Born in Time
by Bob Dylan Under the Red Sky / 1990
Time flattens on Sabbatical. Morning starts in deep darkness. Rituals codify. Sleep morphs into random naps, and one of BOB’s most underrated songs finds itself suddenly floating to the surface. "Born In Time," gentle in
its Buddhist accuracy, has been released in three versions. First on the unjustly maligned Under A Red Sky - a recording that seems to improve yearly - we encounter a take that includes David Crosby and Bruce Hornsby on back-up. (Why is it so hard to picture these guys playing with Bob? He’s played with a million people.) Later a second live performance would surface on the Japanese collection Bob Dylan LIVE 1961-2000; the liner notes tell us it was recorded in New Jersey in 1998. We have to take them at their word. And, lastly, for now, a spare, powerful, outtake from the Oh Mercy sessions would be included on the Tell Tale Signs set.
To play the three versions, one after the other, in the order of their release, is to “travel the hills of mystery, in the foggy ruins of destiny.” It’s a funny thing about Bob Dylan’s material: it connects on such a personal level that every listener swears, on some secret, internal, level that they, and they alone, understand the “real” Dylan, that they know which songs and lines are truly important, that the fat, bearded moron yelling next to you for “Tweedle Dee, Bobby! Tweedle Fucking Dee!” has come so late and
so blindly to the ball that he has no idea what he’s yelling about nor could he begin to tell you why “Sooner Or Later” was a greater song than “The Wilbury Twist.” But I know. In the darkness of my timeless mornings, when the lines surface on their own, I am convinced that no one has
ever written song lines as powerful as: “on the rising curve/when the ways of nature will test every nerve/you won’t get anything you don’t deserve.” What rising curve? Where? Which ways of nature? The lines - the song itself - have a beautiful diamond clarity; the narrative shimmers: it is about you; it is about everyone who has ever fallen in and out of love; everyone who has ever lived long enough to be able to look back on a rising curve and yet it is foggy, mysterious, lovely, under appreciated. And the fat guy in Boston's TD North Center, yelling for Tweedle Dee, doesn’t get it. If he did, he wouldn’t be yelling.
So in the darkness, when TIME is yours for all of nine months, you are reminded that we are indeed born into TIME, that TIME, an abstraction created to explain decay, has haunted the Gemini Dylan, that it might in fact torture him and then his voice takes the lyrics to another level and the beauty transcends the argument. We are indeed born in time, but we will leave it. Probably on a rising curve.
Kevin M. Harvey