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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 01:46 GMT 

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This is another instance of not fully enjoying this tune for some time. The MEZ really started to dig this one hearing many great live renditions. This is the "marker" challenge on this track talk, to find the supreme "Boots of Spanish Leather"!! Other fans of this tune as track talk moves foward? I can always use more dates to find top billing in my audio download best of "songbook". Top versions of each song! MEZ


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 01:55 GMT 
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So many great versions of this song. I think it was best in early 2000's, but there has been some great ones since. It has changed quite a lot with onyl one acoustic on it for some years now, but it never loses it's magic.

Perhaps one of his most romantic and sad songs.


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 02:28 GMT 
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The king of all Boots
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFLfm9XO ... re=related


these are nice too:
San Diego 1995
Vienna 1999
Munich 2003
Dublin II 2005


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 03:38 GMT 

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Thanks John B. I'll check those out to search for the "best of" IMO. MEZ


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 03:48 GMT 
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Have never heard a live version to compare with the Freewheelin version, never even comes close. Unlike many of his great songs, this is a young man's song. The idea of a very sick 200 year old man (aka NET vocals) singing it just sounds silly. Imagine an older Sinatra singing "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and I think the effect would be the same.


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 03:52 GMT 

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I assume you mean the Times version. And surely the Carnegie Hall performance is comparable?


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 04:01 GMT 
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Yep, the LP version. The 64 live one is comparable, sure. But it IS a young man's song; only young men get their hearts broken like that. And it is a great song; I like it enough to remember it on the better LP :shock: .

I also never remember it as having as many verses as it does; in my mind it has 4 or maybe 5. in reality though it has NINE. I also love how it is filled with those casual "almost" rhymes that are a Dylan signature.

Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love,
I'm sailin' away in the morning.
Is there something I can send you from across the sea,
From the place that I'll be landing?

No, there's nothin' you can send me, my own true love,
There's nothin' I wish to be ownin'.
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled,
From across that lonesome ocean.

Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden,
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona.

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'.

That I might be gone a long time
And it's only that I'm askin',
Is there something I can send you to remember me by,
To make your time more easy passin'.

Oh, how can, how can you ask me again,
It only brings me sorrow.
The same thing I want from you today,
I would want again tomorrow.

I got a letter on a lonesome day,
It was from her ship a-sailin',
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again,
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'.

Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way,
I'm sure your mind is roamin'.
I'm sure your heart is not with me,
But with the country to where you're goin'.

So take heed, take heed of the western wind,
Take heed of the stormy weather.
And yes, there's something you can send back to me,
Spanish boots of Spanish leather.


I like the Wiki entry: The song is written as a dialogue, with the first six verses alternating between the man and woman; however, the last three verses are all given by the one who has been left, presumably the man (Dylan). Within these nine verses, the woman goes across the sea. She writes, asking whether the man would like any gift, and he refuses, poetically saying he only wants her back. Towards the end it becomes clear that she is not returning, and she finally writes saying she may never come back, "It depends on how I'm a-feelin'." The man comes to realize what has happened and finally gives her a material request: "Spanish boots of Spanish leather." Michael Gray has pointed out a strong parallel between this line and the traditional folk song "Blackjack Davey," which Dylan arranged and recorded for his 1992 album Good as I Been to You, and in which footwear of Spanish leather also plays a significant role.


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 04:54 GMT 

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Long Johnny wrote:
Have never heard a live version to compare with the Freewheelin version, never even comes close. Unlike many of his great songs, this is a young man's song. The idea of a very sick 200 year old man (aka NET vocals) singing it just sounds silly. Imagine an older Sinatra singing "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and I think the effect would be the same.


Talk about silly...So a song he wrote based on old sea shanties can only be sung by a young man???? Surely this is a smokescreen statement to avoid posting your own version LJ...I know you've got one somewhere :D

No young man could sing this song like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTzIGOS0yxE

It's the finest performance on Times, notably because Bob sounds so old singing it. Dylan makes this song his own by moving the conversation to the future where he's recalling the day he opened the letter which broke his heart. This shift is what modernizes the song, making it more personal and thereby creates his own new kind of folk song. The language of the last verse never ceases to frighten me a little, it's so devastating.

Millions of great ones. Of course, the king and queen are the album and Carnegie Hall. That sweet singing and gorgeous guitar playing stands unequaled by anyone, anytime.
I love the grand stateliness of Campbell/ Sexton, and there are times I've loved the new arrangement. But my personal favorites have always been from Year One. In my Dylan collection in Heaven, I'm taking this one.
Never has the song had such raw power and immediacy. Bob performs the song as if he had been waiting decades to deliver it like this...

Jones Beach
June 30 1988

http://www.sendspace.com/file/3oliwx


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 14:40 GMT 
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marker wrote:
Long Johnny wrote:
Have never heard a live version to compare with the Freewheelin version, never even comes close. Unlike many of his great songs, this is a young man's song. The idea of a very sick 200 year old man (aka NET vocals) singing it just sounds silly. Imagine an older Sinatra singing "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and I think the effect would be the same.


