“Abandoned Love” (1975)

A memorable part in the live recording of the Desire outtake “Abandoned Love” is when Dylan sings the line, “But my heart is telling me I love ya but you’re strange.”  And rightfully so–it’s an amusing line and the audience’s laughter is proof.  There are many shifts in this song, a “this is happening” “but then so is this” see-sawing.  Such a shift happens with the “hill/still” rhyme in it:

The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is a-tellin’ me I love ya still

It’s hard to get why the Spanish moon rising would not elicit an “And”–romantic sentiments are not summoned by a rising moon?  But “but” it is.  And though the “hill”/”still” rhyme is a perfect one, Dylan makes it imperfect by stretching out the “i” in hill the length of the rising moon–about as far as any singer can widen the sound of any vowel. There’s a word for that–melisma.  I think the rhyme’s imperfection is a kind of shift, a shift among many in this song.

It really is one of my favorite live Dylan moments.

The whole of “Abandoned Love” “is about . . . a man’s (Dylan’s?) deepest feelings” during the time of his failed relationship with a woman (Sara Lownds–as Robert Shelton suggests in No Direction Home), the word “throne” used at the end of the song certainly puts her on the pedestal the man wants her to come down from:

One more time at midnight, near the wall
Take off your heavy makeup and your shawl
Won’t you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
After all, he’s no leader in this song, the voice of a follower echoes from other songs, (“Baby, let me follow you down,” “in the jingle-jangle morning I’ll come following you”?), but here it’s to children:

“Wherever the children go I’ll follow them”

And maybe the liberty we tend to romanticize about our childhoods is what he’d like to follow and where he’d like to be if not for the love he feels chained to:

“I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I’m not free”

“throne” doesn’t get the royal treatment of rhyme in this song; it’s not tethered to another word that rhymes with it; but neither is this woman (an example of a queen in the church”—no treasure found with her?) fated to be abandoned not followed. The rhymes are consistent, tied to each other in couplets, but this couple has had their day—days with him in her room dressing before the mirror:

I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won’t you let me in your room one time ’fore I finally disappear?

Left is the heartfelt painful yearning of wanting more of her love, coupled with the wrenching shift in thought that it all must end, just like the song must do, as any song does. We are left with

“Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it”

where a form of the first word in the title is finally (with finality) sung.  The couplets continue, abandoned love has the last say.

Here’s the audio of a  recorded version from Other End, NYC, 1975:

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“You Angel You” (1973)

“You Angel You” is a one of Dylan’s best love songs, and not because of the relationship or the romance displayed in it, but due to the feeling of falling in love that it captures so well–that first feeling–the feeling that one is in love and maybe even for the first time:

“Never did feel this way before.”

This is a song about someone who has fallen for an angel, but not for her angelic traits.  Nope.  This angel’s walking, talking, and smiling are what has made him smitten.  All humans do those things–nothing especially special about them unless the one doing them is an object of desire; then we have what Christopher Ricks says about the song itself, “”sheer simplicity has its reserves of power.”

Simply powerful are the rhymes.  The verses, but for the bridge, are alternating rhymes abcb.  The bridge is all about “more” or the sound “more” makes as a rhyme, with the scheme of abbbb.  Never stop, the song seems to be saying, or never stop this feeling of love, more, more, more and more mores, please

A couple of lines are sneaky in the powerful way that their vagueness helps anyone conjure up images of their own of this angel.  And the singer seems to want the listener to be in on what he means about her, as in the Beatles, “Well she was just 17, and you know what I mean.”  Here’s Dylan weighing in with vague lines meant to elbow the side of the listener into getting what he means:

“You’re as fine as anything’s fine.” (Insert own image of what a fine woman looks like).

And, the actual sung line that replaces the written line, “The way you smile like a sweet baby child”:

“The way you walk and the way you talk/Is the way it ought to be.” (Insert own images of what her walking and talking ought to be.)

The song has only been performed by Dylan twice, and both times were in the 1990’s, 17 years after it appeared on Planet Waves.  Here’s the first time in live audio at Penn State University.

“Wallflower” (1971)

A wallflower, also known as the gillyflower, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a wild flower that grows on walls, rocks, etc., but its fragrance, from flowers either yellow or orange (the color of this wallflower’s dress?), is so strong and enticing that it is often cultivated in gardens.

Related image

Now, of course, Dylan is not referring to a flower in this song, but a woman who, according to the O.E.D., “keeps her seat at the side of a room during dancing, whether because she cannot find a partner or by her own choice.”  The first known us of the word for a person rather than a flower was in 1820.

The singer’s woman, the one he wants to make “mine one of these days/Mine alone,” is the latter identified woman in the definition who decides not to dance by choice, not because a partner is not available.  Indeed, there’s one quite available, insistently so.  In the first verse, he importunes her with questions and a presumptuous nod to how he is like her in “being sad and lonely” (not all wallflowers are?):

Wallflower, wallflower
Won’t you dance with me?
I’m sad and lonely too
Wallflower, wallflower
Won’t you dance with me?
I’m fallin’ in love with you

There’s a wildflower wildness to this wallflower, asserting not to dance, and an independence, shown by her resisting even the singer’s tempting confession of falling in love with her, (will not be part of his garden), and this wildness is reflected in an inconsistent rhyming with echo rhymes and a third and sixth line terminal rhyme found in the first verse, too/you; followed by the kind of rhyming Bob used in “Positively 4th Street” with the last word of the second verse rhyming with the last line of the third, on/gone.  Bob does this again with alone/home in the fourth and fifth verses, but included in that fourth verse is the couplet, haze/days.

These rhymes, are hard to pin down, hard to follow, hard to understand–might as well try them all, throw them all at the wall, at this wallflower, and see what happens.  Asking someone to dance is a risk, but worth a chance, the same kind the singer asks her to take on him in the last verse:

Wallflower, wallflower
Take a chance on me
Please let me ride you home

The lover’s argument for seventeen lines and five verses is merely that he is just like her:

Just like you I’m wondrin’ what I’m doin’ here
Just like you I’m wondrin’ what’s goin’ on

Perhaps that’s an effort to make her feel like she’s not taking much of a risk because they really are so alike.  The last words of the first verse get this across, too:

wallflower
me
too
wallflower
me
you

Me, too wallflower, how about me and you?

I can’t find Dylan’s delightful version of the song found on the Bootleg Series 1-3, but here’s pleasing rendition by Diana Krall: