bob had 19 attempts at recording this!
SHE’S YOUR LOVER NOW
Now to She's Your Lover Now. This song embodies the essence of what Dylan was about circa 1965 and 1966. The lyrics are wild, spontaneous, full of images, totally disrespectful to excepted pop lyric forms and hyper-vicious. The song is addressing two people, one of them the singer's ex-girlfriend, the other, the guy who has taken her. In is constant veering back and forth between bitter, though not entirely negative, recrimination towards the girl, and pulverizing put-downs of the man. In amongst the torrent of reproaches and insults there are some lines which, had the song been given a commercial release, might have become famous simply for their semantic cleverness. As the song goes on it gets weirder and weirder-in places it is reminiscent of Heironymous Bosch's Garden Of Earthly Delights. Unfortunately the performance ends abruptly and prematurely.
Dylan may have very well gone on to cut another (uninterrupted) version with The Band. There is supposedly in existence a tape of a phone call between Dylan and his producer Bob Johnston in which Johnston tells Dylan that Columbia is going to release She's Your Lover Now as a single. There was also a report in the music press in 1966 to that effect.
Published lyrics: Writings and Drawings; Lyrics 1985; Lyrics 2004
[complete version: Words Fill My Head; Telegraph #2].
Known studio recordings: Studio A, NY, 21 January 1966 – 19 takes [TBS]
One element of Visions Of Johanna that aligns it to the almost equally magnificent She's Your Lover Now, another major composition, comes in verse three (“Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously”). Such a line could easily have transferred from one to the other, something we know happened on other Blonde On Blonde compositions. Visions Of Johanna almost certainly prompted Dylan to continue this line of reasoning, writing a song specifically about “little boy lost” and his lady friend (which may explain why he ultimately rejected She's Your Lover Now, not even attempting it at the Nashville sessions).
The two compositions certainly appear to have been written very close to each other – Visions Of Johanna in late-November 1965, She's Your Lover Now in late-December 1965. A sense pervades Visions Of Johanna that, at any minute, the dissolute aesthete sitting there stranded may come out of his (opiate) daze and start telling it like it is. In She's Your Lover Now, he does exactly this, alternating between a wistful regret for “her” and an ill-disguised disdain for “him”. With Visions Of Johanna any barely contained disgust is reserved for the various women, real and imaginary, whose only crime is that they are not Johanna – “Louise, she's alright, she's just near,” “Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues,” and “Madonna, she still has not showed.” Whereas with She's Your Lover Now Dylan is merciless in his dissection of every combatant, “I see you're still with her, well, that's fine, 'cause she's comin' on so strange, can't you tell?” and, “I ain't the judge, you don't have to be nice to me.”
A comment Dylan made on Bob Fass's radio show the night of the last January 1966 session (27 January 1966) suggests he had originally hoped to record a good chunk of his next album at these sessions. This was not such an outlandish idea, given that he had recorded Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited – Like A Rolling Stone excepted – in three days apiece. Dylan tells Fass, on his radio show, that they have just done three days of album-sessions, but that they have just a single to show for it.
But in both cases he had arrived at the sessions with a locker full of songs. The three new songs recorded at sessions on 21, 25, and 27 January 1966 hardly suggested he had a similar-sized armoire of raw material.
She's Your Lover Now, the one major work recorded on this occasion, is shattering enough. Like Visions Of Johanna in November 1965, it was the immediate priority when he arrived at the 21 January 1966 session, and he immediately set about getting the groove right before all drama drained from this cathartic composition. After a successful West Coast tour, he had removed the safety net of session musicians, and it was with The Hawks (now on their third drummer, Sandy Konikoff) that he set about recording the song in all its raging glory, Konikoff’s rat-a-tat drumming driving the song forwards on wave after wave of recrimination.
According to the studio logs, they worked at the song all night long, trying it 19 times, five of them complete, one with just Dylan at the piano. In fact, we can be pretty damn sure there never was a “complete band” version of the song. When it was finally released in 1991, compiler Jeff Rosen used (an edit of) the regular bootlegged take that breaks down on the final verse, as Dylan mixes his metaphors (he sings, “Now your mouth cries wolf,” rather than “Now your eyes cry wolf”, though it sounds like someone has already dropped out before he trips over the words).
