Pod Dylan #116 – I Want You


Episode 116 - I Want You

For Valentine's Day, Rob welcomes back fellow Bobcat Tara Zuk to discuss one of Bob Dylan's greatest love songs, "I Want You", from 1966's BLONDE ON BLONDE.

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5 responses to “Pod Dylan #116 – I Want You

  1. Hi everyone!

    There were a couple of points abut the song from my notes that I didn’t get around to discussing in the podcast, that I’d like to mention here to add to the conversation.

    Firstly, the working title for Blonde on Blonde was, at one point, ‘I Want You’. The song is about desire. And Bob Dylan eventually did make an album entitled Desire. Just a side link. 🙂

    Some commentators have mentioned that Blonde on Blonde may be considered by some to be a ‘bookend’ album. It marked the beginning of Dylan’s marriage to Sara Lowndes, and the arrival of his first child. It almost, to some, reads as an account of a bachelor’s life and relationships, desire, love triangles, rivals, unrequited lust, romantic love, and so on. It ends with the song ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ which is dedicated to celebrating a woman who will give him stability and consistency – calm, melodious, more softly sung, none of the ‘jingle jangle’ sound of songs like ‘I Want You’. This album (potentially) is bookended by Blood on the Tracks, marking the breakdown of that stable relationship. Thoughts on this would be an absorbing discussion.

    The bridge is a compelling part of ‘I Want You’ because of the way it offers a musical and lyrical break in the song. Although the songs are individually relevant to listeners, so people may discuss in circles about what each verse, line, and metaphor means, there are some interesting points here about how it sets up one of the themes of the song. 

    ‘All my fathers’ initially seems like a nonsensical phrase as we don’t have multiple fathers. However, I always hear it as referring to male ancestors or ‘forefathers’. The times they are a-changing indeed, and in the past in the west, culturally men were not considered to be interested in or particularly driven by the ‘true love’ that their female descendants are now saying is the most important part of a relationship. The idea of romance and true love is fairly recent in human history, with arranged marriages and marriages for convenience, expedience, status, and utility being more prevalent. The singer is being ‘put down’ by the more modern generation of women who believe he is not sufficiently interested in the concept of romance and true love, even though it is the same position his forefathers took. This is interesting in a song that is all about desire rather than the ‘true love’ and long term commitment that ‘Sad-Eyed Lady’ expresses, for example. It also goes back to the point I mentioned in the podcast about the different types of women in the songs – Louise vs Johanna, Ruthie vs the debutante, the chambermaid vs the object of desire in ‘I Want You’. There are sometimes those who accept him for who he is, and those who put him down for not conforming to their expectations. Thoughts?

    Finally, Christopher Ricks (‘Dylan’s Visions of Sin’) mentions some potential Biblical references within ‘I Want You’ in terms of the metaphors. I know some listeners are interested in the Biblical references and so I thought I would list them.

    Ricks describes Ecclesiastes 12 as being about “…the time when desire shall fail” which has certain reference to the theme of this song.

    Ecclesiastes ———————————————– I Want you

    “the grinders cease” ——————————— “the lonesome organ grinder”

    “the silver card” ————————————— “silver saxophones”

    “in the streets” —————————————– “upon the streets”

    “golden bowl be
    broken or pitcher
    be broken” ——————————————— “drinking from my broken cup”

    “all the daughters
    of music shall be
    brought low” —————————————– “all their daughters put me down”

    Thanks for listening and reading!


  2. Great show. Tara, re your comments here and specifically the bookending nature of albums etc. I think it is tempting and arguably correct (I.e I am not disagreeing with your premise per se) to see BoB and BOTT as the opening and closing of a chapter. However, it also struck me when listening to “Someone’s Got a Hold of my Heart” -not the “Tight Connection” version on EB that the ongoing nature of Dylan’s exploration of themes defies such neatness. I see similarities between these two songs, the focus on one individual, the element of a repeated and plain spoken chorus, the somewhat ambiguous attraction to the love interest, the vignettes from both songs that imply the acting upon the narrator by individuals or circumstances that have a vagueness in how they specifically correlate to and impact the narrators desire to communicate directly to the attention of his affection in “I Want You” and to anyone who will listen in ASML. Both songs to me have the desire element you mention but also an edge of desperation to them. All to say Dylan returns to these larger themes of love, and ambiguity, desire and absence, conquest and rejection again and again ( this is all to complement your comments not dispute them and could be nonsense-if I was ever on Mastermind, “Being Way Off The Mark” would be my specialist subject ) ,Anyway, loved the episode. In case you didn’t come across it in your research here is what I think of the greatest live version of I Want You.I was at this concert and you can hear on this recording a mounting energy in the crowd. As Dylan got to “All their fathers” the intensity of it lifted everyone to their feet spontaneously and literally.

    And here is a stripped down version of ASML for comparison. Would be curious if you hear what I hear.


    Thanks again to you and Rob for a great listen and fascinating insights on one of my favorite Dylan tracks.


  3. Tara, I realize I wasn’t very clear there but I cannot edit so will have to update. Someone’s Got a Hold if My Heart first made me think of the connections to I Want You (probably for the same lines that survived into Tight Connection-so it’s a bit of a red herring here!). The live versions of Tight Connection which I refer to as ASML to differentiate from the EB version (basically bereft of the female singers overdubs) are what I am referring to as cementing that connection in my mind to I Want You more so than SGAHOMH. The larger point remains the same but I realize that I moved from one to the other without any explanation! It’s the combination of the lyrics and live performance style that I am getting at. Clear as mud now, no doubt!

  4. Really really fantastic episode of the podcast Tara. You really brought the how alive – you opened up a lot of new avenues for me to explore. I hadn’t picked up on Dylan’s put downs of love rivals.
    I didn’t know your work before – it looks really interesting.

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