When we look back on a relationship, we don’t remember it in a linear, chronological manner. Our minds flash forward and back, calling up the joys and heartaches. That’s the breakthrough this Bob Dylan song achieved – it breaks the conventions of storytelling through what we’d now call “real-time” experience.
There are lots of unusual things about this song, part of Dylan’s album “Blood on the Tracks,” released in 1975. For one thing, it has seven verses, and no chorus. And Dylan recorded several versions of the song, changing the lyrics each time and often changing the point of view from first to third person. (Psst, Bob: It’s ten times better and more immediate in the first person. Leave…it…alone.)
Dylan described the song’s narrative form this way: “What’s different about it is that there’s a code in the lyrics, and there’s also no sense of time. There’s no respect for it. You’ve got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there’s very little you can’t imagine not happening.” And he said, “It took ten years to live, and two years to write.”
Rolling Stone named “Tangled Up in Blue” number 68 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. (For Rolling Stone, “all time” means the rock and roll era.) In any case, that’s way too low for this great song. One particularly special cover is by the Scottish singer KT Tunstall: