Pod Dylan #15 – Sugar Baby

POD DYLAN

Episode 15 – Sugar Baby

Rob welcomes back POD DYLAN “Executive Producer” David Gutierrez to discuss “Sugar Baby”, the final track from Bob’s 2001 album LOVE & THEFT.

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DAVID GUTIERREZ: https://twitter.com/dmgutierrez
E-MAIL: firewaterpodcast@comcast.net
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Buy “Sugar Baby” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/love-and-theft/id552413840

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8 responses to “Pod Dylan #15 – Sugar Baby

  1. Great to hear EP David Gutierrez on the show again!

    “Sugar Baby” has always been my second favorite song on LOVE AND THEFT after “Mississippi”. My impression of the song was that Bob sounded–or was trying to sound–drunk, as if he’s at the end of the bar bitterly lamenting a breakup, taking cheap shots at his ex-lover, but then gives way to sentiment and romance. There’s a lot of contradiction in the lyrics and it reminded me of a drunk swingingly wildly from one mood to the next.

  2. Another great podcast. You seem to be picking up a lot of album closers.

    A minor point. Nick Lowe wrote ‘The Beast In Me’ for his then father in law Johnny Cash.

  3. Dammit, that was my error for “Beast in Me.”

    Thanks again for the chance to be on the show — but why is my title in quotes? If I had any self esteem left, I might have been wounded.

  4. Enjoyed listening to the Sugar Baby show. “Love and Theft” is one of Dylan’s greatest album. A 30 minute podcast dedicated to a single song just doesn’t do it justice (but neither would a 2 hour podcast discussing the entire album) :D.

    David talked about the “timelessness” of the album, but you guys didn’t go to deep. I don’t know if it was due to lack of time, or it just didn’t come up organically, or you just aren’t aware… But, almost everything in the album is cribbed. And it’s done so in such a way that you can’t simply call it theft (though Rob does briefly mention this part).

    In Floater, Dylan sings “My grandmother could sew new dresses out of old cloth,” which I believe to be a nod to his methodology on L&T. That methodology is the key to L&T’s timelessness, but especially applies to Sugar Baby. (And a brief special thanks to Scott Warmuth who does all of this amazing digging for the Dylanologists).

    Here is The Lonesome Road, an old Shilkret/Austin song that the music is clearly based on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5AM8xtl-uU

    And here is a brief explanation of Dylan’s methodology from an interview with drummer David Kemper:

    We’d go in a rehearsal hall and we just would play for three days. And a lot of times before we did “Love and Theft,” like I remember one period of three days where we’d play only Dean Martin songs. And we’d, you know, we’d play ’em on the record player, we’d listen to “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” and he’d sing it and we, then we’re ready, we could do a whole, we could do a gig playing those songs. But we never, ever played them. We just polished them up and that was that. And he would do that with, um, Johnny and Jack songs and Stanley Brothers songs and, you know, real early, earlier American artists too. And he would turn us onto these things and he’d bring records in and give us tapes of these recordings with real early stuff. And then the next day at rehearsal we’d run through them and learn to play them and most of them we never would play. And the first day we went in to record “Love and Theft” I know he said, “Alright, the first song we’re gonna start with is this song.” And he’d play it for us on his guitar. And then he would say, “You know, I want to do it in the style of this song.” And he’d play an early song, and, like, we started with “Summer Days” and he’d play a song called “Rebecca” by Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner. And then it became apparent to me that he’d been training us for, you know, a year, over a year, to learn these old styles, you know? We were far more prepared for what he had in store then had he not done, you know, gone through this procedure. We never talked about this and maybe it’s just the way I’m, you know, what I took from that process, but it certainly was like going to college for me or, you know, going to the School of Bob, or the School of Americana really, you know, presented by Bob.

    The original Gene Austin song is about traveling the Lonesome Road after losing a lover. “Through love what have I done? That you should treat me so.” Dylan recycles a lyric from the original (“Look up, look up and greet your maker ‘for Gabriel blows his horn”), while also adding in lyrics culled from old folk songs (Kentucky Bootlegger) and Henry Rollins’ writings (Back To The Sun).

    But, Dylan takes the “old cloth” and makes something wholly new. He works within the old blues tradition and creates his own melancholy statement on the state of the world. And how should one live in this current state of affairs? Turn your back to the light, don’t do anything good for anyone, and shun those that love you, because the only result is pain.

    Lastly, I think you’re looking at the chorus in the wrong light. I think that the “Get on down the road” is much like the Air Bud, Harry and the Hendersons, cliche “We don’t want you anymore” moment. It is Dylan/Narrator’s last truly good moment… He is turning his back to the sun, and letting her know that once you do “You can’t turn back… One day you’ll open up your eyes and you’ll see where we are.” But, he isn’t going to lead her into the darkness. He is going to leave her and let her maintain some form of happiness.

    Dylan’s lyrics play on the theme of The Lonesome Road. In the original, the narrator is mistreated by his woman so he walks down that Lonesome Road. Dylan is doing the same, but he adds the depth of the choice to drag his woman down with him, or walk the road alone. His choice is to walk the road alone, knowing she will eventually get there as as well, but giving her the opportunity to “look up and seek your maker before Gabriel blows his horn.”

    It’s a beautiful song from a beautiful album. Sorry for the rant!

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