Bob Dylan + the Band, “Something There Is About You” from Planet Waves (1974): Across the Great Divide

Meant as a typically enigmatic love song, Bob Dylan could just as easily been paying tribute to his Planet Waves collaborators in the Band when he sings: “Something there is about you, strikes a match in me.”

Even as Robbie Robertson curls his guitar around the feet of Dylan’s lyric on “Something There Is About You,” Levon Helm’s thrillingly emotional cadence combines with Garth Hudson’s keyboard work to create a sense of twilit reverie. Bob Dylan, back with old friends, amidst that what must have been such a comfy camaraderie, is moved to include a few surprisingly personal details. (This was, after all, an increasingly mysterious figure who hadn’t issued an album of new original material since 1970, and hadn’t toured since 1966.) But then, as if snapping back awake, he tosses in a series of Quixotic images, things that add weight but no context, strange utterances as if from a half-remembered dream.

The sounds billowing up around him on “Something There Is About You” are perfect for that, too. Robbie Robertson’s watery asides climb each emotional cliff face, led by Levon Helm’s deftly expressive fills — and punctuated by grounding moments of flaxen warmth from Garth Hudson. Dylan (taking up his harmonica), Helm, Robertson and Hudson trade lonesome thoughts through the bridge, adding still more depth to song that seemed — at one point — like a straight-forward paean to a deepening love.

As if. Listen as Dylan returns, at another point, to a variation on his opening line — “suddenly, I found you, and the spirit in me sings” — before declaring her “the soul of many things.” The ways of a relationship, however, are harder to divine after that first rush of blood and passion. And Bob Dylan pulls no punches. “I could say that I’d be faithful,” he adds, “I could say it in one sweet, easy breath. But, to you, that would be cruelty and to me it surely would be death.”

These are the first stirrings of darker (much darker) revelations to come with Blood on the Tracks, something that unfolded as an intricate untangling, a heartbroken masterpiece. (You hear that even more particularly with the shattering Robertson collaboration “Dirge,” found elsewhere on Planet Waves.) But, at the same time, far different.

Blood on the Tracks found Bob Dylan working at one point with scraggly pick up musicians back in Minnesota, a choice that heightens its raw feel. Planet Waves, instead, couples Dylan with a group of musicians in the Band who could create much broader contexts around his resonant narratives. “Something There Is About You” certainly does.

Across the Great Divide is a weekly, song-by-song examination from Something Else! on the legacy of the Band, both together and as solo artists. The series runs on Thursdays.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
  • Mickey Soltys

    I thought Richard Manuel played drums on this record.