Wilentz, who before his talk on these sessions heard the session tape, never heard any full electric version. The session he describes suggests Dylan was rapidly running out of patience with his touring buddies:
“The first take rolls at a stately pace, but Dylan is restless and the day has just begun. On successive takes, the tempo speeds, then slows a bit, then speeds up again. Dylan tries singing a line in each verse accompanied only by Garth Hudson's organ, shifting the song's dynamics, but the idea survives for only two takes. After some false starts, Dylan exclaims, "It's not right, it's not right," and soon he despairs, “No, x it, I'm losing the whole x song.” He again changes tempos and fiddles with some chords and periodically scolds himself as well as the band, “I don't give a x if it's good or not, just play it together – you don't have to play anything fancy or nothing, just – just together."'
According to Wilentz, after The Bootleg Series take collapses, Dylan says he has had enough. When he complains, “I can't hear the song anymore,” it is his way of saying, “Pack up guys, and go home.” However, he does have the presence of mind to run down the song solo, and Bob Johnston has the wit to set the tape machine going again, capturing all four verses, sung by a Dylan who knows that his voice “is really warm / It's just that it ain't got no form / It's just like a dead man's last pistol shot, baby.”
However, when the song was copyrighted in 1971, and published in 1973, it was missing that final verse, suggesting that the recording Dylan and/or Columbia referenced – the song being one of those pulled for the SW63115 project – did not contain that crucial concluding stanza. And what a stanza it is:
Why must I fall into this sadness?
Do I look like Charles Atlas?
Do you think that I still got what you still got, baby?
My voice is really warm,
It's just that it ain't got no form.
It's just like a dead man's last pistol shot baby.
Ah, your mouth used to be so naked,
Your eyes used to be so blue,
Your hurts used to be so nameless,
Your tears used to be so few,
Now your eyes cry wolf, while your mouth cries,
'I'm not scared of animals like you.'
And you, there's really nothing 'bout you I can recall,
I just saw you that one time and you were just there, that's all,
But I've alreay been kissed,
I'm certainly not gonna get into this,
I couldn't make it anyhow.
You do it for me, she's your lover now.
Even the emergence of the solo piano take in 1980, on the Goldmine acetates, failed to convince the “editor/s” to add it to subsequent editions of Lyrics. As such, the published lyric remains crucially incomplete, as does the released take on The Bootleg Series. Without this resolution – in which the singer allows himself to remember a time when her “tears used to be so few” – She's Your Lover Now comes across as just another demonstration of Dylan's “verbal bayonet”. Yet that exquisite solo take is tinged with genuine regret in his voice, as he sings of the girl he once knew. One can only imagine how frustrated he felt when the song broke down so close to its finishing end. Next time around, the safety net would be back in place.
It is possible that the band version of She's Your Lover Now precedes the Dylan-alone-with-piano version that has been reliably dated as being from mid-January 1966, but it seems so unlikely (because the piano takes are usually made as demos, to introduce a new song to the other musicians) that I am going to consider both versions as dating from January 1966, and will discuss them when we get there.
She's Your Lover Now is the song that started me searching for bootleg albums of unreleased Dylan material. The impetus was Dylan's release in 1973 of his collection of lyrics called Writings And Drawings, which included quite a few songs not available on any Dylan album. I discovered She's Your Lover Now and soon got in the habit of reading it aloud to friends – I could hear Dylan's voice, his inflections, as I read the lyrics, even though I had never heard him sing the song. So then when I got a catalogue of "rare records" one of which included a Dylan recording of She's Your Lover Now, I could not resist ordering it, and a new world opened up to me.
The band version of She's Your Lover Now is rough-edged – although this, like the early versions of Visions Of Jo-hanna, is delightful, one can understand Dylan searching for something more – something more that turned out to be the truly magical, light-handed, complex and refreshing sound he achieves on Blonde On Blonde, a new and deeper journeying into the heart of musical mystery, in no sense Highway 61 Revisited revisited. The band version of She's Your Lover Now is also incomplete – Dylan makes a mistake in the lyrics in the fourth verse, gets confused, and stops singing. (The line goes: "Now your eyes cry wolf, while your mouth cries, I’m not scared of animals like you' "; Dylan sings, "Now your mouth cries wolf, while...what?") The words to the song in Writings And Drawings / Lyrics are clearly transcribed from this tape, and so they lack the fourth verse.
