Long and Wasted Years is the second song to appear here from Bob Dylan’s 2012 album Tempest. The first song I wrote about was Pay in Blood where I discussed the protest song’s layout and Dylan’s perceived aim. Today’s song appears more an introspective monologue about someones’ longing for a lost love, juxtaposed with a sense of pride that they ‘wouldn’t do anything different given their time back‘. I have always loved this song as I do the whole first half of the Tempest album up to Pay in Blood. Like much of Dylan’s 21st-century output, he produced the song himself using the pseudonym Jack Frost.
It’s been such a long, long time
Since we loved each other, when our hearts were true
One time, for one brief day, I was the man for you
Last night I heard you talking in your sleep
Saying things you shouldn’t say, oh baby
You just may have to go to jail someday
Is there a place we can go, is there anybody we can see?
Maybe it’s the same for you as it is for me
I ain’t seen my family in twenty years
That ain’t easy to understand, they may be dead by now
I lost track of ’em after they lost their land
Shake it up, baby, twist and shout
You know what it’s all about
What are you doing out there in the sun anyway?
Don’t you know, the sun can burn your brains right out
Unusually for a Dylan song, Long and Wasted Years has no musical chorus or bridge and there is no lyrical refrain. Dylan recites 10 four-line verses over a “descending chord progression that becomes relentlessly more intense” as it repeats for nearly four minutes.
I like what musical journalist Greil Marcus said about Long and Wasted Years:
I have to tell you I haven’t listened to the words at all. I have no idea what story is being told. I love the way he speechifies through the song. He sounds like Luke the Drifter, Hank Williams’s religious alter-ego. He sounds like Elmer Gantry. He is a preacher, a con man; he is lying through his teeth. And he believes every word he’s saying. For me this is just a declamatory voice, and it breaks the mold of this record
In researching this song, I found a version sung in Spanish which is spectacular, and I have added it below the original version. The Spanish version almost sounds like a form of Deep AI of Bob singing in Spanish but with a different instrumental version.
Thanks for reading.
1. Long and Wasted Years – Bob Dylan
Yes I do remember this…no chorus no bridge really… I heard it from Bailey.
Then Bailey has good tastes. Haha