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Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D
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Author:  marker [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 05:36 GMT ]
Post subject:  Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=405A1VCAj10

I once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze
With the innocence of a lamb, she was gentle like a fawn
I courted her proudly but now she is gone
Gone as the season she’s taken

Through young summer’s breeze, I stole her away
From her mother and sister, though close did they stay
Each one of them suffering from the failures of their day
With strings of guilt they tried hard to guide us

Of the two sisters, I loved the young
With sensitive instincts, she was the creative one
The constant scapegoat, she was easily undone
By the jealousy of others around her

For her parasite sister, I had no respect
Bound by her boredom, her pride to protect
Countless visions of the other she’d reflect
As a crutch for her scenes and her society

Myself, for what I did, I cannot be excused
The changes I was going through can’t even be used
For the lies that I told her in hopes not to lose
The could-be dream-lover of my lifetime

With unknown consciousness, I possessed in my grip
A magnificent mantelpiece, though its heart being chipped
Noticing not that I’d already slipped
To a sin of love’s false security

From silhouetted anger to manufactured peace
Answers of emptiness, voice vacancies
Till the tombstones of damage read me no questions but, “Please
What’s wrong and what’s exactly the matter?”

And so it did happen like it could have been foreseen
The timeless explosion of fantasy’s dream
At the peak of the night, the king and the queen
Tumbled all down into pieces

“The tragic figure!” her sister did shout
“Leave her alone, God damn you, get out!”
And I in my armor, turning about
And nailing her to the ruins of her pettiness

Beneath a bare lightbulb the plaster did pound
Her sister and I in a screaming battleground
And she in between, the victim of sound
Soon shattered as a child ’neath her shadows

All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight
I gagged twice, doubled, tears blinding my sight
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love’s ashes behind me

The wind knocks my window, the room it is wet
The words to say I’m sorry, I haven’t found yet
I think of her often and hope whoever she’s met
Will be fully aware of how precious she is

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
“How good, how good does it feel to be free?”
And I answer them most mysteriously
“Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?”

"People have asked how I felt about those songs that were bitter, like "Ballad in Plain D", since I inspired some of those too; yet I never felt hurt by them. I understood what he was doing. It was the end of something and we both were hurt and bitter. His art was his outlet, his exorcism. It was healthy. That was the way he wrote out his life, the loving songs, the cynical songs, the political songs, they are all part of the way he saw his world and lived his life, period."
Suze Rotolo

I look back and say "I must have been a real schmuck to write that." I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I've written, maybe I could have left that alone."
Bob Dylan

The song is loosely based on the ancient Irish ballad 'I Once Loved A Lass' and I personally love the song. Yes, it's painful and a bit awkward but a beautiful ballad nevertheless. I also can understand his shame in having written it, but I'm more privy to see the song from Suze's context.
Anyway, here's the original song it was derived from:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz1NhEmVgls

Anyone else find this one lovely? I know it's not well-liked round these parts but I'm sure there are some of you out there that like it as much as I do....
Let your voice be heard!!

Author:  XZYOE [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 08:16 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

I've never held the animosity to the song as others have.It's not absolutely terrible, but it is quite boring. I've always like the line:

The tragic figure" her sister did shout
"Leave her alone, God damn you, get out "

Author:  Voice With Restraint [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 09:22 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

Martin Carthy in Isis about 10 years ago:

"I seriously think he's only written one truly rotten song... [Ballad in Plain D] It's a piece of junk and he knows it's a piece of junk. I think he knew it soon afterwards. He must've done. He said to her: 'I'm gonna get you. I'm gonna get you in a song.' And he didn't. He missed by a x mile. It's nice he's acknowledged it. We've all done stupid things in our lives, and probably the first rule is to acknowledge it."

Author:  The Mighty Monkey Of Mim [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 09:24 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

I understand why Dylan has said he regrets recording it; obviously it's more overtly/recognizably personal than most of his songs (though there are probably a number of others that are equally connected to real events and emotions in his own heart & mind) and in retrospect he's realized it unfairly impugns the character Suze's sister by calling her a "parasite." I also understand that its "confessional" nature likewise puts off those who don't care for that sort of songwriting in general. But I don't think it's a bad song and I enjoy it, if "enjoy" is the right word. It moves me emotionally. I would not care to have many songs in this line from Dylan, but this one I am glad to have.

Anyone notice it uses the melody of the traditional ARTHUR McBRIDE?

Author:  TheTruthIsObscure [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 11:32 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

"I Loved A Lass" is a Scottish variant of an ancient ballad known since the 17th century.

Ewan MacColl, "I Loved A Lass", from Classic Scots Ballads (1956):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NRmwgFkHr4

Quote:
I once lovèd a lass, and I loved her sae weel
I hated all others that spoke of her ill;
But noo she's rewarded me weel for my love,
For she's gaun to be wed till another.

