T for Tom

Day 25 – Real Live – 1984

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on July 17, 2016


The live records are starting to become gems, documentations of Bob Dylan in time. Why when before he was shedding some of his skin by changing the faces of all his songs, it’s now a delicacy to hear him hit the heart again every now and then. That’s what I think of when I hear the acoustic version of “Tangled Up In Blue” in the middle of Real Live, this 1984 live record.

Seemingly after numerous changes, and a few years now wandering in the woods, there’s still a man who when you least expect it, does something tender and right. This version of “Tangled” is also the first version on a major release to feature the original lyrics – all the same story, but in third person. It’s interesting then in its contradiction, that the released and famous version on Blood On The Tracks would be a rock’n’roll tune, though sung personally in the first person view. Yet here, in London in 1984, “Tangled” actually gets the musical treatment it deserves – sung heartbreakingly alone by a single man – yet he detaches himself by becoming a narrator, not the man in the story. Just another way to distance himself from the truth.

Sonically, the album is as sure as any live performance since Before The Flood, standing lightyears above Budokan, which I gladly omitted. Featuring backing performances from Mick Taylor (of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Rolling Stones fame), Ian McLagan (of Small Faces fame), and produced by Glyn Johns (producer of every rock’n’roll record ever), it comes together strong and tells a good story.

The album is short but powerful. Comprised of only 10 tracks, it does a good job to reinvigorate Dylan’s famous early past while still featuring standout track “License to Kill” from the most recent LP, Infidels, with strong middle tracks in between.

And yet, I keep coming back to “Tangled,” and the penultimate track “Girl From The North County,” which also gets the acoustic treatment. Neither are too fast, too rapid, or too overblown with his harmonica. The focus on each is the voice and the feeling that the Dylan you love is still alive and well.

Have you ever shaken an old friend’s hand for the first time in a long time? This record feels like that.

Song: “Tangled Up In Blue”

New favorite version of a favorite song.


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