Then, in Summer 1980, a revelation for Dylan collec¬tors – an acetate (recording studio pressing) turned up entitled Just A Little Glass of Water No. 89210 (the last part is CBS recording studio code, the first part presumably Dylan whimsy), which turned out to be a full-length She's Your Lover Now sung by Dylan alone at the piano. It is a great song in any case, and this solo performance is absolutely stunning – the power of Dylan's voice and the genius of his expressive gift can be heard at their most naked, terrifying, oceanic, threatening at every moment to burst the thin skin of decorum that keeps human beings from overwhelming and obliterating each other with the force of their emotions or the sheer bitter strength of their personalities. "Oh, how the pawnbroker roared," he sings, after gargling in tongues for a moment to tune his voice and spirit to the piano, "And it was so good for the landlord / To see me so crazy, wasn't it? / They both were so glad/To see me destroy everything I had / Pain sure brings out the best in people doesn’t it??"
The song is a vivid portrait of one of the more difficult mo¬ments in any person's life – just after the abrupt end of a sexually and emotionally intense relationship, when one sees (in the imagi¬nation or in fact) the other person with their new lover. In the first 11 lines of each verse, the singer addresses his ex-lover, alter¬nately angry, scornful, pleading, sad – then, abruptly, in the 12th line, he turns and addresses her new boyfriend, mocking him hilariously, playing bitter oneupsmanship and never letting this straight man, this prop, get a word in edgewise. This takes up the last seven lines of each verse. The rhyme structure is worth noting – AAB CCB DEFEE / GG HH IJI (the last rhyme, last line, is always "She's your lover now" or "You're her lover now"). The third E line, which is always long (spitting out a string of words) serves as a climax to the first section; the simpler rhyme structure of the second section is appropriate to the change in mood from earnest, elegant intensity to fierce but playful sarcasm. Two kinds of hatred: one full of love and the frustrations of love, the other full of indifference or maybe the frustrated desire for indifference (What can she possibly see in you? Why do I have to admit that you exist?).
I have no idea what biographical event could have inspired this song – this is a guy who just got married in November 1965, whose first child is about to be born, maybe he is harkening back to an earlier incident or – who knows? But it is interesting that this third man theme (putting down the non-entity who is with the girl on whom the singer's attention is focused) shows up very clearly in other songs from this (Blonde On Blonde) period – Visions of Jo¬hanna's "little boy lost," I Want You's "dancing child with his Chinese suit." Who is this guy? Who is this girl? Only Dylan knows, if he can even remember. What seems likely is that the subject is not so much a particular heartbreak as a recurring situation, experienced or imagined or a little of both, that characterizes the power and confusion of sexual connection, the mysteries and frustrations and rewards of the sexual encounter (always tied up in the prob-lem or fear of being misunderstood). Is not this what One of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) is about? ("Sooner or later one of us must know / That I really did try to get close to you.") What about Fourth Time Around? And, in different ways, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Leop¬ard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, the Ruthie section of Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine), Temporary Like Achil¬les, and Just Like A Woman. The whole album is about sexuality and its power, or, if you will, the war between men and women. This is not the only thing the songs and the album are about, but it seems to be there, in the music as well as the lyrics, in song after song after song. Maybe it is a raucous farewell to bachelorhood. In any event, it is a memorable, amazingly successful work of art – and a bookend to the great album that came out of the other end of the marriage, Blood On The Tracks.
If I had to choose a single performance to stand as evidence of Dylan's greatness as an artist, one momentary breath of song to define his essence and defend his stature, She's Your Lover Now (solo at piano) would be the one. It is not on my "masterpiece" list because it lacks (in this form) the universal accessibility of Mr Tambourine Man or Like A Rolling Stone; it is, however, the equal of those performances in power, beauty (strange beauty, awful beauty, not a beauty every listener is ready to hear yet), and expressive accomplishment, and, in its very rawness, it has a trans¬parency, a translucency, that cuts through the mystery of Dylan's special talent and illuminates the real nature of his artistry.
Dylan is a passionate vocalizer of felt truth, tongue connected directly to heart, mind following not leading. The rhythm and the performance structure come first, and the language fills in the spaces. Those who perceive specific symbolic references in Dylan's songs (this stands for that) are almost always barking up the wrong tree – they assume that discovered meaning must necessarily have been encoded by conscious intellect. Dylan's technique skips steps – his "symbolic" language is intuitive, not rational, felt not preconceived. His songs entertain our intellects but their source is visceral – mind follows feeling. Feeling is first for the listener, too, but Dylan's cleverness with words is so striking we may not always notice that his songs make us feel first, and our thinking about them comes later.
