Bob Dylan

Expecting Rain

"If You See Her, Say Hello"
Lakeland, April 18th 1976

mp3 of "If You See Her, Say Hello" 

From: "Andrew Muir"
To: Karl Erik Andersen
Subject: that live If You See Her Say Hello
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 09:47:25 +0100

An extract from my next book, which
previously appeared in ON THE TRACKS, 
though its been updated a bit for the book.  

The book will be called "Troubadour" and is a collection of
my articles for various fanzines, all updated and re-written
plus a number of articles that are new to the book.

It concentrates on the songs as songs rather than Razor's
Edge which concentrated on the performance of them.

* * * *

But, but, but.......much as I'd like to leave it there, I
can't.  As we move into the "live" section of this article I
would have to say that no-one who knew anything of Dylan's
life in the mid '70s could listen to the 1976 version
without thinking it had been affected by -or indeed directly
born from  the state of his current relationship(s). 
Despite all my caveats above, I cannot truthfully tell you
that I hear this rendering in any way other than a direct,
personal statement from the artist. Dylan has only himself
to blame for this - and he increased this by allowing the
release of  Call Letter Blues. [i]

For a master of masks and distancing effects this is an
extraordinary performance - no-one listening to it can feel
anything other than that there is no distance at all between
the author-performer and the performance.   So what did he
sing at Lakeland on April 18th 1976[ii]? Something
along the lines of[iii]:

If you see her, say hello She might be in North Saigon She left here in a hurry I don't know what she was on You might say that I'm in disarray And for me time's standing still Oh, I've never gotten over her I don't think I ever will A bright light from me, I saw A shattering of souls Just one of them reckless situations Which nobody controls Well the menagerie of life rolls by Right before my eyes And we'll do the best we can Which should come at no surprise If you're makin' love to her Watch it from the rear You never know when I'll be back Or liable to appear Oh it's as natural to dream of peace As it is for rules to break But right now I got not much to lose So you better stay away (awake?) Sundown, silver moon Hitting on the date (days?) My head can't understand no more What my heart don't tolerate But I know she'll be back some day Of that there is no doubt And when that moment comes, Lord Give me the strength to keep her out.
There is a rather nasty hint in the opening stanza that the woman was out of control on one substance or another. Clearly, too, the blame is on her not him. She has rushed off and deserted him for no apparent reason in this version. The second half of verse one is 'true' in every version but elsewhere it is implied, not baldly stated as it is here. This rendition is clearly going to pull no punches. In the next verse, the lines:
Just one of them reckless situations Which nobody controls
Return us to a situation of no blame, "like the original "it was written in the cards". Then we have the whole merry-go-round of life spinning by as he is trying to keep a grip on reality, and a belief in some kind of structured behaviour rather than the sudden inexplicable departure that has left him in "disarray". The most remarkable re-write is of the third verse. Its shocking opening is a complete contrast to the Blood On The Tracks version or even the earlier "if you're makin' love to her, kiss her from the kid". This time it is both brutal and brutally expressed. The stanza continues with a dangerous, menacing tone; underpinned by hints of infidelity and hazardous sexual encounters. The underlying violence even intrudes in the phrase "Hitting on the date" as the concluding stanza maintains the mesmeric driving spell with:
My head can't understand no more What my heart don't tolerate
This is magnificent writing. In Lakeland he starts to sing it incorrectly (with tolerate where understand should be) but quickly corrects himself instead of just letting it pass. Given this is a live performance not destined for posterity (sic!) it is another sign that he is wrapped up in getting this message out. What a couplet! It is all to do with emotions. The core of the soul is involved in this relationship and no amount of rationalizing by the mind can cope with such "disarray". And then there is the ending: a phenomenal articulation of a tension similar to those of previous versions - though with a major difference. The contradiction of 'I want/need/must have her but it is better for her that she's gone' is converted into the despairing 'I want/need/must have her but it'd be the end for me if I ever get her back'. [iv] [i] It can also be found in the little red notebook as Church Bell Blues- interestingly placed straight after If You See Her, Say Hello and seems to somewhat fly in the face of his Ballad In Plain D comment above. [ii] He played this version, one more time, at Talahassee on April 27th. [iii] The tape only exists in poor quality, the lyrics above are my attempted transcription with help from others. (In particular, Patricia Jungwirth, Clinton Heylin, Les Kokay and Ben Taylor. [iv] Listeners will recall a similar dichotomy in Abandoned Love (a song that is worth comparing to this performance in many ways, the imagery that is shared, 'queens' for example, the terrific - if terrible - tension in both:
My head tells me it's time to make a change/But my heart is telling me I love ya but you're strange.

Also by Andy Muir:
Razor's Edge

Andrew Muir:
Razor's Edge :
Bob Dylan
and the
Never Ending Tour