Wednesday Weeper of the Week: “Long And Wasted Years” by Bob Dylan

It’s been four years since Tempest, Bob Dylan’s most recent studio album of original material. The album astounds me anew with each listen. It’s a classic just waiting to be anointed as one: From the gritty rock of “Pay In Blood” and “Narrow Way,” to the ambition of “Tempest” and “Scarlet Town,” to one of the most idiosyncratic tribute songs you’ll ever hear in “Roll On John,” Dylan killed it. For my money he can release Sinatra covers till the end of time; Tempest earned him that right.

“Long And Wasted Years” is the heartbreaker on the album. Bob’s ballads are fewer and farther between on his most recent albums, but when he drops one, it’s always worth the wait. This one rides on a guitar riff that drags itself up a flight of stairs only to tumble back down every time, mimicking the Charlie Brown-ish gullibility of the narrator’s once-high romantic hopes.

But not anymore: “One time, for one brief day, I was the man for you.” Of course there are the usual Dylanesque digressions to keep us from getting any kind of linear narrative. But that’s what life is like, right? One moment you’re musing on a lost love, the next you’re thinking about your enemies back behind you in the dust, the next you’re egging someone on to dance. OK, maybe that’s what Dylan’s life is like, not ours, but it’s such a fascinating place to visit.

As always he reveals more about himself than the biographies could ever approach: “I think that when my back was turned/The whole world behind me burned.” And then, that last verse, it hurts just to write it let alone hear Dylan sing it with his brilliant phrasing: “We cried on a cold and frosty morn/We cried because our souls were torn/So much for tears/So much for these long and wasted years.” On second thought, give us an original album, Bob. Nobody writes songs like these anymore. Nobody did before, either.

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4 Comments on “Wednesday Weeper of the Week: “Long And Wasted Years” by Bob Dylan”

  1. Mark Bentley says:

    Good to have you back. A great summary of a wonderful (late) period masterpiece

  2. hans altena says:

    Yeah, welcome back, and you’re right, what a classic Tempest is, even if the way his band plays is just too reverential on some songs (especially the title song and Narrow Way)… I like Lou Reed’s comment, as usual a bit too black and white: boiling down to: it is brilliant, but why is the instrumental back up not changing, Dylan can do this in his sleep, he just is not trying… Well , I would think he was, in his wtriting and singing, but the band should surely take a look at The Band for some new possibilties in crossing his crooked path… Still, the album and surely this song is up there, on top of Dylan mountain, and that’s pretty high… a weeper for sure.

  3. countdownkid says:

    I can sort of see where you’re coming from with that, but I think there’s an argument to be made that a lot of his late-period albums lock into that kind of musical pattern. I do think there are at least two refreshing curve balls here: Certainly “Long And Wasted Years”, which allows Dylan to play Soul Man to the hilt, and “Pay In Blood,” which sounds like it could have been on Tattoo You and thrives.


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