Song of the Day #651: ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ – Bob Dylan

Blood on the Tracks is, obviously, the fifth member of my Dylan Six — the six Dylan albums I consider his true untouchable masterpieces.

(On a side note, every time I write Dylan Six I’m reminded of the Dylan Four in Battlestar Galactica… the four crew members who discovered they were actually Cylons after being triggered by the words and music of ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ Geek detour concluded. We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.)

A lot of people classify Dylan as a “60s artist” and there’s no question that decade was almost unreal in terms of his output. Four of my Dylan Six were released in the 60s (during a 4-year span in the 60s, in fact) and the other two span the following 35 years. So yeah, in that sense he was a 60s artist.

But it’s hard to find a decade in Dylan’s discography that isn’t worthy. The 70s gave us not just Blood on the Tracks (his finest moment, I’d argue) but New Morning, Planet Waves and four more studio albums that I’ll feature over the next month that contain some of his finest work.

But back to Blood on the Tracks. It’s hard to decide which song to feature today among the nine classic tracks that round out the album.

One option is ‘Idiot Wind,’ the 8-minute epic of anger and self-loathing. But I’ve featured a version of that song already, and an even better version than the official one, in my opinion.

‘Simple Twist of Fate’ is a powerful acoustic track that’s among the saddest and most beautiful songs Dylan has ever written. ‘Meet Me in the Morning’ is a note-perfect ramshackle blues jam. ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ is a rollicking country story song that marks a shift in tone for the whole album but somehow feels perfectly placed.

The final track, ‘Buckets of Rain,’ is sweet and simple and contains a favorite lyric of mine: “Little red wagon, Little red bike, I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like, I like the way you love me strong and slow.”

Yes, I could pick any song on this album. I settled on ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ because I think it best captures the mood of the whole album… desperate loneliness. The lyrics and delivery of this song could be the most open-hearted expressions of lovesickness ever committed to tape. Lines like “I can change, I swear, ohhh, see what you can do.” And “I hope the you can hear me singin’ through these tears.” I love how the wailing “ohhs” always come at a point in the lyric where the pain just wells up and pours out.

My favorite lyric in this song — and one of my favorite lyrics in any song by anybody — is this one:

I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh,
With a pain that stops and starts
Like a corkscrew to my heart
Ever since we’ve been apart.

Honestly, now, have you ever heard or read a better simile than that? A corkscrew to my heart… that is such a vivid and perfect image. True heartbreak toys with you. Just when you think you’re over it, some cosmic force gives that corkscrew another go. This song, this whole album, feels like it was recorded during the breaths between each one of those turns.

Our conversation was short and sweet
It nearly swept me off-a my feet.
And I’m back in the rain, oh, oh,
And you are on dry land.
You made it there somehow
You’re a big girl now.

Bird on the horizon, sittin’ on a fence,
He’s singin’ his song for me at his own expense.
And I’m just like that bird, oh, oh,
Singin’ just for you.
I hope that you can hear,
Hear me singin’ through these tears.

Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast
Oh, but what a shame if all we’ve shared can’t last.
I can change, I swear, oh, oh,
See what you can do.
I can make it through,
You can make it too.

Love is so simple, to quote a phrase,
You’ve known it all the time, I’m learnin’ it these days.
Oh, I know where I can find you, oh, oh,
In somebody’s room.
It’s a price I have to pay
You’re a big girl all the way.

A change in the weather is known to be extreme
But what’s the sense of changing horses in midstream?
I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh,
With a pain that stops and starts
Like a corkscrew to my heart
Ever since we’ve been apart.

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #651: ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ – Bob Dylan

  1. pegclifton says:

    Such a sad song about love and regret, and yes, the “corkscrew to my heart” is a perfect image.

  2. save says:

    Love Buckets of Rain…..

  3. Adam says:

    Great post.

    “cork-screw to my heart” is also a
    brilliant extended metaphor- the cork-screw opens up the heart and releases the wine of the song that was fermented from the pain of the break-up and transformed into the beauty of the music.

  4. Dana says:

    It may come as a surprise to some Dylan fans that this song was unknown to me until I heard it covered by Zita Swoon on their 2006 album “Camera Concert – A Band In A Box.”

    (That one was for Amy:))

    Anyway, I agree that every note and every song on this album is pitch perfect. Speaking of pitch, by the way, I’ve always been captivated by the piano in this song. It seems to be slightly and purposely off key. I’m curious if anything has ever been written about that. .

  5. musicofbobdylan says:

    We are actively promoting a link to this interesting topic on The Bob Dylan Project at:'re-a-Big-Girl-Now

    If you are interested, we are a portal to all the great information related to this topic.

    Join us inside Bob Dylan Music Box.

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