In She's Your Lover Now Dylan is not "trying to" say some¬thing, as the interpreters of songs would have us believe; rather, he is saying something, and he allows us to listen in – to share the experience, by identifying with the speaker or with one of the people being addressed or as an uninvolved observer or all of the above. The song's greatest impact, of course, comes through the listener's identification (self-recognition) with the speaker. When this occurs (the listener cannot will it to happen), we go beyond appreciation of the speaker's cleverness (his performance, in the sense of a person performing before a mirror, telling off all the people who have caused him pain, coming up with the perfect squelch) or discomfort with his cruelty, and enter into a far more affecting realm.
"I've already assumed," he sings in the second verse "That we're in the felony room / But I ain't the judge, you don't have to be nice to me." Feeling these words, as we do when we hear them, we may go beyond his arch, smug manner and find ourselves feeling (remembering from our own experience) the pain underneath, when someone you love, someone you were as one with, who a moment ago was an intimate and could only speak to you from her heart, now tries to humor you, to be "nice," treating you like an interrogator in court or some beggar on the street she does not want to aggravate but dearly hopes will go away quietly. "Will you please tell that / To your friend with the cowboy hat / He keeps on saying everything twice to me." We feel his combined anguish and fury at having to talk to her with this other guy (who's also trying to be "nice," presumably because he's uncomfortable, but is experienced by the singer as a condescending son-of-a-bitch) present; Dylan wants to scream but he is holding back his anger because part of him desperately wants to be perceived sympathetically by the woman – he is also holding back his desire to beg for reconciliation. This can be felt quite strongly in the next lines, "You know I was straight with you / You know I never tried to change you in any way / You know if you didn't want to be with me / That you didn't have to stay." Beneath the self-justification, the desperation is unmistakable. (A sweetness, his genuine love for her, also comes through as we hear these words sung.) Then the incredible 11th line: "Now you stand here saying you forgive me—what do you expect me to say?" The full intensity of the trap he is in is evident now – his pride (I've done nothing wrong) in direct conflict with his desire to have her back (don't "forgive" me—love me!), both feelings (pride, desire) unendurably strong and neither with the least hope of getting satisfaction from her even if the other feeling could get out of the way. But meanwhile here he is with her and him, and there is this conversation to carry on, but no way he can even begin to explain himself or apologize or say what he feels or speak to her heart in the context she has set up by the way she is speaking to him.
He turns on the boyfriend: "And you, you just sit around and ask for ashtrays, can't you reach?" (At last someone that he can vent at least a little of his feelings to; it's safe, because he doesn't care about this person – except that of course he can't control himself and his angry feelings towards her pour out as he's speaking to him.) "I see you kiss her on the cheek every time she gives a speech / With her postcards of the pyramid / And her snapshots of Billy the Kid / They're all so nice but why must everybody bow?" (This is not symbolism, by the way, but surrealism – spontaneous, humorous, absurd, and very effective as characterization. She's into the mystical, she romanticizes outlaws, she loves show and tell and likes to be – and probably deserves to be, which is why he still wants her, and why he is angry – the center of attention.) "Explain it to her" (is it just the tone of voice that makes this such a vicious putdown?) "—You're her lover now."
The beauty lies in the vulnerability, the naked sharing of feelings of conflict and pain. The singer's anger and cleverness are a transparent foil for helpless anguish, of a sort that the listener too has experienced and has despaired of finding words for. Dylan's genius is he finds chords, finds voice, and the words follow, tumble out and allow us to share his experience and, more importantly, to share our experience with him. This happens without any thinking about it. It happens at the moment that we hear and are moved by his voice, music, language – a moment in which we embrace what we hear and make it uniquely our own.
This solo piano performance of She's Your Lover Now would still be remarkably compelling if the words were in some unknown foreign tongue, and all of our understanding had to come through the piano and the sound of the words, the sound of Dylan's voice. In fact my discussion of the lyrics of the second verse barely scratches the surface of what the performance of the verse communicates. Dylan uses English like a billiards player, putting a new spin on every word – every sound from his mouth has a life of its own, and is capable of conjuring up worlds of meaning, nuance, complexity.
