Song of the Day #588: ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’ – Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home is, of course, another of those six albums I consider Bob Dylan’s absolute finest. Not only did it signal a groundbreaking, eye-opening new direction for Dylan, folk music, rock music, music in general… it’s also chock full of some of the most amazing songs ever committed to tape.

Yesterday’s track, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues,’ kicks everything off in classic style but look at some of what follows: ‘She Belongs To Me,’ ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ ‘Tambourine Man,’ ‘Gates of Eden,’ ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),’ and ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,’ to name just a few. I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again… Bob Dylan could have ended his career five years after it started and he’d still go down as one of the greatest musical artists in history.

Bringing It All Back Home is the album that grabbed me more than any other when I first discovered and immersed myself in Dylan’s work back in high school. For some reason this album spoke to me directly and powerfully. I think it was the sheer ballsy abandon of the whole thing… the way Dylan tore into the slapstick absurdity of ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and ‘On the Road Again’ with the same degree of passion he brought to a heart-wrencher like ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).’ He held nothing back.

I believe this album also kick-started my interest in meaningful lyrics. I listened to Dylan sing about “flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark,” “the vagabond who’s knocking at your door” and dancing “beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea” and I’d never before been so in love with language.

That’s particularly true of ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit,’ which was my favorite song on this album and my all-time favorite Dylan song for the longest time. I don’t know if I can settle on one favorite anymore, but this is definitely still up there.

My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful,
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can’t buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall.
Some speak of the future,
My love she speaks softly,
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all.

The cloak and dagger dangles,
Madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.
Statues made of match sticks,
Crumble into one another,
My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.

The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers’ nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.
The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #588: ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    I must confess I am not familiar with this song, and clearly not familiar enough with this album as I should be. On first listen, I’m not sure it is interesting enough musically to suggest it is one of Dylan’s best (not that Dylan has ever been all that musically complex or adventurous). And, if he had stopped recording after this album, there would never have been “Blood on the Tracks” with probably my favorite Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue.” Still, I agree that his status in music history was already sewn up by the time he recorded this album.

  2. Amy says:

    I’m not at all familiar with this song, so thanks for sharing it. I love how songs can inspire people, who would never think to pick up a book of poetry, to appreciate language. Not that you’re one of those people. But Dylan, Eminem, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beatles, and on and on, have inspired so many. I love that fact.

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