Talk about silly...So a song he wrote based on old sea shanties can only be sung by a young man???? Surely this is a smokescreen statement to avoid posting your own version LJ...I know you've got one somewhere :D

No young man could sing this song like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTzIGOS0yxE

It's the finest performance on Times, notably because Bob sounds so old singing it. Dylan makes this song his own by moving the conversation to the future where he's recalling the day he opened the letter which broke his heart. This shift is what modernizes the song, making it more personal and thereby creates his own new kind of folk song. The language of the last verse never ceases to frighten me a little, it's so devastating.

Millions of great ones. Of course, the king and queen are the album and Carnegie Hall. That sweet singing and gorgeous guitar playing stands unequaled by anyone, anytime.
I love the grand stateliness of Campbell/ Sexton, and there are times I've loved the new arrangement. But my personal favorites have always been from Year One. In my Dylan collection in Heaven, I'm taking this one.
Never has the song had such raw power and immediacy. Bob performs the song as if he had been waiting decades to deliver it like this...

Jones Beach
June 30 1988

http://www.sendspace.com/file/3oliwx


Um... why does the fact that it's based on an "old" sea shanty have ANYTHING to do with, um, anything?

And, if you would, could you direct us to the NEW sea shantys? :lol:

Is "Blackjack Davy" even a sea shanty?


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 17:19 GMT 
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I enjoy how Dylan introduces this song at Carnegie Hall in 1963: "This is called, Boots of Spanish Leather. All it is, is a kind of...when you can't get what you want, you have to settle for less...kind of song."


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 18:25 GMT 

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Yes, performances at the early shows in 1988 were really great, it sounds as if he was trying to discover this song again that he hadn't performed for so long.
Here's another one.

Canandaigua, 30.6.1988
http://www.sendspace.com/file/cbjb6o


I really like the arrangement they are playing since 2005/06 with Kimball on acoustic, Freeman on electric guitar (and he often really played tasteful and beautiful solos) and Herron on violin. Unfortunately many of these performances suffer from Dylan's vocals. But these two performances are for example very nice. His voice really sounds old but he's trying his best:

New York City, 20.10.2006
http://www.sendspace.com/file/izs8w0

Chatillon, 18.6.2008
http://www.sendspace.com/file/p5ql85


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 18:59 GMT 

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Thanks for the posts great stuff indeed! MEZ


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 20:19 GMT 

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"Boots Of Spanish Leather" is closely related to a major topic of 19th century popular song: a sailor (or sometimes a soldier) leaves his girl and sails away, she's usually waiting patiently at home, sometimes he comes back, sometimes not. Examples are songs like: "Sailor and His Bride", "The Gallant Sailor", "Sweet Jenny On The Moor", "Bid Me Good-bye", "Sailor's Bride", "Sailor And His True Love", "Phoebe And Her Dark-Eyed Sailor", Robert Burns' "The Soldier's Return" etc, etc. These songs must have been really popular as 20th century Folklorists have collected many of them.

The most interesting song from this group is "Sailor's Love Letter" (ca. 1800, reprinted often on broadsides during the first half of the 19th century). I really wonder if Dylan was aware of this very long ballad as it includes at least some of the motives used by him in "Boots..."

Quote:
Dearest maiden I must leave thee,
Far to sail on the raging sea,
I'll return when Fortune waves me
Back again my love, to thee.

I'll return, and then we'll marry;
-Oh, how happy then we'll be!-
But if I am forced to tarry,
I'll send a long letter back to thee.

Morn is broke and they are parted
Still the bark's in sight of home;
She walks the beach quite broken-hearted;
She can but view the bark alone.

Fare thee well, love, now thou art going,
Over the wild and trackless sea;
Smooth be its waves, and fair the wind blowing,
Though it's to bear thee far from me.

But when on the western ocean,
Some happy home-bound bark you see,
Swear by the truth of your heart's devotion,
To send a letter back to me.

Think of the shore thou'st left behind thee,
Even when reaching a brighter strand,
Let not the golden glories blind thee,
Of that glorious Indian land.

Send me not its diamond treasures,
Nor pearls from the depths of its sandy sea,
But tell me of all your woes and pleasures,
In a long letter back to me.

But while dwelling in lands of pleasure,
Think as you bask in the bright sunshine,
That while the lingering time I measure,
Sad and wintry hours are mine.

Lonely by my taper weeping,
And watching the spark of promise to see,
All for that bright spark my night watch keeping,
For, oh! 'tis a letter back from thee.

To say that soon thy sail will be flowing,
Homeward to bear thee over the sea,
Calm be the waves, and swift the wind blowing.
For, oh! thou art coming back to me.

To say thy heart is as true as ever
Though many fair ones thou hast seen,
But from love's pledge you ne'er shall siver
Till death his dart does pierce so keen.


The most closely related 20th century song is "Something To Remember You By" by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, written in 1930 for the revue "Three's A Crowd" where Libby Holman sang it to a sailor. This song later became a standard, it was recorded and performed by many singers (Dinah Shore's version was very popular during WWII):

Quote:
(Refrain):
Oh, give me something to remember you by
When you are far away from me, dear;
Some little something, meaning love can not die,
No matter where you chance to be.
Though I'll pray for you, night and day for you;
It will see me through like a charm,
Till youre returning.
So give me something to remember you by
When you are far away from me.


