Episode 38. “Everything is Broken.” Oh, Mercy. The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs. The AUX. November 16, 2017.
“Everything is Broken” as we know it was recorded on April 3, 1989 for Oh, Mercy. An earlier recording from March 14, 1989, when it was called “Broken Days,” is featured on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs.
After the April sessions, Dylan started to redo his vocals and mess with the lyrics. Engineer Malcolm Burn attested,
The only thing that made any real difference to him was whether what he was saying was in place. Quite often, he would rewrite even one line. Even when we were mixing the record, I’d be in the middle of the mix and he’d suddenly say, ‘Y’know what, I’ve just rewritten that line, can I re-sing it?’ … So I’d be cutting out one line of a mix and editing in the new one to accommodate the rewrite.
Originally, Dylan was going to throw out the song before Daniel Lanois protested. Dude just wanted to throw some tremolo on the track! Dylan liked it. Lanois added some more electric guitar, a dobro, some harmonica.
My favorite review from the internet: “A cool song, makes me want to put on some dark shades and stand on a street corner with a flask and cigarettes. Appropriate harmonica solo.” Well put!
Song itself (13:00)
It’s a classic Dylan cut where the song feels light and bouncy but underneath is an apocalyptic cream that is the plastic lining that bags this entire track up. (It being the lead-in song to “Ring Them Bells” probably doesn’t help with that interpretation; nor does Daniel admitted when he pops on Oh, Mercy he begins with this.)
As for the two versions, the Tell Tale Signs version coherently mixes with “Ring Them Bells” more than the Oh, Mercy version and is more grounded lyrically, even if it lacks some of the fun flair from Lanois. But, lyrically, both are quite similar and to find inspiration when everything is broken seems like a throwback to another Dylan era.
Kelly played Ryse: Son of Rome while listening to A Tribe Called Quest and Mignight Marauders.
Daniel finished Grant by Ron Chernow and saw Propagandhi in Portland.