Bob Dylan Countdown #105: “If You Belonged To Me”

The general consensus is that the second Traveling Wliburys album, Volume 3 of course, was not up to the standards of the first. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would agree that it’s not as much fun. The light-hearted songs that are there (“She’s My Baby” and “Wilbury Twist”) are a tad forced, but there is some compensation in the form of more songs with welcome hints of  depth.

Dylan’s “If You Belonged To Me” is the standout among those more serious songs. Bob takes to task a girl who makes all the wrong choices, but still leaves the door open for her return. The song is tough and tender in all the right places.

This is another example of a song in which Dylan takes just a few lines to complete a character sketch. In this case, it’s the first two lines:  “You’re waltzing ’round the room tonight in someone else’s clothes/You’re always coming out of things smelling like a rose.” We know what this girl is about immediately, how spoiled she is, how her good luck is really tied to the compromises she makes with shady men. You could say she’s a close cousin to the girl in “She Belongs To Me,” only told from the point of view of a narrator far more jaded.

Her meanness is displayed in almost comical fashion:  “You say let’s go to the rodeo to see some cowboy fall.” But there is no joke when the narrator lets her know what her male friend is up to:  “The guy you’re with is a ruthless pimp, everybody knows/Every cent he takes from you goes straight up his nose.” His offers to rescue her are likely falling on deaf ears, because it seems like the damage ahs already been done.

All of this rides upon a luscious bed of Wilburys’ guitars and Jim Keltner’s rollicking beat. George Harrison clearly loved the song; he borrowed the arrangement and chord sequence pretty much whole-hog for “Any Road,” the kickoff song from Brainwashed,  his posthumously released final album. “If You Belonged To Me” got lost a bit due to its inclusion on a supposedly inferior album. That’s a shame, because Dylan is in ripping form with the Wilburys acting as one of the most overqualified backing bands you’ll ever hear.

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)

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One Comment on “Bob Dylan Countdown #105: “If You Belonged To Me””

  1. rw says:

    i think he means every scent he takes from you goes straight up his nose although the double meaning is certainly in play. taking so much from her every her scent….. of course he could be taking money from her to buy the white powder to put up his nose…. or he could be literally doing one and figuratively doing the other……


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