Here the woman asks her sailor to give her a token "to remember you by", "some little something" that should help her during the time when he's away. It's not unreasonable to think that Dylan was aware of this song when writing "Boots" because a variant of the line "pray for you, night and day for you" was used in "Girl Of The North Country" that was written at the same time.


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 20:21 GMT 
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John B. Stetson wrote:
I enjoy how Dylan introduces this song at Carnegie Hall in 1963: "This is called, Boots of Spanish Leather. All it is, is a kind of...when you can't get what you want, you have to settle for less...kind of song."

If you can't be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you're with


It amazes me that in most threads like this one, the versions pointed to as favorites are almost unanimously either the album cut or a version from the past 20 years. Do most ERers not listen to many early-years boots anymore?


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 22:04 GMT 
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Long John is just being silly.

Here's one I really like. And I can't think of an old song of his that he has consistently played so well over all of these years.

http://www.humyo.com/F/164399-51191219



Plus, I really like Nancy Griffith's version. Check it out.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1KxthvX1Ms


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PostPosted: Thu August 6th, 2009, 23:31 GMT 
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Mr. Tambourine Man wrote:
Long John is just being silly.

Here's one I really like. And I can't think of an old song of his that he has consistently played so well over all of these years.

http://www.humyo.com/F/164399-51191219



Plus, I really like Nancy Griffith's version. Check it out.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1KxthvX1Ms


I think you know I like Nancy Griffith.

But did you know I hate the NET? :D


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PostPosted: Sun October 16th, 2011, 00:06 GMT 
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BOOTS OF SPANISH LEATHER

Robert Shelton

Another lament of love, longing, and loss, in a dialogue between parting lovers. Archaic language and diction conjure up visions of galleons and exotic lands. While probably sparked by Suze Rotolo’s stay in Italy, the song broadened into a universal plaint. Christopher Ricks has called this Dylan’s finest love song.

Paul Williams

Boots Of Spanish Leather is beautiful, the best performance on the album, similar in dynamic effect (and guitar part) to the Town Hall recording of Tomorrow Is A Long Time. Dylan's voice is so rich here. Again, he plays with form – a dialogue between lovers, the singer taking both parts until the seventh verse, in which he suddenly establishes himself as the male (retroactively casting the first six verses as his recollection of their dialogue) and addresses a third party: "I got a letter on a lonesome day / It was from her ship a-sailin'." In the last two verses he is speaking to his lover again, but it is clear she is not present as he speaks. The last verse is a heartbreaker: still in love ("take heed, take heed of the western wind"), he bitterly resigns himself to her disinterest, by acceding to her request that he name a gift, a material object she can send instead of returning herself. The understatement here, the successful marriage of romanticism (in both the language and the music) and spare, stark realism (in the performance, and in the very simplicity and clarity of the situation portrayed), connects this track to the rest of the album. It is a love song, but it offers a perspective and a style of expression similar to the "social realism" of the other songs on the record. And when this song, with all its sweetness and fullness of voice and guitar and language, also turns out to be about emptiness, the effect is devastating.

Mojo 2005 Readers Poll #34

Oliver Trager

A restless forlorn ballad for the ages and sages – a classic Dylan tale of two lovers, a crossroads and the open sea – Boots Of Spanish Leather was written to and about Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s early-1960s New York City girlfriend who in 1964 had finally left him and travelled to Italy to get away from it all. Boots Of Spanish Leather is cast as a dialogue between parting lovers excruciatingly breaking free of each other. Though the song is quite personal, Dylan’s use of antique vocabulary, song structure and pronunciation to summon scenes of another century’s armadas afloat on tempest-tossed seas journeying to far-flung lands thereby broadens the song and casts it deeper in the folk idiom.

With austere charisma, raw emotion and brutal honesty, Dylan casts himself as a romantic poet witnessing his own love affair in its death throes in Boots Of Spanish Leather. As the conversation between the lovers ebbs and flows to its final, if predestined, conclusion, the singer appears to identify with the young lover being left behind, who slowly begins to connect the dots that the end of their affair is nigh. Part of the song’s brilliance is Dylan’s ability to obscure the genders of the speakers while somehow making it clear that the woman is flying the coop and leaving the man on the city docks to watch as her ship disappears over the horizon. As the discussion heats up, the woman attempts to placate the man by offering to send him a token “to remember me by”. But the man is not interested in material goods, poetically insisting that “If I had the stars of the darkest night / And the diamonds of the deepest oceans / I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss / For that’s all I’m a-wishin’ to be owning”. But the psychic tug-a-war between the two heightens as she tries to wash her hands of any guilt and (in evident denial of the relationship’s end) by continuing to adamantly coax a request for some kind of gift to assuage the intensity of the moment. But he is having none of it. Sometime after, he gets a letter from her on a lonesome day informing him that not only is the date of her return uncertain, it is dependent on how she is feeling. Stung but not too surprised, the man responds with a request that serves as the final nails being driven into the relationship’s coffin, “So take heed, take heed of the western wind / Take heed of the stormy weather / And yes, there’s something you can send back to me / Spanish boots of Spanish leather”.

