For a long time after this song was released on 1979’s Slow Train Coming album, live versions used lyrics which were very faithful to that recording. However, it later became a vehicle for improvised-on-the-spot lyric changes that that bore absolutely no relation to the original. In these versions, the performance would begin with a couple of standard verses and then the fun would start. This is one of many examples.
These are two of only three outings of this song in 1989, each with a different take on a newly featured giraffe verse. The final performance of the year was performed just a few days after these but the giraffe simply didn’t make the cut. The original version from the Slow Train Coming album named several animals, including a bear, a cow, a bull, a pig, and a sheep, but no giraffe.
In 1987 there were just three performances of Pledging My Time. The first one, in September, relied on the standard lyrics. The third one (October 10) does repeat the “spend the night in jail” line, but the lines which surround it are partially formed and hard to decipher. The second one is presented here, with a lyric variation that is loosely based on the final verse of the original version.
The 1984 tour brought us 27 performances of Masters of War, and with each performance we get a little something new as Dylan asks, “How much do I know?” The original verse from the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album goes something like thisHow much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
On the 1984 tour, Dylan revisits this question almost every night, searching for inspiration. While he does not always find it, the journey itself is, we believe, an interesting one. It is not always clear exactly what is being sung (it is likely Dylan may agree with this in some cases) and so we present here our best transcript attempts.
This is a studio outtake from the Infidels sessions.
Evolution of a Bob Dylan Lyric
On June 30, 1981, Dylan makes a very notable mention of Suze in this performance:
Hunts her down – he remembers Suze when she talks
Hunts for her by the waterfront docks where the sailors all roll in
Maybe he’ll find her there once again, how long must he wait
One more time for a simple twist of fate
Here we take a look at how this particular lyric developed by presenting consecutive performances from the shows before, after, and including this June 30th outing.
Colombes, France, June 23
London, England, June 26
London, England, June 28
London, England, June 29
London, England, June 30
London, England, July 1
Birmingham, England, July 4
Birmingham, England, July 5
Stockholm, Sweden, July 8
Dramman, Norway, July 9
It is interesting to note that this pair of lines is not found in the few performances prior to these. Note how the rhyme gradually evolves (blocks -> rocks -> docks -> talks), with Suze clearly mentioned only on June 30th. By the show in Dramman on July 9th, Dylan has settled on the less personal but very clearly sung, “Hunts her down by the way she talks.” While Suze could still be in Dylan’s mind when performing the song at this stage in 1981, he is at least no longer calling her out by name.