When I saw my love to the church go,
Wi' bride and bride-maidens, they made a fine show;
An' l followed them on wi' a heart fu' o' woe,
For she's gaun to be wed till anither.

When I saw my love sit down to dine,
I sat down beside her and poured out the wine,
An' I drank to the lass that should ha'e been mine,
An' now she is wed till anither.

The men o' yon forest they askit o' me,
Hou many strawberries grew in the saut sea?
But I askit them back wi' a tear in my ee',
How many ships sail in the forest?

O dig me a grave and dig it sae deep,
An' cover it over with flowers sae sweet,
An' I'll turn in for to tak' a lang sleep,
An' may be in time I'll forget her.

They dug him a grave an' they dug it sae deep,
An' covered it over with flow'rets säe sweet,
An' he's turned in for to tak' a lang sleep,
An' may-be by this time he's forgot her.


Most likely this recording was Dylan's source and he simplified the melody a little bit.
The song was well known among the Folk singers at that time. Carolyn Hester recorded it in 1963 for her LP "This Live I'm Living" and Richard Fariña used the tune for his "Birmingham Sunday" in 1964
Joan Baez, Birmingham Sunday, 1964
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shgSLKb-onA

----------------------

This song family has a very interesting history.

The very first version of this song was printed some time between 1656 and 1670 and was called "Love Is The Cause Of My Mourning". Here is a reprint from ca. 1700, together with "Good Night and God be with you all" (which , by the way, was a precursor of "The Parting Glass" which in turn was the source for Dylan's "Restless Farewell")
http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/31424/image

The next version was a long ballad of 16 verses, first printed in the1670s:
"The Forlorn Lover, Declaring How A Lass gave her Lover three slipps for a Teaster, And married another a week before Easter, To a pleasant new tune".
Here's a reprint from the 1680s:
http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/21107/image

In the 1770s it mutated into a popular song with only 5 verses that was published in songbooks like:
The Marybone Concert : Being a choice collection of songs, sung this and the last seasons, at Vauxhall, Ranelaugh [sic!], and Marybone, and other places of entertainment, Printed and sold in Aldermary Church Yard, Bow Lane, London, 1760
Quote:
I courted a Lass that was handsome and gay,
I hated all people that against her did say,
I thought her as constant and true as the day,
But now she is gone to be married.

When that I saw my love to the church go,
The bride and the bridgegroom they made a fine show,
I soon followed after with a heart full of woe,
To see how my love she was guarded.

When that I saw my love sat down to meet,
I sat myself down by her, but none could I eat,
I loved her sweet company better than meat,
Altho' she was ty'ed to another.

When that I saw my love stand all inwite
With tears in my eyes how she dazzled my sight,
I pull'd off my hatt and bid her good nigh
Adieu to false lovers for ever.

Dig me a grave both wide long and deep
And strow it all over with flowers so sweet,
There will I lay me down and takje a long sleep,
And that's the best way to forget her.


The next version was published ca. 1850 in Birmingham, this time called "The False Hearted Lover"

At the end of the 19th century one more version was printed, this time in Scotland and it was called "It Was Not My Fortune To Get Her":
http://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/broadside.cfm/id/16423/

Since the end of the 19th century the Folk song collectors have found a lot of variants from oral tradition both in Scotland and in England. Ewan MacColl borrowed his version from a rather obscure book: The Miscellanea Of The Rymour Club, published between 1906 and 1911:
http://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.30000041633755?urlappend=%3Bseq=207
According to the introductory notes this variant was learned from "John Henderson (now dead), of the firm of R. & T. Henderson, merchants, farmers, and fish-curers, of Spiggie, Dunrossness, Shetland [...] in 1885".

The fourth verse is only known from some Scottish variants of this song:

The men o' yon forest they askit o' me,
Hou many strawberries grew in the saut sea?
But I askit them back wi' a tear in my ee',
How many ships sail in the forest?

Dylan used it as the starting point for his last verse:

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
“How good, how good does it feel to be free?”
And I answer them most mysteriously
“Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?”

It is based on a nursery rhyme known in different variations since the 17th century and printed a couple of times since the early 19th century, for example in Gammer Gurton's Garland Of Nursery Rhymes,ca. 1820:
http://www.archive.org/stream/gammergurtonsgar00puzziala#page/12/mode/2up

Long before Dylan and Farina another songwriter borrowed this tune. Neil MacLeod (1843 - 1913), the "Skye Bard" (he was from the Isle of Skye"), wrote a song in Gaelic called "Cumha an t-seana Ghaidheil" some time in the early1880s, here from a songbook published in Edinburgh in 1900:
http://www.archive.org/stream/achoisirchiuilst00pais#page/64/mode/2up

Author:  Dom [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 12:08 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

I personally kind of like the song, especially the couplet XZYOE mentioned.

