Meet Me In Montauk

Song of the Day #686: ‘Every Grain of Sand’ – Bob Dylan

1981’s Shot of Love is another of those notorious albums which have been called Dylan’s worst by fans and critics alike (and I’m guessing a ranking of Dylan album covers would see this one near the bottom of the list as well).

It’s another album I don’t own, so I can’t side with the detractors or the equally passionate fans of Shot of Love. But I will say that a trip through the album via 45-second sound samples left me a lot more intrigued than depressed. Sure, the album seems to lack focus (it introduces secular subject matter into the mix, despite being his third Christian album in a row) but it sounds pretty damn good.

I find myself wanting to revisit a number of these songs, including the title track, ‘Heart of Mine,’ ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar’ (a bluesy rocker that Dylan added to the tracklist several years after the album’s initial release), the sublime ‘In the Summertime’ and of course today’s Song of the Day.

‘Every Grain of Sand’ is one of Dylan’s loveliest melodies and lyrics, and one of his finest vocal performances. Elvis Costello, in an essay on ‘500 essential albums‘ praised it thus:

Sometimes an album contains just one indispensable song. Shot of Love may not be your favorite Bob Dylan record, but it might contain his best song: “Every Grain of Sand.”

I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d definitely put it in the top tier. It’s lovely, profound and just about perfect.

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

Listen to the song at this link