I’m Not There (1967) – Bob Dylan

I’m Not There is another previously unreleased gem from the 1967 The Basement Tapes sessions recorded by Bob Dylan and the Band in the basement of the Big Pink in Woodstock. The song was part of the bootleg copies that circulated amongst Dylan fans for a number of years and when The Basement Tapes were released officially in 1975, the song, among others were not included.
It wasn’t released officially until it featured as the title track in Todd Haynes 2007 unconventional biographical film of Bob Dylan – I’m Not There. This song has grown on me over the years and seems to uncover more mystique upon each new listen.

No I don’t belong to her
I don’t belong to anybody
She’s my prize-forsaken angel
But she don’t hear me cry

She’s a lone-hearted mystic
And she dain’t carry on
When I’m there she’s alright
But when she’s not when I’m gone

As aforementioned I’m Not There is part of a huge outpouring of songs from Dylan in the first half of 1967, which were by and large recorded with the Band. These songs are an extraordinary mixture of pieces and shows Dylan at his creative best, not just for each individual song, but for the incredible variation in all the songs. How Dylan almost threw I’m Not There away is staggering. Here is a song he just tried out once and moved away from. “Improvising on the spot” is the phrase Heylin provides for this masterpiece from Bob Dylan – a song that apparently Dylan could never understand why others loved so much.

It is clear this is a song Dylan wanted to try out for the Band and it takes time for them to get into the song and got to grips with what is going on. Because of the source material and that Dylan has never been captured playing the song in concert, the lyrics are something of a mystery.
Regarding the song’s meaning Untold Dylan gives the following description:
‘…in essence it seems to be the reflection of a man who was not always there when needed by the woman who has the toughest of experiences and who really needs his support.   He recriminates with himself for his failure but doesn’t ask for forgiveness.  He just blames himself and tells it how it was.’

1. I’m not there: one of the two great forgotten masterpieces from Dylan in the 1960s – Untold Dylan

“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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Posted in Music
12 comments on “I’m Not There (1967) – Bob Dylan
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    Probably his most tranquil period. Robbie’s account of it is great… Bob would come over and drink some coffee and play some checkers then record. It’s like a guy going over a friends house to help them work on a car

    • I didn’t know that Robbie account. I think this is one of his most underrated and that is saying something. It always sounds better on new listen. Also, how the band slowly work into it, as though they are trying to find its groove.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Richard Manuel did the drumming for some of the album before Levon rejoined them. After the first album…Eric Clapton and George Harrison wanted to join them lol

      • Can you blame those giants for wanting to join them? On another note, Connie is going to see Guns and Roses tomorrow night in Bogota. Lol

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        No I can’t blame them…wanting to join a laid back group. Clapton had it worse…Cream…Baker and Bruce fought constantly…verbal and physical.
        If it wasn’t for Rose….I would like Guns and Roses lol

      • Yeh I read that somewhere about Clapton, probably in one of your articles.
        You would just about have to pay me to see G&R in 2022. Anyhow her sister and husband are huge fans and bought her a ticket. You mentioned ‘Rose’ – you mean Axel?

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Yes…that voice grinds my nerves on most of their songs. I like a few until he starts that screeching.

      • When I first heard Sweet Child of Mine and November Rain, I was impressed. After multiple listens not so. I think ‘Civil War’ still holds up. I can’t think of another. If they do ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ without crucifying it, it could be a good night.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I didn’t like their version of Knocking on Heavens Door or Live And Let Die…
        I do like November Rain and I like Patience.

      • Guns and Roses are huge in Sth America. I liked ‘Patience’ in the beginning but after multiple listens not so. It’s the same with nearly all their music. But their music obviously ages well in these parts. The group Aterciopelados from Bogota are opening for them. I wrote about them here. Now them I would pay to see.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Yea some bands hit really big down there…Queen was huge there.

      • Queen is still huge here like Michael Jackson. Metallica grandiosa.

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