Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bob Dylan's Top-Five Songs Beginning with "O"

1. “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” (1966). The lyrics don’t do much more than recycle those of “Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine),” but set to the second most exciting musical rush of Dylan’s electric phase (“Like a Rolling Stone” was the first), they take on a significance sufficient to the musical rush thereof. The straightforward patronizing of lines such as “I didn’t realize how young you were” and “then you told me later … that … you weren’t really from the farm” may come across as mere self-justification, but the not-at-all straightforward refrain rights the balance and maybe even tilts it in the faux farm girl’s favor. The flipside, in other words, of “Sooner or later, one of us must know / That I really did try to get close to you” is that, sooner or later, one of them won’t know it too. And since there’s a fifty-fifty chance that the one who won’t know it is the singer himself, it’s possible that he deserved to have his eyes clawed out.

2. “One Two Many Mornings” (1964). Of a piece with “Girl from the North Country” and “Boots of Spanish Leather,” this poignant contribution to the bulging folksong cache of regretfully abandoned love says its piece with a succinctness that not only proves less is more but that also helped it to withstand the far-from poignant treatment it received on Hard Rain. And, as usual, there’s a twist: It’s not the torched-up nights the singer misses, but the waking up to gaze through bleary but sleep-blessed eyes at a woman asleep on the side of the bed from which she was just as right as he was.

3. “Odds and Ends” (1968). “Lost time is not found again” is hard to argue with, but it’s the way the hi-jinx of the ramshackle music matches the lo-jinx of the playful dirty talk that makes it hard not to wonder what the Traveling Wilburys would’ve done with both. As for the juice mentioned in each verse, something tells me it was the freshly squeezed kind.

4. “Oh, Sister” (1975). You can almost transplant this song from the Rolling Thunder years (during which it originated) into the Slow Train and Saved years, where it would make a nice triptych with “Precious Angel” and “Covenant Woman.” In all three, God is a father bequeathing rebirth and salvation to those love and follow him and danger or worse to those who don’t. The difference in “Oh, Sister” is that the singer uses that danger or worse as a threat: His angel had better stay precious and not break the covenant or she’ll “create sorrow”--but is it sorrow for the singer, for God, or for the woman herself as she faces the fury of the man she scorned? In the sad, weeping-fiddle versions on Desire, Hard Rain, and Bootleg Series Vol. 5, it would seem to be the singer; in At Budokan, however, where Rob Stoner’s musical re-arrangement simmers with resentment, its clearly the sister whom we’d hate to be on that fateful day.

5. “Obviously Five Believers” (1968). “From a Buick Six” gets retooled for what’s basically a throwaway no better and no worse than “Sitting on a Barbed-Wire Fence,” “She’s Your Lover Now,” or any of Dylan’s other worthy mid-’60s rockers left off the albums for which they were recorded. In the two funniest verses, not even fifteen jugglers and five believers “all dressed like men”--so I’m guessing they were women--or the absent lover’s mother can cure the singer of the empty-bed blues. His lover may not be one in a million, but one out of twenty-two ain’t bad.

(Bob Dylan's Top-Five Songs Beginning with "N":

1 comment:

  1. Good list. I'd replace Odds & Ends with One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)

    On A Night Like This, One More Night, Only A Hobo, Only A Pawn In Their Game, Open The Door Homer, Outlaw Blues, Oxford Town