Hard Times (1992) – Bob Dylan

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh, hard times, come again no more
‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door
Oh, hard times, come again no more

1st verse – Hard Times

This is the third song to appear here from the Bob Dylan’s traditional folk record – Good As I Been To You (GAIBTY) (1992). It was the first album by Dylan not to feature any original songs since Dylan 1973 and his first solo acoustic album since Another Side of Dylan in 1964 and he would not release an another original song until 1997. There is great intimacy of the recording of Hard Times because not only do you feel he is uncovering the song as though you were there in that epoch, but you can hear him singing even through his phlegm; not unlike the heavy breathing heard in his Sinatra record many years later.

Hard Times is an American parlor song written in 1854 by Stephen Foster. It was well known and popular in it’s day achieving wide success both in America and Europe. The song asks the fortunate to consider the plight of the less fortunate and includes one of Foster’s favorite images: “a pale drooping maiden“. A satirical version about soldiers’ food was popular in the American Civil War, “Hard Tack Come Again No More“.

Unlike Jim Jones and Canadee-I-O from the same record, it took me a little time to appreciate Hard Times. Now I really like it because of the timbre of Dylan’s voice and the focus of his phrasing. I wrote in my article Arthur McBride:

Good as I Been To You seems to be him tapping into this very – very old folkloric wellspring when people were behest to destitution and war – ‘hard times’ if you will. When you listen to these tracks sometimes you catch a glimpse of what it must have ‘really’ been like back then. Dylan’s music has always been a portal to another time in our history. Like how David Sexton pointed out in his review of the album “Dylan sounds now, in comparison to his younger self, like one of those ghosts, but a powerful ghost.‘

It is said Good As I Been To You began life as a contractual filler. Dylan had scheduled two weeks at Chicago’s Acme Recording Studio in early June 1992, a few months after his appearance in Melbourne (See image at top). An album’s worth of cover songs were recorded at these sessions with the accompaniment of a full band. For reasons unknown, Dylan scrapped the release of this album, deciding to record solo acoustic material instead. 

1. Hard Times Come Again No More – Wikipedia
2. Good as I Been To You – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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33 comments on “Hard Times (1992) – Bob Dylan
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    I bought Good as I Been To You and I liked it. I liked Blackjack Davey

    • Hi Max, yeh we had this conversation in one of the previous ‘GAIBTY’ entries. I realise it’s hard to keep track of all the conversatiions. This was a surprising departure from his 80’s original songs, but I really enjoy how he revives these traditional folk songs.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I do also…yea man…I’ll comment on Jeff’s blog and then a couple of months later like the same song in a list…my mind is going lol

      • I agree it’s difficult to keep track of. Thanks for putting me into to Jeff’s blog. It’s good stuff being cognizant of the newest music.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Yes it is…he has some great music that I never would have known about.

      • The vulture party video he presented yesterday was really neat.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I missed that video…did you know Bob Neuwirth passed away? I had no clue.

      • Oh really I didn’t know. I liked him in Don’t Look Back.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I went to Vulture and they announced it on May 20th… he intertwined with a lot of musicians….he was 82.

      • Yeh, I just read he passed away May 18. He was a roadie right? Seemed like a chilled dude.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        He was a musician and producer also…he worked with a lot of musicians…talented guy. Him and Dylan were smart asses together lol.

      • I thought he might have had a part in Like a Rolling Stone, but I must have got him confused with Al Kooper.

        I watched yesterday for the first time in many years Dylan’s ride with Lennon from Eat the Document. By golly.. What poor Lennon had to put up with lol It appears this was before Dylan introduced them to Marijuana in the hotel room?

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        No it was after that. This was in 1966 and he introduced them in 1964…At this time Bob was doing too many amphetamines and was wore down because of touring.
        This story relates a little.
        I’ve been reading about the Allman Brothers…one of their roadies stabbed and killed a club owner who wouldn’t pay them. The guy got off in two years because of how much musicians were forced to tour….Matt the hours they had to tour were crazy. The jury said the roadie was about to snap because of the craziness…. So….in other words I see why Dylan was messed up.

      • Dylan introduced them in 64. OK. I didn’t know that. Lennon seemed very sobre in this ride with Dylan. An English gentlemen, but subdued.
        I understand what you mean about the touring schedule pressure, but Dylan probably toured more frequently in the Never Ending tour, but didn’t get plastered (aging will do that lol) so he was able to easily keep doing it. It’s his life and passion.
        The other stuff about stabbings and getting off of charges; I imagine is more related to those performers being off their faces than it is about meeting demanding schedules. Sure it’s challenging but ten fold so, under the influence of powerful narcotics.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I saw their tour schedule… Montreal one night and Miami Florida the next lol… no planes.

        Oh yea… since he started the Never Ending Tour he plays every night but yea no drugs and a huge staff… that helps.

        I read where he almost died because of that strange ailment he had he vowed to keep playing. He loves playing music

      • Hey, if their schedule was so insane like you describe here and without some intermittent resting (like in a f@#king bus!) then I empathise a tincy bit. Haha.

        Yeh Dylan had a near fatal heart condition (histoplasmosis) which required immediate attention just after completing Time Out of Mind. When one hears that record it’s almost like he foresaw his own death.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        They had a Winnebago… this was before they hit big… after they hit big they had a huge staff and jet planes lol… the same on Elton used.

        Yes I remember when that happened. Is that the album that had… the song… dang Matt I’m guessing… “Its Not Dark Yet” or something close to that

      • Not Dark Yet! Yes indeed. My gawd how good is it and Clapton’s version is up there too and one of the very few covers (along with Lou Reed’s foot of Pride) which hold their own.
        I like how things all went good for the Allman Bros. Speaking of Elton. You never said what you thought of the biopic Rocket man

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        That song is wonderful! That song is what made me buy the album… I mean it’s clear it’s about death.

        Matt although I love music I’m not a huge fan of musicals. I want to see it one more time before I judge it though. I was rushed and interrupted by work while trying to watch it… so I want to be fair.

      • It is definitely not a musical, rather a biopic but the music is presented as though it were a musical in his life. I know Elton had his hands all over this movie and how it was made. He had the final say as it were. The problem I found is Egerton the actor just couldn’t do John’s voice (but did a good job) and no one can. That’s where I fell out. What I liked about it, was how it showed Elton recuperating and forgiving Reggie Dwight.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I will give it a fair chance…it’s not right to judge a movie or show because of a bad viewing…because of outside circumstances.

        The scene that stuck with me was the pool scene.

      • If you mean the Manager sucking someone near the pool? It seems to overdo the homosexual card a lot. ‘Not that there’ s anything wrong with that’ – as the Seinfeld episode goes. Obviously his sexuality had a big play on how he would be thought of by family and friends and even himself.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        LOL… no when Elton said he was going to kill himself and jumped in the pool….when he was “drowning” someone was singing Rocketman

      • Well, when you are so far at the bottom, where do you truly want to be? I found it conversant with how artists want to find themselves being.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Oh I didn’t say I didn’t like it…that scene more than any other stuck with me from the movie. When I think of the movie…that is what sticks.

      • I meant to ask you what was ‘vulture’ which you attended?

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        This is the one I went to…I don’t think it’s the one you were talking about.

      • Oh, you mean a page. I thought it was an event you went to.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        You mentioned Vulture….I’ve seen it before so I went there when I googled it..great info

      • Listening to Hard Times again. How does he kill this old track??

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        He made Froggie Went a Courtin sound great.

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