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Saturday, 10 March 2012

Love Is Just A Four Letter Word

I have been extemely privilaged to speak breifly with an individual close to the whirlwind of Bob Dylan in the mid 1960s and 1970s. I was both honoured and humbled by this, since this individual has not spoken about Bob Dylan since around 1980.

I had hoped to put this up on the blog some time ago but real life got in the way as it so often does...

I will not reprint the entire conversation out of respect for the individual I spoke to, but here are are couple of quotes -

"Bob DID record 'Love is Just a Four-Letter Word' -- one take from early 1965. Unless I'm mistaken -- I'm relying upon memory in 2010 -- it was recorded earlier on the same day he did a studio recording of 'Farewell, Angelina'"

"The recording I had sounded like a home recording. He sang the entire song, talked a little with friends, tried it again, then stopped."

Part of this brief conversation regards the recording of 'Love Is Just A Four Letter Word'.

It turns out that Bob Dylan did indeed - apprently - record this, on or around January 13, 1965 (my assumption). I believe that Clinton Heylin might have inadvertently listed it in his recording sessions book in 1994:

Columbia Studio A, New York

January 13, 1965

CO 85281 unknown

Although there is a slight discrepancy, since the source believes it may have been recorded before 'Farewell Angelina'. Cross referencing with Krogsgaard reveals CO 85281 to apprently be 'Outlaw Blues' , although he points "This CO number is not listed in the contract cards"...there is an issue with this, however, since the January 14th session lists Outlaw Blues as CO85282-3, meaning that CO85281 was indeed something else other than Outlaw according to Korgsgaard there were two takes of CO85281, as per the description of 'Love Is Just A Four Letter Word', and four takes of CO 85282 (Outlaw Blues) the first two being incomplete and the third, complete take being the released one, which ties in with Heylin - CO85282-3. This does leave the issue of the acoustic 'Outlaw Blues' which surfaced some time ago...hmmm.....confused? Me too....anyway, there's a least enough confusion going on here to suggest that, just maybe, it was recorded somewhere in these sessions.

There were two takes, with Dylan talking in between takes. It is said that Dylan 'then stopped' so I gather the second take was incomplete, but the first take was, quote 'the whole song'.

Unfortunately the tape has been in posession of Bob Dylan / Jeff Rosen since around 1980, having been passed onto them, and is now inaccessable unless it sees an official release in the future.

I would very much like to thank the individual who shared this information with me, I am honoured to get information like this, and obviously by posting this on the message board I hope I haven't upset anyone. I will not repost the entire conversation word for word since it was a private discussion, but since this information has been unknown/speculative until now, it's good to get a bit more.


This is mostly guesswork on my part. If we assume this -

COLUMBIA STUDIO A, New York, January 13th 1965

CO 85270 Love Minus Zero / No Limit
CO 85271 I'll Keep It With Mine
CO 85872 It's All Over Now Baby Blue
CO 85273 Bob Dylan's 115th Dream
CO 85274 She Belongs To Me
CO 85275 Subterranean Homesick Blues
CO 85276 California
CO 85277 On The Road Again <- should be here???
CO 85278 Farewell Angelina
CO 85279 IF You Gotta Go, Go Now
CO 85280 You Don't Have To Do That
CO 85281 ???? - might actually be here???)
CO 85282 Outlaw Blues

Then it would seem that CO 85281 is the best candidate...but..and it was an oversight on my part, some of the numbers AREN'T carry-overs but continuations....unless the Jan 13th session was EVEN LOGER and included additional versions of 852282 through to 285, but that would be a bit too speculative....what I DO think is clear is that there's some weird, inaccurate numbering going on with these sessions as it currently stands, so plenty of room for additional recordings to be missing somewhere in there.

I believe it could well have been BEFORE 'Farewell Angelina' based on the sketchy tape logs.

Some comments from the ever helpful Bob Stacey -

Columbia sometimes did strange things (or at least apparently so) with the CO-numbers associated with songs performed at more than a single session. There may have been carry-over guidelines, but at times, they seem to have been applied arbitrarily. I’m not sure if I follow what you mean about “Outlaw Blues” being the only case for the same CO *not* carried over from one day to the next.

She Belongs To Me – CO 85274 (Jan 13) > CO 85283 (Jan 14 aft.) > CO 85274 (Jan 14 eve.)
On The Road – CO 85277 (Jan 13) > CO 85285 (Jan 14, Jan 15)
Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream – CO85273 (Jan 13) > CO 85284 (Jan 14 aft.) > CO 85273 (Jan 14 eve.)
If You Gotta Go, Go Now – CO 85279 (Jan 13) > CO85291 (Jan 15)

Based on all the business with CO carry-overs, I’d be hesitant to assume too much about “Outlaw Blues”. Even with all the varying information on recording sheets, contract cards, and tape boxes, apparently something had previously indicated that the final takes of Jan 13 should be titled “Outlaw Blues” with CO 85281 as the designation. Until more is known to directly contradict, I’m of the opinion somebody along the way at Columbia or since then might’ve actually verified that to be the case.

As early as January 1965, it’s doubtful “Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word” in Dylan’s mind was in a satisfactory state for serious consideration as an album take. That doesn’t mean he didn’t sing it at the sessions, but whatever he sang likely was not a “whole song” at least as we know it today. Apparently (according to Joan Baez), it seemed to have had multiple endings.

(Dylan in Dont Look Back): “I didn’t finish that song, did I, huh? … I never finished it … That’s a good song … Yeah, I could finish that.”

Since the source remembers “Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word” as possibly being sung before “Farewell Angelina”, maybe it wasn’t even assigned a “CO-take” designation. Such might’ve been the case, if Dylan didn’t consider the song to be finished but simply wanted to try it out.

Approximate “Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word” timeline:

1/65 – Supposedly sung at the BIABH recording sessions.
5/65 – Joan Baez sang one verse in DLB.
9/67 – Witmark copyright registered.
(67 or 68) – Witmark’s DLB songbook printed only two verses.
(68 and 69) – Warner Bros. – Seven Arts copyrights are registered.
(68) – Baez album “Any Day Now” : Five verse version.
(73) – “Writings and Drawings”: Four verse version.

It is assumed that the final “forever fleet” verse of the song on “Any Day Now” is truly a Dylan creation and not Joan’s own signature conclusion that she based on one of Bob’s early version endings. Does anyone know for sure?


  1. What a fabulous this a 'Snow over Interstate 80' type of thing? If it is true we are talking about the Holy Grail! But sadly it may be a dissapointment or it would have surfaced!

  2. News is just a four letter word. But opinion is not.