Bob Dylan Countdown #147: “If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got To Stay All Night)”

The attempted studio recording of this song was a big swing and a miss. Featuring some totally uncharacteristic female backing vocals, an electric piano part that sounds like a less-cool Ray Manzarek, and an arrangement so dated that you can’t listen without envisioning stock footage of girls on platforms doing the Frug, the song, drained of all its humor in this version, was shelved save for a one-off release in Holland in 1967, before eventually turning up in all its spastic glory on The Bootleg Series.

No, for a true sense of this song, you have to go to the Live 1964 disc, when Dylan performs with a wise-guy cool that has the audience hanging on every word. Note the song’s placement in the concert:  Right between “Gates Of Eden” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding.”) It’s as if Bob is saying to the audience, “Yep, I can do anything.”

With “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” it’s mischievous wit that he has down pat. I suppose now it would be politically incorrect for Dylan to so brazenly state his desire for a one-night stand. But he douses all of those concerns with the good nature of his humor, even if he does imply that this girl shouldn’t be surprised by his request:  “It ain’t that I’m wantin’/Anything you never gave before.” That double-negative tells you all you need to know about this girl’s reputation.

Dylan is quite the player in the song, using his disarming one-liners to get a little cozier. We never find out how the evening turns out. Judging by the way he mesmerized that live audience though, I’m guessing that girl stuck around.

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