Listening to Dylan play piano and sing on this track it is possi¬ble to hear the song as he hears it in his mind, played by a full electric band – not specific details of which instruments play what and when, I do not think he hears it that way, but rather a complete sound, orchestra playing in his head, the whole feeling of it is present and audible in this performance, along with the sense that this performance is not complete in itself, it is a sketch for this other thing in which much of what is conveyed here by Dylan alone would be communicated instead by a group of musicians playing with and around Dylan's voice. So this vocal contains things that would not be in the "finished" vocal – much of the process of refinement and completion involves removing things from a creative work rather than adding to it, like an artist erasing parts of his pencil sketch as he fills in colors and textures.
And in this particular case we have more by having the sketch than we might have if we had a finished recording – we have a scream from the heart of the artist, so ferocious and so personal it is easy to imagine him not wanting to share it with his audience. "My voice is really warm," he sings in the last verse, "It's just that it ain't got any form / It's like a dead man's last pistol shot, baby!" Dylan is holding nothing back here. And the question could be asked, What is his purpose in writing and singing such a song?
My answer is to go back once again to Restless Farewell: "Oh every thought that's strung a knot in my mind / I might go insane if it couldn't be sprung." What drives him is the need to release something, let it out, relieve the pressure. Interpretation assumes message – that the artist's primary purpose is to communicate with his audience. Not necessarily so. This idea that art is communica¬tion may be a function of the audience's vanity, the interpreter's self-importance. The artist is more interested in expression – finding words, music, rhythm, sound, not to communicate something but just to let it out, externalize it, because it will not let him rest until it has been so expressed.
He does this for himself, not for us. But because he is a per¬former, he does need our participation, in the form of our atten¬tion. When he dives off the high platform, he does not want us to receive him at the bottom like a pail of water – what he wants is for us to notice every elegant little movement as he leaps, admire his composure as he falls, and be thrilled by the perfection of his splash.
The performing artist is not interested in whether we under¬stand what he is saying. He wants us to listen to the way he says it. What we feel while we are listening is what we get.
In She's Your Lover Now, a bitter dissection of a failed romance (cut at the Blonde On Blonde sessions but left off the album), he declares with an air of betrayed innocence:
You know I was straight with you.
You know I never tried to change you in any way
The song is remarkable for the sustained petty rage it directs at both the woman and her new lover, and the utter failure of this rage to bring even temporary relief to the singer. It is a heady and affecting mix of desire, regret, jealousy, and disgust.
Mojo 2005 Reader’s Poll #49
A complex and brilliant composition dramatising a scenario for three players but only one narrator, She’s Your Lover Now has that late-night Manhattan miasma that marks so much of the album from which it was excised, Blonde On Blonde. The whole scene here could be played out on a Soho street corner at four in the morning as the traffic hurtles by.
In his liner notes to The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3, John Bauldie begins and ends his analysis of the song with its narrator, “who’s attempting to unravel a tangled web of complicated emotions – anger, resentment, recrimination, dismay, disgust, love, loss and responsibility in the presence of his ex-lover and her new boyfriend. The feelings he has within himself are just as confused, and they make themselves variously felt, ever more grotesquely, either towards her or towards him or towards himself, as the song progresses. It is just about impossible to do justice to its achievement, without writing an entire dissertation on the many simultaneous levels on which this song works.”
Two very different versions of She’s Your Lover Now were recorded in Nashville during the January to February 1966 Blonde On Blonde sessions – the driving, near-perfect ensemble version was released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3, and a slow piano and vocal take that remains unheard. She’s Your Lover Now was left off Blonde On Blonde perhaps because of its similarity in construction and sentiment to (One Of Us Must Know) Sooner Or Later, or maybe because Dylan slipped on the lyrics near the song’s ending. The last verse was not included in either of Dylan’s books of lyrics (1973’s Writings And Drawings or 1985’s updated, second-edition of Lyrics 1962-1985). Bauldie, however, made sure that they were included in the booklet accompanying The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 released in 1991.
Excessively vitriolic – even by Dylan’s standards at the time – She’s Your Lover Now remains one of his best mixes of surrealistic imagery, anger, jealousy and humour, all cushioned by the pleasant roll of fairly standard but still weird-sounding blues progressions marked by the clash of his piano and Garth Hudson’s organ. The narrator comes off like a bit of a jerk, but his pointed use of language cannot be denied. And while we all wish we could come up with some of the put-downs he uses here in the heat of battle (“Now you stand here expectin’ me to remember somethin’ you forgot to say”), very few of us could have come up with this final hallucinatory salvo, “She’ll be standin’ on the bar soon / With a fish head an’ a harpoon / An’ a fake beard plastered on her brow / You’d better do somethin’ quick / She’s your lover now.”
