The songs of THE STORY OF IT ALL

Posted: March 29, 2015

#6 THE WAY OF THE ROAD (FOR BOB DYLAN)

I’ve said that THE STORY OF IT ALL was four years in the making. While it was not the first song Jacy Oliver and I started work on, this one was the first to be finished. We released it as a single back in 2013. But I still wanted it on the album. The only change we made was a minor remix based on what we now knew the rest of the album would sound like.

I have also said that this song was dedicated to Bob Dylan but could just as easily be dedicated to any of the musicians who are still out there performing despite having spent years on the road in pursuit of their craft.

That’s true. But, to be honest, Dylan’s presence in this song is a little more than just a dedication. I wrote it with a very clear image in my mind. And that image was Bob Dylan sitting in a diner, alone, thinking.

I’m sitting in this diner with thoughts of what was – I’m thinking of leaving but I don’t because I hear the jukebox reload…

These lines came to me first. For once the writing of the song pretty much followed the final structure. The words hung there, in isolation, for several days until I added…

I guess all I can say is that’s the way of the road.

And the rhyme structure and shape of the song was established. Very simple…very Dylan in some ways. Not that I would ever compare my talent to his but I have to admit that Not Dark Yet was playing in my head all the time I worked on this song.

Well, I’ve been to London and I been to gay Paris – I followed the river and I got to the sea – I’ve been down the bottom of a world full of lies – I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes…

And yes, he really does rhyme sea and gay ‘Paree’ but coming from Dylan it just seems ok.

It was a Dylan line that inspired the next verse. He wrote in his song Can’t Wait

It doesn’t matter where I go anymore I just go

Understanding how life on the road is not actually about visiting places, this thought came out as…

Don’t know where I’m going – Don’t know where I’ve been – I’m out here waiting for my life to begin – free from this heavy load…

I’m sure there have been many time when the ‘heavy load’ of being Bob Dylan made him yearn for a ‘normal’ life.

But something keeps him going and I suggest one possible answer in the next verse…

This broken old voice and the words it sings – These tired fingers on silver strings – Every song a seed we sowed…

The songs have inherent value. And Dylan himself has said he realized that if he was not out there singing them very few would get sung by others. His famous songs will often be covered but that’s not what Dylan is about. He’s writing some of the best songs of his career right now and it’s interesting to see that his latest tour has focused on that material.

Then the fellow travelers on the road alongside Bob put in an appearance…

They say that we’re dying – And it’s probably true – It’s all that you’ve known what else can you do – You lived your whole life by the code…

The kind of performers who changed the face of music in the sixties…Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson and many more…will not be out there forever. And with them will die an idea, a notion of what music means and the power that it has. I personally doubt we will ever see such a volcanic outpouring of talent ever again. As Dylan himself has said, Things Have Changed.

It was at this stage I thought my song was done. But out of the blue – where some of the best ideas reside – came a verse that, if you’ll forgive the boast, is among the best things I’ve ever written in my opinion. Staying true to what I believe is Dylan’s view I wrote…

I heard from the Devil – I heard from the Lord – I learned from ‘em both – The rest I ignored – You can lose your soul to overload…

Again, I thought the song ended there. But it felt wrong to end on this lofty note. Dylan wouldn’t do that. He bring it all back home…

Girl can you tell me why I do what I do – No man in his right mind would ever leave you – And all the love you showed…

Now I was happy.

I’ve been told this song is a little long at 6 minutes but like the man who inspired it I couldn’t care less. For me the song was a journey and I knew when that journey felt complete. I knew when I was happy to put the rather audacious dedication ‘For Bob Dylan’ next to the song title.

Musically I really felt happy with where this ended up. I wanted the instrumental breaks between each set of two verses to be a conversation between my acoustic guitar and Jacy’s electric guitar, capturing a tension between the two that was a turning point in Bob’s life and in music. I wanted the song to get ‘heavier’ as it progressed, as, again, I believe Bob’s music did. I wanted it to relate to the blues but with it’s own vibe, as Bob’s songs often did.

And I wanted to capture a kind of understatement Bob mastered decades ago and I like to think I got close with…

All I can say is – That’s the way of the road

Plenty of analysis of a situation but no explanations, no answers. The spell of the road is unbroken just like the spell of Bob Dylan.

1-bob-dylan-visits-a-massachusetts-diner-during-a-stop-on-the-rolling-thunder-revue-tour-1975-br-ken-regan-ken-regan - copia

Bob Dylan in a Massachusetts diner, 1975, Photo: Ken Regan

My thanks to Mark Clark for the great drum track and Peter Farrell for piano and Dylan-esque organ. Bass and electric guitars are by Jacy Oliver. I played acoustic guitar and sang.

A Dylan memory well worth checking out: http://www.goear.com/listen/b2cc265

 

 

 

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