Dylan’s performances of Boots Of Spanish Leather have been universally excellent, consistently ruminative, hung over with mourning. T was first recorded as a Witmark demo in 1963, given a few non-concert displays in 1963, and included on a British television broadcast recorded when Dylan began his 1965 swing through Britain. Though Boots Of Spanish Leather is as classic a Dylan song as can be found, it is rather notable that he did not start performing it with any regularity until The Never Ending Tour commenced in 1988. Since then, he has kept it in moderate rotation as a vital centrepiece of his acoustic sets, reminding one and all why Dylan alone at the microphone (still thinking of Suze?) can make a sold-out theatre waek at the knees.

Clinton Heylin

Published lyrics: Writings and Drawings; Lyrics 2985; Lyrics 2004.

First known performance: Town Hall, New York, 12 April 1963.

Known studio recordings: Studio A, New York City, 6 August 1963 – 1 take; 7 August 1963 – 1 take [TIMES – tk.l].

When Dylan first flew to London in mid-December 1962 – to appear in a BBC production of a new TV play called Madhouse On Castle Street – at the back of his mind he apparently had a half-formed notion he might track down his elusive girlfriend Suze Rotolo at her Italian refuge in Perugia. Though Suze was scheduled to sail home at the exact same time Dylan landed in London, she had already changed her plans once, back in September 1962. The result had been, in Mikki Isaacson's words, “Bobby running around the Village looking lost and skinnier, a real mess. When he talked about Suze, he'd always say, “I don't think she's ever coming back”.”

That nagging and, this time around, unfounded feeling provided the germ of an idea which would grow into Boots Of Spanish Leather, a song Dylan told Scaduto he wrote in Italy when there in January 1963: “Suze had gone back to the States, and that's when I worked up the melodies of Boots Of Spanish Leather and Girl Of The North Country”.”

In fact, by the time he arrived in Italy, Suze Rotolo was back home in New York. As Suze writes in her memoir, “Our letters had crossed in the mail.” We know that Dylan now knew Suze was not in Italy because the lady in question recently auctioned a postcard Dylan sent to her from Italy in January 1963, addressed to “Sue Rotolo c/o Bob Dylan, 161 W 4th Street.” The card – posted the day Dylan returned to London (10 January 1963) – is remarkably upbeat if it was written the same week he composed the maudlin 'Boots of Spanish Leather,' displaying plenty of flashes of that characteristic off-beat humour: “Gotta go, gotta meeting with the Pope about all the colored people coming over here. Amore, Bob.”

It was that “amore” that inspired Dylan to write about the dark days when he thought she is not “ever coming back.” The verbal jousting (originally between a virgin and the devil) that constitutes the conceptual core of Scarborough Fair again gave Dylan a format. But whereas Girl Of The North Country is a lyrical lament, pure and simple, Boots Of Spanish Leather is an old-world ballad from someone whose grasp of traditional modes was coming on in leaps and bounds. The first six verses represent a conversation between two lovers, one of whom is set to sail the seas and has asked the other what kind of token they might want. The other insists it is unnecessary, professing undying love. After half-a-dozen verses lingering on the lovers' parting, the narrator leaps to the devastating denouement, demonstrating real mastery of so-called “leaping and lingering.”

The tone shifts 180 degrees in a single ominous couplet:

“I got a letter on a lonesome day / It was from her ship a-sailin'.”

Having led the listener to expect a Dear John letter, Dylan leaves the convention behind and digs instead into his own memory banks:

“She says I don't know when I'll be coming back / It depends on how I'm a-feelin'.”

Bereft, the narrator bids her a fond farewell with the subtlest of references to the hurt she has engendered, instructing her to “take heed of the western wind,” the same wind which had blown through Tomorrow Is a Long Time.

Dylan later described Boots Of Spanish Leather to a Carnegie Hall audience as a “when you can't get what you want, you have to settle for less kinda-song.” In the last couplet, with his love now forsaken, he finally asks for that token – “spanish boots of Spanish leather.” It is a request commonly held to refer to Gypsy Davey, but the reference there has no bearing on this song. And Shoes Of Spanish Leather is also the title of an English nursery rhyme. And here the list of trinkets desired by a lady has a meaning commensurate with Dylan's:

“My shoes are made of Spanish [leather] my stockings are made of silk
My petticoats of calico and that's as white as milk.
Refrain:
Here we go round and round
Till our frocks touch the ground.”

Assuming this is Dylan's point of reference, it must be something he heard or read about on his trip to London. The rhyme has no known provenance in America. Boots Of Spanish Leather was a song he kept close to his chest for a couple of months more. He is not known to have performed it before the April 1963 Town Hall performance and did not record it “properly” until the first third-album session in August 1963. Perhaps he thought it unwise to highlight melodic similarities to that other song penned in Perugia, which he was anxious to debut. Boots Of Spanish Leather, though, has continued to be a song he can surrender to in performance, whether in Prague or Perugia.

