I read in the booklet to Biograph that Dylan felt the best/truest version of Tangled Up In Blue was recorded on Real Live. After searching the album out and remembering my disappointment the first time I heard it in the late 80’s I have to say the man himself may not be wrong. Now is this the best performance I leave that to the Dylanologists out there. The delivery urgent, breathless and immediate, the guitar strummed frantically as if this is the only time it will come out this way, it’s a compelling version and it’s back in the third person the way the original New York version is.
Of course years of familiarity with the song may mean I am hearing years of versions and performances overloaded and juxtaposed in my mind.I stopped going to see Dylan when I reached ten times. I never knew this until I counted them up today, this seems like too perfect a coincidence to start going again, although I have a deep hankering to again. I want to see the old fart one more time maybe, or I am looking for some honesty in performance.
I tried to listen to the lyrics closely this time, I didn’t google them. It plays like a movie in my mind as he gasps his way breathlessly through the lyrics. At the end I have no idea what happened. Red hair, beer, parents, jobs, strip clubs and shoe laces, failure and hope and a wood burning stove for some reason. This is what I am left with. I seem to have listened in some state of late night dreamscape that has superimposed my own hopes on the song. Maybe this is the importance of Tangled Up In Blue it seems so personal and universal at the same time.
When my eldest was five he could sing along with two songs, Tangled Up In Blue and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. He would bellow the lyrics to these songs at the top of his lungs as we drove to school in the muggy late spring heat with all the windows open on the old pick-up I owned at the time. Eventually the lyrics to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer got him sent home from school, the teacher thought they may incite violence, little did we know that twenty years later violence would become the nom in our schools. Yesterday as he pulled out of the driveway in his own pick-up after kissing his newborn goodbye he was singing Tangled Up In Blue at the top of his lungs. Things have a way fo coming back around it seems.