Pod Dylan #253 – Not Dark Yet

Rob welcomes back fellow network all-star Ryan Daly to discuss the various versions of "Not Dark Yet" from 1997's TIME OUT OF MIND.

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One response to “Pod Dylan #253 – Not Dark Yet

  1. Excellent, insightful conversation about one of my favorite Dylan songs. I wasn’t aware of the alternate versions—just listened to what you call the “uptempo” version, and it didn’t really work for me. I guess the mournful Lanois-ness of the final take is integral to what I love about the tune.

    But I’ve always had a slightly different interpretation of “Not Dark Yet,” hinging on a word that you barely mentioned: “depression.” I always regarded it as a song not about death, but about the pits of despair—the narrator is hopelessly depressed. And in typical Dylan fashion, when he wants to go sad, he not only goes sad, but somehow finds a way to take everything to an even deeper, darker depth. He’s absolutely mired in misery, yet “it’s not dark yet.” It’s very relatable to anyone who’s struggled with depression (which includes the Noah who first heard this song in 1997)—even when you’re trapped in the dungeon of despair, somehow, you still dread the even worse fate that awaits.

    In that respect, this song has always reminded me of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” where the narrator recounts a journey of almost mythopoeic gloom and doom, before actually arriving at his point: a hard rain’s GONNA fall. Sure, I’ve seen awful, but the real awful is still to come. Both of these songs are Dylan at his horrifying, wonderful best, an unsparing expression raw emotion. So maybe “Not Dark Yet” was an odd choice as the lead single from “Time Out of Mind,” but it worked on bummed-out post-college me, and I’m sure it did likewise for many others in 1997

    Which leads to another possible interpretation of “Not Dark Yet”: It was Dylan’s response to the gloomy mood that plagued 1990s rock & roll. After years of whiny Cobain clones and quasi-Alanises, here’s one of the prime OGs, Bob Fucking Dylan, telling everyone how to really do sadness in song. (He even employed one of the 1990s’ most iconic music producers.) You think this life is depressing? The real depression is yet to come: It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

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