Christopher Ricks

The Heavenly Graces – Faith

"Have you ever been", she asked him, "faithful?" It was meant to give him a turn, this turn at the last moment. The lover in Boots Of Spanish Leather, a leather lover it turns out in the end, has misplaced his faith – not in the sense that he cannot for the moment put his hand on it ("Has anybody seen my love?"), but in that he placed his faith in someone who no longer has any place for it. (Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)).

Faith, it becomes clear, has been betrayed by infidelity, or by the thought of it, the possibility of losing her now, there in their immediate future.

In Boots Of Spanish Leather, an indestructible song about the destruction of love, the artistic self-discipline is inseparable from the self-control of the one who comes to learn what it is to be let down. Bitterness, which will not yet let up, is tinglingly contained. Here is a song in which alternately a man and a woman exchange words of love.

On the antiphonal in Dylan's songs, refer to A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.

As to Dylan's taking the dramatic role of a woman in a song, singing so throughout, there is (of his songs) only North Country Blues: "As I quit in the spring / To marry John Thomas, a miner".

House of the Rising Sun (which he sings feelingly but which is not his song) is likewise in a woman's voice throughout: "It's been the ruin of many a poor girl,/And me, O God, I'm one".

The song avails itself of the fact that you are not sure who speaks first. Because it is a song by Dylan sung by Dylan, the natural assumption is that the man does so:

“Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love
I'm sailin' away in the morning”

Usually, after all, or before all, it was the man (in the old days) who had to leave for work, to set sail. Oh, it is the opening of Farewell:

“Oh it's fare thee well my darlin' true,
I'm leavin' in the first hour of the morn”

– where, immediately following those lines in Farewell, and bound for the Spanish place-names of Boots Of Spanish Leather, there comes this:

“I'm bound off for the bay of Mexico
Or maybe the coast of Californ”

So the initial alternation of verses in Boots Of Spanish Leather might be heard as a man's question issuing in a woman's response. Still, it is clear that whose-voice-is-whose isn't (or is not yet) cleared up. The song holds its cards close to its chest. A treasure chest of silver or of golden.

The first verse opens with "Oh"; the second, with "No", though proffering itself positively.

“Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love
I'm sailin' away in the morning
Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I'll be landing?
No, there's nothin' you can send me, my own true love
There's nothin' I'm wishin' to be ownin'
Just to carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean”

It is not for another five verses that it becomes unquestionable that it was the woman who asked the opening question, that it is she who is doing the leaving (in more than one sense). You suddenly learn, as if you, too, had received a letter,

“Oh, I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin'
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'”

From this point, there will be no more reciprocity, no more alternation. The man, having been wronged, now has the right to speak without heeding the thought of a response. He has heard her out, and anyway it was she who decided that out it is. The last three verses are his. His alone. His, alone. The final verse, the verse of finality (it is the long-delayed answer to her insistent questioning as'to a gift for him), moves on to the offensive, even while being inoffensively couched in the terms not so much of a threat as of a warning, not the terms of any refusal to accept the situation but of finally agreeing – in his way – to accept something to remember her by.

“So take heed, take heed of the western winds
Take heed of the stormy weather
And yes, there's something you can send back to me
Spanish boots of Spanish leather”

His earlier "No", positively grateful for her (a much larger thing than being grateful to her), is completed at last by his "yes", negatively grating.

This last verse, the ninth, concludes what had begun as alternating exchanges, no longer happily paired off but with an odd number of verses. A way of getting even. A pair of boots, not the odd boot. She is now (except that she is not going to do it) asked to give him the boots, having previously given him the boot: "sudden and callous rejection" (The Oxford English Dictionary).

With the exception of sorrow / tomorrow, to which I'll return, the final rhyme weather / leather is the only full rhyme and the only predictable rhyme in the song. But it is predictable only because of the title Boots Of Spanish Leather, with the teasing complication that, on the one hand, the title of a song is very seldom uttered by its singer, but, on the other, everybody soon comes to know the title of the song and moreover it is given on the album. Anyway, the conclusive final line is a pointed modulation of the song's title, which had not spelt out the double Spanish requisition: "Spanish boots of Spanish leather". Spanish boots were an instrument of torture for the Inquisition. They caught on. Germany, Russia...

They give pain in Goethe's Faust (Part I, line I, 913), as Levi Dalton pointed out to me. Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita: "'And what is this on her foot? asked Margarita, tirelessly offering her hand to the guests who had overtaken the hobbling Madame Tofana...”On her foot, Queen, she has a Spanish boot”...The Spanish boot interfered with her movement" (tr. Mirra Ginsburg, 1995, p. 282).

The Spanish leather was perhaps imported from Gypsy Davey, a song that Dylan has since recorded.

As Blackjack Davey, on Good As I Been To You. "Pull off, pull off them high-heeled shoes / All made of Spanish leather". A present. Hers, not His. Shoes, not boots.

