)

Anonymous said...

When I listen to"Shooting Star' I always think that Dylan is singing to his father.

Private Beach said...

I think one of his finest love songs is "If You See Her, Say Hello". They used to be lovers, now she's far away, he's still bitter about the break-up yet still loves her enough to wish her well wherever she is.

Another outstanding example is "She's Your Lover Now" - you took her from me, now she's your problem. But behind that again is bitterness that she left him.

Anonymous said...

:( :( :( :( :(

I want a boyfriend.......

:( :( :( one night stands aren't enough!!!!! thanx for depressing me. :(

James K said...

":( :( :( :( :(

I want a boyfriend......."

Fancy meeting up some day?

I could make my blog into a new internet dating facility.

PV said...

please miss henry, thats my kind of love song

Check me out, if you dare