Author:  tellmemomma1966 [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 12:23 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

my chief complaint against it is that it's long and boring, and doesn't contain any of the things i like about other dylan songs like creative imagery or wordplay or humour. he's rightly left this well alone since recording it.

Author:  oldmanemu [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 13:17 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

Despite the criticism and the fact that he only ev er performed it once I think it is one of the great Dylan songs.

Author:  Bennyboy [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 13:21 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

Song is shit.

What more needs to be said?

Author:  blind_boy_grunt [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 13:55 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

I like it. Another Side was the first early Dylan album that I seriously listened to and although the melody drags, the lyrics and Bob's resigned delivery are quite flawless.

Author:  Md23Rewls [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 18:56 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

It's meh. He's written lots of scorned lover songs, and lots of breakup songs, almost all of which destroy "Plain D" in terms of subtlety, nuance, and effect. "Plain D" just comes across as a diary entry.

Author:  smoke [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 19:10 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

MUSICIAN: Let me give you examples from other songwriters. In "Dancing In the Dark" Springsteen deliberately chose to say, "I get up in the evening " rather than "I get up in the morning" as a flag telling the listener than he was writing about himself not a character. I've talked to Dylan about this sort of stuff and, like you, he started off saying that his songs were not autobiographical. So I mentioned "Ballad in Plain D" and he said, "Oh yeah--that one. I must have been a real schmuck to write that." Songwriters hate to admit it, but they all do it.

TOWNES VAN ZANT: I see what you mean. That's a beautiful song.

Author:  telltale [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 19:34 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

That was a very interesting post, The Truth Is Obscure, and it almost makes me want to hear Ballad again, but it does also highlight how inelegant and at times ridiculous (I mean we've all known the joy of possessing a magnicent mantelpiece) Dylan's song is.
If you were in prison in 1964 you must have dreaded a visit from Bob Dylan.

Author:  Mez [ Wed August 3rd, 2011, 19:36 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

Not a fan of this one at all. MEZ

Author:  foxy [ Sun March 18th, 2018, 15:53 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

I find this song quite funny. Bob sounds half-cut and the song appears to have been cobbled together at the last minute - it's not good but it's mildly entertaining. His youthfulness shows when he blunders the word "scapegoat" - listen, he definitely says "scrapegoat". Always liked that bit.

Author:  Still Go Barefoot [ Sun March 18th, 2018, 21:22 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

Funny? That’s funny.
I do Appreciate having to sit through this again.
It solidifies what my thoughts were.
Someone said boring...yes.
Too long, drawn out, repetitious, slow.
The storyline’s fine.

This one is in serious need of getting
the Rolling Thunder Review treatment.

Author:  foxy [ Sun March 18th, 2018, 21:28 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

Still Go Barefoot wrote:
Funny? That’s funny.
I do Appreciate having to sit through this again.
It solidifies what my thoughts were.
Someone said boring...yes.
Too long, drawn out, repetitious, slow.
The storyline’s fine.

This one is in serious need of getting
the Rolling Thunder Review treatment.


I find it funny in part because he's being such a dick, for lack of a better word. It's not his finest moment but nobody's perfect.

Author:  tyke [ Mon March 19th, 2018, 10:18 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

In reworking the old ballads, Dylan was often brilliant ( Bob Dylan's Dream, Hard Rain, Hattie Carroll, Weary Tune) and almost always interesting and innovative (Restless Farewell, Hollis Brown, Girl from the North Country, Red Wing). My issue with Ballad in Plain D is that he took a delicate song and coarsened it. Even ignoring the issue of whether the content was too up close and personal--- compare say You're A Big Girl Now--- it is just not a success. 'A magnificent mantelpiece though its heart being chipped'--come on. And the payoff verse, does that really work? Try Sandy Denny's version of The False Bride to see an example of where the song is coming from. A rare bad choice, unfortunately not the only one on Another Side.

Author:  Jal015 [ Mon March 19th, 2018, 20:30 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

tyke wrote:
In reworking the old ballads, Dylan was often brilliant ( Bob Dylan's Dream, Hard Rain, Hattie Carroll, Weary Tune) and almost always interesting and innovative (Restless Farewell, Hollis Brown, Girl from the North Country, Red Wing). My issue with Ballad in Plain D is that he took a delicate song and coarsened it. Even ignoring the issue of whether the content was too up close and personal--- compare say You're A Big Girl Now--- it is just not a success. 'A magnificent mantelpiece though its heart being chipped'--come on. And the payoff verse, does that really work? Try Sandy Denny's version of The False Bride to see an example of where the song is coming from. A rare bad choice, unfortunately not the only one on Another Side.


Everyone always shits on this song and that line in particular. I happen to find it to be one of the more beautiful lines in the song. To each his own I guess.

Author:  Still Go Barefoot [ Mon April 9th, 2018, 08:48 GMT ]
Post subject:  Re: Track Talk 273 Ballad In Plain D

More here & this is cross-referenced there.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=26322

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