In conversation with Studs Terkel in 1963, Dylan sided with this suggestion for a moment but then sidled away. Is there something I can sing you from across the sea?

"You wanna hear a love-song?"

Boy meets girl – Bob Dylan, boy meets girl.

"This is girl leaves boy...This is called Boots Of Spanish Leather'"

Boots Of Spanish Leather – like Gypsy Davey, a line from it.

"Yeah [plays a few chords and then] – no, not because of that but because I've always wanted a pair of boots of Spanish leather."

A personable personal touch, but not one that we should allow to imperil the impersonality of the song itself. The conjunction of the personal and the impersonal can be heard in Dylan's pronunciation of "leather", itself leathery and subtle and supple.

Clearly, the fact that, upon first hearing, it is not clear who speaks first – which means that it will not become clear for quite a while exactly how this gendered song was engendered – must imply that later hearings will be different in kind.

But this is a commonplace about works of art. If you have seen Hamlet before, you know what will happen in the story. (Dysfunctional family tries to cope with death of father.) If a story stakes everything on suspense, especially suspense of a tricksy or risky kind, then you may never want to experience it again. At the video store there are thrillers that still thrill and there are those that do not or will not. But it characterizes works of art that to experience them again may be to experience them anew, gaining at least as much as one loses. Suspense may be not abolished but polished.

If we imagine Boots Of Spanish Leather sung – as it easily could be – by alternate voices (so that the gendresult would be immediately announced), then we find that we are imagining something much less lastingly worth while than what we hear while the song is in Dylan's voice throughout. And this, not only because of what Dylan's voice is. A single voice is called upon to tell this story of how the dual partnership of love met duplicity.

These things are the creations of convention, granted, but then conventions are themselves creations: the convention by which a man sings as a woman or vice versa, or the convention that presents an alternation of speakers in one voice throughout.

For my part, I am disconcerted or discomposed by the Dylan / Johnny Cash duet in Girl Of The North Country (on Nashville Skyline). Dylan just about saves the day by pushing his voice up so as maximally to distinguish its young love from the male stubble of Cash's voice. True, when Dylan and Cash fool around with One Too Many Mornings, as you can hear them doing on bootleg tapes ("You are right from your side, Bob / And I am right from mine"), it is a different story, a funny story.

This delayed indubitability – as to who is breaking off with whom – has taken up into itself along the way some intimations about these intimacies.

These moments are more than tricks; they are to bring out how tricky these things are. Take what happens when two consecutive lines, clearly by alternating speakers, are so phrased as to sound as though they are addressed in the same direction, from him to her. In the second verse, for instance, "Just to carry yourself back to me unspoiled" sounds like – and here is – something that a man says to a woman. For "unspoiled" (not quite the same as "unspoilt") may have a whiff of condescension, and, because of what it is to despoil or violate, may suggest, too, the dangers that women run.

Dryden's translation of the Aeneid (XI, 890-91): "Unspoiled shall be her arms, and unprofaned / Her holy limbs with any human hand".

But then the reply that at once follows, "Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine", does rather sound as though (again) it is a woman who is being addressed. (Quite wrong of us, of course, to more associate women with wanting something fine, but you know how it is.) What matters is the way in which the uncertainty as to who / whom, a hesitation as to the sex of the speaker, can become part of why it is not a misogynistic song, this and the fact that it never generalizes about women and about men.

The seventh verse, the narrative turn, is divided between the man and the woman, but not as an exchange of two passages of direct speech.

“Oh, I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin'
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'”

His two lines directly narrate, but her two are direct speech of calculated indirection: "I don't know when I'll be comin' back again". "It depends on how I'm a-feelin'" – what an unfeeling way of putting it down, of putting him down.

The alternation of feminine and masculine voices, that way round (we find), is something that Dylan rightly makes no effort to dramatize. He does not act the song, he sings it, refusing to settle things, unsettlingly. This is in parallel with the alternation of masculine and feminine endings, lines that end with a stressed syllable alternating from the start with lines that end with an unstressed one:

“Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love
I'm sailin' away in the morning”

In each quatrain, it is lines 2 and 4, only, that rhyme or half-rhyme or off-rhyme.

The rhymes are:
Verse I, morning / landing.
Verse 2, ownin' / ocean.
Verse 3, golden / Barcelona.
Verse 4, ocean / ownin'.
Verse 5, askin' / passin'.
Verse 6, sorrow / tomorrow.
Verse 7, sailin' / feelin'.
Verse 8, roamin' / gain'.
Verse 9, weather / leather.

The repetition in verse 4, ocean/ownin', of verse 2, ownin' / ocean, a repetition with a reversal, suggests (Jim McCue suggests to me) that things - becalmed - aren't going anywhere, although she is; the plea is repeated, unheeded.

