Friday, April 2, 2010

Old Song Review: Bob Dylan - Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You

This song has been in the queue for a while so I'm sorry to just be getting to it now. For the sake of expediency I'm going to truncate the title in this post to Tonight.

Bob Dylan seems to be a controversial singer-songwriter. Many hate his scratchy voice and [some] preachy/protest songs but I think the haters don't know what they're talking about. Dylan has some fantastic music out there and some of it, in many ways, serves as the soundtrack for an important period in contemporary history. Maybe someday your blog host will review one of his albums but I just wanted to talk about one song:

Tonight was released in 1969 at the height of the hippie era. My parents and their friends mostly claim that 1968 was the best year of the 60's (and sometimes their lives) but I would have no idea. It seems like the 60's were a ton of fun but they also produced all these baby-boomers who are now keeping their jobs (instead of giving them to me) and starting to suck up all the social security. At least they came up with some really great music. Tonight is part of the Nashville Skyline album, Dylan's 9th.

As with the other songs I review in this column part of what got my attention is the story. I'm glad I was touched by a happier song this time as the last two have been overwhelmingly melancholy. Tonight is about
relinquishing yourself to love (or at least to lust . . .).

If you haven't heard this song but have listened to some of Dylan's work you'll be happy to know that Tonight was recorded fairly early in Dylan's career, before his voice got really scratchy and gravelly. Don't get me wrong, I love some of his later work and I like his voice in general, but Bob is more mellifluous in Tonight than in many other recording later in his career. With the inclusion of the blues guitar at the bridge, Tonight is really a great song and just makes you want to sway or bob your head slowly from side to side.

The story is basically of this traveler with plans to leave his lover one night. It seems like the affair isn't some long term thing but almost that the traveler has become stuck in place. There are almost wafts of Siren imagery from the Odyssey. But I don't take the same message from Tonight as I do from Ulysses' story. It's not about getting beguiled by beautiful women, but succumbing to love. This song to me is all about resignation. He's giving up trying to fight the feeling and I can just see this traveler, if not actually throwing his suitcase out the window, at least dropping it in the middle of the floor as he rushes across the room into his lovers' arms. Sam Cooke apparently once explained the future to Bobby Womack (in reference to Dylan's voice): "it's not going to be about how pretty the voice is. It's going to be about believing that the voice is telling the truth." The quality of Dylan's voice may be of some controversy to the uninitiated, but if you've ever had the feeling of the traveler, you know this song to be True.

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