On 25 January 1966, he recorded One Of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later), which was released as a single a few weeks later and is the only track on Blonde On Blonde not recorded in February 1966 and March 1966 in Nashville.
In a radio appearance on WBAI in New York later the same evening, Dylan mentions that he has just recorded his new single, which is better than the last two and comparable to Like A Rolling Stone. When I met him in Philadelphia a month later he was still very enthusiastic about One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later), but Top-40 radio did not agree. Like A Rolling Stone had gotten to #2, Positively 4th Street to #7 (peaking in late-October 1965), and Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? to #58 (on the Billboard magazine list), but One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) did not even make the Top-100. Was Dylan disappointed? Relieved? Confused? Indifferent? Probably all four.
On the radio show, Dylan mentions that he and the musicians had been in the studio for three days and nothing came of it except this one song. The musicians were The Hawks – their one appear¬ance on Blonde On Blonde, although only Robbie gets mentioned in the album credits. It seems likely that the solo version of She's Your Lover Now (and probably the band version as well) was recorded at these sessions.
For better or worse, Dylan had become used to honing his songs and then working quickly in the studio, even when he played with sidemen. He had finished Bringing It All Back Home in just three studio dates involving fewer than 16 hours of studio time. It took five dates, one overdub session, and 28 hours for Highway 61 Revisited (along with the single Positively 4th Street). After three dates and more than 18 hours in the studio on this new endeavor, Dylan had one unrealized tour de force, one potentially big song, and one marginally popular single, but little in the way of an album. One way to move forward was to bring in veterans of earlier Dylan sessions. Four days after failing on She’s Your Lover Now, Dylan recorded with Paul Griffin on piano, William E Lee on bass, and, fortuitously, Al Kooper (who stopped by to see his friend Griffin but wound up sitting in on organ). Bobby Gregg returned once again to substitute for The Hawks’ Levon Helm on the drums, and was joined this time by The Hawks’ guitarist Robbie Robertson and bassist Rick Danko. Dylan also brought two new songs, the funny, jealous, put-down blues, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (laid aside temporarily after two takes) and One of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later), recorded simply as Unknown. The results on the latter were stunning.
One writer's listing for this session credits Michael Bloomfield on guitar and William E Lee on bass; another listing omits Paul Griffin. The session tapes show that although Lee played on the early takes of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, none of which appeared on the album, Rick Danko was the bassist on One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later). The tapes also affirm that Robbie Robertson played guitar and that Griffin was, indeed, the pianist. There is significance to this seemingly pedantic point – after all these years, Bobby Gregg, Paul Griffin, and Rick Danko, whose names have never appeared in the album's liner notes, deserve their share of credit for playing on Blonde On Blonde. My thanks to Diane Lapson for helping to sort out the identities of the various musicians on the recordings, as well as to Jeff Rosen and Robert Bowers for guiding me to and through the recordings themselves.
The lyrics are straightforward, even ordinary, tracking a burned-out love affair’s misunderstandings. Dylan experimented with the words inside the studio; the title chorus did not even appear until the sixth take. But the sound texture that makes One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) so remarkable was built steadily, late into the night and into the next morning. After take 17, Dylan heeds the producer Johnston’s advice to start with a harmonica swoop. Crescendos off of an extended 5th chord, led by Paul Griffin’s astonishingpiano swells (“half Gershwin, half gospel, all heart” an astute critic later wrote), climax in choruses dominated by piano, organ, and Bobby Gregg’s drum rolls; Robbie Robertson’s guitar hits its full strength at the finale. Intimations of the thin, wild mercury sound underpin rock ‘n’ roll symphonics. Johnston delivers a pep talk before one last take – “keep that soul feel” – and Gregg snaps a quick click opener, and fewer than five minutes later, the keeper is in the can.
“We knew we had cut a good ’un when it was over,” Al Kooper remembers. But despite the successful experiment, the next day’s recording was cancelled, as were two other New York dates. A change in venue had been in the works, and despite the results on One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later), it would go forward.