So that the rhymes are all, or all but all, feminine rhymes. For instance:

“Oh, but if I had the stars of 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'”

There Dylan points up the feminine / masculine endings by singing something other than what is printed in Lyrics 1962-1985: the lyrics have "There's nothing I wish to be ownin'", but he sings "There's nothing I'm wishing to be ownin'", with the triple-ing sounding in our ears, the feminine ending undulating and insistent. Much is offered:

“Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden”

Or? Choose one? Sorry, you are not going to get something made of silver with a golden inlay. That isn't the tone, which is extravagantly (because guiltily already?) eager to bestow:

“Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona”

"Made of silver or of golden"

The land of the ballad always welcomes visitors from the land of nursery rhymes:

“I had a little nut tree, nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg and a golden pear;
The king of Spain's daughter came to visit me,
And all for the sake of my little nut tree.”

Furthermore, "Made of silver or of golden" may be coloured with ore, and may be heading for Barcelona, a gold bar.

– this, too, is largesse (largesse oblige), luxuriously redundant, since we expect either "Made of silver or of gold" or "Made of silver or golden". "Made of silver or of golden" overflows to the point of overdoing it, affluently and fluently: is she making too much of this wish to give him something, and giving herself away? At the same time the cadence fulfils the pattern of alternating a stressed and an unstressed final syllable ("fine" / "of golden") that "of gold" would lack. And rhyming with the line, off-rhyming with it, is the city with the feminine ending, Barcelona, following upon the previous line and its city with the masculine ending, Madrid.

“Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona”

Something similar is achieved in the lines from Farewell: "I'm bound off for the bay of Mexico / Or maybe the coast of Californ" – where California, being lopped of its last two letters, becomes a masculine ending: "Califom".

It is broadly true, then, that only half of the lines rhyme (the even ones). But only broadly true, for many of the unrhyming words at the ends of the odd lines are gathered up from previous rhymes or rhyme-placings, rhyme-plaitings: so "love" may not be rhymed but it does end two lines, and the same is true of "again" and of "day" and of "me". It is against this interlacing that the rent in the fabric of love is felt.

For the repetitions, which had at first possessed (despite the imminent parting) something light of heart, gain weight:

“If you, my love, must think that-a-way
I'm sure your mind is roamin'
I'm sure your thoughts are not with me2
But with the country to where you're goin'
So take heed, take heed of the western winds
Take heed of the stormy weather “

He sings "thoughts are"; as printed in Lyrics 1962-1985, "heart is".

And yes:

Take heed: thrice, like a witch's spell, more like a conjuration than an adjuration.

Nothing could be simpler, in some ways, than the song's movements of mind as it contemplates these movements of the heart. But, yet again, the simplicity is alive in "that perpetual slight alteration of language" that T. S. Eliot valued.

“Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I'll be landing?”

Not "From the place that I'll be landing at". It is not that Dylan just had to have "landing" at the end, since he could have done this by singing "From the place where I'll be landing", and it is not that he couldn't fit "landing at" into the line. He can always fit things into lines if need be or even if wish be. No, the point is that the speaker (she, as it turns out) is not imagining merely where she is going to land, or that she is going to land at a place; oh no, she is going to land a place. It makes it sound ominously like some splendid fish or splendid prize, these things that you gleefully land. Too blithe a spirit at parting.

The whole song engages with reciprocity and repetition and these then becoming broken. The first verse, "my own true love", is matched with the second verse, "my own true love", a loving answer it would seem. But by the eighth verse she is not saying any such thing, and he is no longer saying "my own true love" but the milder bleaker "If you, my love, must think that-a-way". No longer my own, no longer my own true love. There is an audible finality. This love is over.

Differently over, it is true, from that in One Too Many Mornings, with its level dismay ("We're both just one too many mornings / An' a thousand miles behind").

And altogether different from those love songs that really put in one last plea, as does Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. Boots Of Spanish Leather asks for nothing. What gives the finality its high shine is the contrast with all those repetitions along the way, all the hope that used to be invested in "again", a word that embodies the repetitive asking that is an irritant to the lover. "How can, how can you ask me again": deeply felt, the vexation, in that it does itself perpetrate an "again" ("How can, how can..."), and then itself has to say "again" again:

“Oh, how can, how can you ask me again
It only brings me sorrow
The same thing I would want today
I would want again tomorrow”

What is printed in Lyrics 1962-1985 has much less sense of an exact fit: "The same thing I want from you today / I would want again tomorrow".

"The same thing" plays along with all the repetitions within the song, not just words or phrases but whole questions, whole sentiments. But then there comes the final "again", the one that is compounded by an internal rhyme, when word comes from her: "Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again".

It is this moment before the letter arrives that warns us that tomorrow will bring sorrow:

“Oh, how can, how can you ask me again
It only brings me sorrow
The same thing I would want today
I would want again tomorrow”

Sorrow / tomorrow: this is not just a foreseeable rhyme, but – like the other such one, which closes the song and the relationship – a full true rhyme.1

Same rhyme, different reason, at the end of Oh Sister:

"Oh, sister, when I come to knock at your door
Don't turn away, you'll create sorrow
Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore
You may not see me tomorrow".

I for one have the distinct impression that she will see him tomorrow, given how "tomorrow" follows so equably from "sorrow"; does it sound as though there may really be rupture? Time is an ocean but at least it is not that lonesome ocean.

