053 – “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”

Episode 53. 
“I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Met).” 
Another Side of Bob Dylan.  
Bunker. 
Recorded April 19, 2018.

Context (4:30)

This song has a few studio recordings. The first in from June 9, 1964 in Studio A in New York City. Take 5 of 5 resulted in the version from Another Side of Bob Dylan. It was also recorded on May 1, 1970 in Studio B with George Harrison. It’s been played 349 times (from September 1964 to November 2013).

The song was written in Europe and is part of the last batch of songs that can be easily placed chronologically. According to Clinton Heylin, it’s one of the final typescripts of the period (along with “Motorpsycho Nitemare” and “Spanish Harlem Incident”) and coincides with the break up and eviction with Suze Rotolo. (If you want more on Suze, Kelly does a deeper dive in Episode 67, “Boots of Spanish Leather.”)

Versions (8:00)

Daniel and Kelly listened to a lot of versions of this song. The original is our control song. It’s good but not great. The laugh is endearing, especially in a bitter song. It has a nice intimacy that comes with Bob and his guitar.

From The Bootleg Series, Volume 6, we have the All Hallow’s Eve concert from 1964. Dylan is pretty blasted but it really does something to these songs. The best parts are the banter between songs

This is about the people they say they’ve never seen you. I’m sure every body has met somebody that swears they’ve never seen them Hi! I never saw him! (strums) Oh God! Here’s the second verse of it. (strums) Does anybody know the first verse of this song. (From crowd “I can’t understand”) Oh this is the same song, same song only started now. This is a true story right out of the newspapers again. Just the words have been changed around. It’s like conversation really.

We listened to Dylan and the Band in May 1966 on The Bootleg Series, Volume 4: “The Royal Albert Hall” announce this song as “it used to be like that, but not it goes like this.” This version absolutely slays and is one of my favorite ’66 cuts from any of the shows. It turns the song on its head and becomes the blistering session that Dylan probably had in his mind all along.

The George Harrison session in May of 1970 is typical. We’ll listen to that bootleg later. The Rolling Thunder version from the bootleg Plymouth Rock is fantastic – fast, great harmonica. The version from The Last Waltz is odd. It’s a decade removed of the ’66 tour and it shows. Wasn’t good enough to be featured on the film. (For more on The Band, but famously not The Last Waltz, see Band Month.) The 1978 World Tour is definitely a topic in need of discussion. They listened to the Seattle show from November ’78. Daniel didn’t mind but Kelly bristled at the horns and just how confusing it all is. In 1981, Dylan performed this at Earl’s Court in London (featured on The Bootleg Series, Volume 13: Trouble No More). It’s fine, but definitely a Disc 7 cut of a collector’s bootleg album. Dylan performed this at Toad’s Place in 1990. For the 43rd song of the set that night, there’s still a ton of energy. And finally, a cut from Dylan at the Alcatraz in Italy in 2011. It’s… different. “Her mouth was watery and wet” is one of the weirdest Dylan moments of the podcast so far.

Song Itself (37:00)

This song is at once: a leaving song, a poor Bob on the wrong side of some one-night stand why me?! song, and a song of admiration. It’s all these things at the same time but to varying degrees over the years, as demonstrated in our deepest dive into one song’s decades long trajectory.

In the end, who hasn’t been on both sides of this song? Who hasn’t forgotten moments that you vowed would live forever? Who hasn’t propped up that night you kissed through the wild blazing nighttime only to wake up to chilly indifference? It’s a song that confronts that confusion (Am I still dreaming yet?) but a lot of the vehemence toward the woman in the song is her ability to move on, to let go. What’s impressive about this song is that it grows up with the listener. Even as Dylan sings it in 1964, it’s childish, it’s petty. But the woman becomes more enticing as the years go by and her ability to control her emotions and live a life for herself and no one else becomes enviable. It’s a song of misunderstanding turned into understanding.

Daniel also thought about the title: “I Don’t Believe You.” Belief is a huge motif in Dylan’s work. From the top of his head, there are those who believe:

  • “I Believe In You,” from 1979
  • I’m beginning to believe what the scripture tell in “Nettie Moore”
  • I still believe she was my twin in “Simple Twist of Fate”
  • There’s nothing round here I believe in, ‘cept you” in “Nobody ‘Cept You”
  • I believe in the impossible, you know that I do in “Something’s Burning, Baby”
  • I do believe I’ve had enough in “Just Like the Tom Thumb Blues”
  • It’s hard to believe but it’s all good in “It’s All Good”
  • I believe I’m stranglin’ on this telephone wire in “Long Distance Operator”
  • I believe I got the walkin’ blues in “Walkin’ Down the Line”

Those who do not believe:

  • they don’t believe in mercy in “Foot of Pride”
  • I couldn’t believe after all these years in “Idiot Wind”
  • Can’t believe these things would ever fade from your mind in “Spirit on the Water”
  • she could hardly believe her eyes in “John Brown”

And those who implore belief:

  • did they believe? from “In the Garden”
  • If you don’t believe me, come see in “Huck’s Tune”
  • They say times are hard, if you don’t believe it you can just follow your nose” in “Floater (Too Much to Ask)”
  • Maybe someday, you’ll believe me when I say” in “Maybe Someday”

Or in the case of “Need a Woman” (because, of course…)

Well, if you believe in something long enough 
you just naturally come to think it’s true

There ain’t no wall you can’t cross over,
ain’t no fire you can’t walk through
Well, believing is all right,
just don’t let the wrong people know what it’s all about

They might put the evil eye on you,
use their hidden powers to try to turn you out

Recommendations

Kelly’s been listening to Aye Nako as Daniel’s been repeating Red City Radio’s latest EP, SkyTigers.

Endings

We have 478 songs left. No guesses necessary this week as we’re going down the lazy river in our Funtime Slide into Summer. We’ll start with “Shenandoah” off 1988’s Down in the Groove.

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