Episode 31. “If Dogs Run Free.” New Morning. The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait. Bunker. September 28, 2017.
A little more generously,
the delicious wordless vocal scribble of a black scat-singer to render mysterious a rather empty lyric
Insanely, Dylan’s played this 104 times, from October 2000 to November 2005 (and it’s hard to not heard the similarities between his live “If Dogs Run Free” and what became Love & Theft‘s “Bye & Bye,” especially when, for a time, they were alternating nights.) There’s also a swanky bar in Vienna, Austria called If Dogs Run Free. Kelly:
Vienna looked cool – from the bus.
Kelly teaches me about scat singing (12:00)
We both agreed that if you can do scat, you can do it. “If Dogs Run Free” isn’t as successful as…say… Ella Fitzgerald. And modernizing it makes everything worse.
It’s Jelly Roll Morton who credited Joe Sims as creator of scat. Morton told Alan Lomax:
The song itself (18:00) is an example of the 12-bar blues played in a moderately free jazz style. Al Kooper is on the piano. Maertha Stewart is our scat vocalist but we couldn’t find a lot on her. Michael Gray notes:
while Bob, in Chronicles, writes,
not even mentioning Maertha.
As for the lyrics, they’re not bad! The premise is so simple that it could quickly devolve into nonsense, but Dylan is still sharp with his commentary. If dogs run free, then why can’t we? The song is about freedom, in general and in the song format. Yet, after “Maybe Someday,” the platitudes land a lot harder than they might normally. That’s what drags down this song.
Leaving that aside, the philosophical bent is what kept us intrigued. In addition to talking about transcendentalism, Ferlinghetti’s “Dog,” and our namesake song, Carl Porter notes in Bob Dylan and Philosophy,
So like most Dylan songs, this one seems shallow but is like a 3-ft swimming pool. But in the end, the best thing to come out of “Dogs,” like “Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” is an adorable children’s book! This time it was illustrated by Scott Campbell!
Recommendations (23:00): Kelly watched a show called Hellevator. Daniel listened to new music from Vultures United I Still Feel Cold, Prawn Run, Mastodon Cold Dark Place, Bronx V, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor Lucifierian Towers.