All the other rhymes in the song till this point have been imperfect and happy to be so; but the rhyme sorrow / tomorrow comes with the predictability of sunrise while dawning on us as a cold sun.

"Take heed, take heed of the western winds". (As printed in Lyrics 1962-1985, "wind".

We are to take heed of the unforgettably laconic medieval poem that this sends back to us, sends us back to. Four lines sadly say it all.

“O western wind, when wilt thou blow
The small rain down can rain;
Christ that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.”

The cry in Boots Of Spanish Leather is differently poignant: Christ that my love were my love. (But in any case no western wind, being a wind from the west, could bring a ship from Spain to America.) The pressure of "tomorrow" in Dylan's song might send us to another song of his, Tomorrow Is a Long Time, and its tribute both to a loved one and to "O western wind", the refrain:

“Only if she was lying by me
Then I'd lie in my bed once again”

In the lost faith or lost fidelity of Boots Of Spanish Leather this has become a different longing: If only she had lived a truth, and lived it by me.


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PostPosted: Sun October 16th, 2011, 00:17 GMT 
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How about doing Tangled next?

I hope I'm not bugging you.


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PostPosted: Sun September 2nd, 2012, 06:33 GMT 
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does anyone else think "Farewell" could be a sort of companion to "Boots of Spanish Leather"? I always think that.
It has the same feeling of leaving someone. Even in the Witmark recording of "Farewell" Bob starts off singing "Oh I'm sailing..." before going into "Farewell".

I dunno, just my thought.


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PostPosted: Sun September 2nd, 2012, 06:45 GMT 
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toilandblood wrote:
does anyone else think "Farewell" could be a sort of companion to "Boots of Spanish Leather"? I always think that.
It has the same feeling of leaving someone. Even in the Witmark recording of "Farewell" Bob starts off singing "Oh I'm sailing..." before going into "Farewell".

I dunno, just my thought.


I had the same thought. Very similar, though Farewell is one sided. Perhaps Boots are the letters that he will write from time to time in Farewell


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PostPosted: Sun September 2nd, 2012, 06:50 GMT 
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circus sands wrote:
I had the same thought. Very similar, though Farewell is one sided. Perhaps Boots are the letters that he will write from time to time in Farewell

yes, and I feel like "Boots" has a bit sadder tone and "Farewell" is a bit more positive.


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PostPosted: Sun February 16th, 2014, 12:23 GMT 

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It is not just among the very greatest songs that Dylan has ever wrote, but is one of the most beautiful love ballads ever written. I have loved this song since falling in love with its precursor Girl from the North Country for the first time, in a very similar version to the one I've posted a link for re: Boots, then hearing the same arrangement for Boots and realising Boots is even better, both in terms of its lyric sheet, which is flawless, and the fact it is also longer. Dylan admitted that Girl was rearranged from Marty Carthy's guitar arrangement on his version of Scarborough Fair, but actually it's only in the lyrics to Scarborough that there's any similarity. He seems to have been making a nod to Carthy with his admittance, out of convivial generosity; there is nothing musically similar between the Dylan song and its supposed source. With the dropping of the lyrical Scarborough nods, Boots wears its uniqueness even more openly. It is possibly my favourite Dylan song, or at least among my top five moments, and I hope it's one of yours as well.

Note: A friend of mine says this version, once available on a limited Columbia EP, was recorded from a show in Glasgow. The Youtube thread posits otherwise. What does anyone else here think?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32G4wn13LxU


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PostPosted: Sun February 16th, 2014, 13:22 GMT 
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The Killer Snark wrote:
It is not just among the very greatest songs that Dylan has ever wrote, but is one of the most beautiful love ballads ever written. I have loved this song since falling in love with its precursor Girl from the North Country for the first time, in a very similar version to the one I've posted a link for re: Boots, then hearing the same arrangement for Boots and realising Boots is even better, both in terms of its lyric sheet, which is flawless, and the fact it is also longer. Dylan admitted that Girl was rearranged from Marty Carthy's guitar arrangement on his version of Scarborough Fair, but actually it's only in the lyrics to Scarborough that there's any similarity. He seems to have been making a nod to Carthy with his admittance, out of convivial generosity; there is nothing musically similar between the Dylan song and its supposed source. With the dropping of the lyrical Scarborough nods, Boots wears its uniqueness even more openly. It is possibly my favourite Dylan song, or at least among my top five moments, and I hope it's one of yours as well.

Note: A friend of mine says this version, once available on a limited Columbia EP, was recorded from a show in Glasgow. The Youtube thread posits otherwise. What does anyone else here think?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32G4wn13LxU


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PostPosted: Sun February 16th, 2014, 13:25 GMT 
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Some good conversation about this on a previous track talk, I quoted your post there (used the search button at the top to find the thread). I agree it's a marvelous song.


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PostPosted: Sun February 16th, 2014, 13:46 GMT 

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I never actually realised someone had already put up a Track Talk for this earlier, so I started one of my own. :oops: Sorry, folks, you now have two. Ah, well, you can forgive me. It was two years ago. :lol:


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