Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nothing Was Delivered

Either deliver
Or refund everyone's cash,
And stop telling lies.

First, the lyrics. Then, my thoughts:

Nothing was delivered
And I tell this truth to you
Not out of spite or anger
But simply because it’s true
Now, I hope you won’t object to this
Giving back all of what you owe
The fewer words you have to waste on this
The sooner you can go

Nothing is better, nothing is best
Take heed of this and get plenty of rest

Nothing was delivered
But I can’t say I sympathize
With what your fate is going to be
Yes, for telling all those lies
Now you must provide some answers
For what you sell has not been received
And the sooner you come up with them
The sooner you can leave

Nothing is better, nothing is best
Take heed of this and get plenty rest

(Now you know)
Nothing was delivered
And it’s up to you to say
Just what you had in mind
When you made ev’rybody pay
No, nothing was delivered
Yes, ’n’ someone must explain
That as long as it takes to do this
Then that’s how long that you’ll remain

Nothing is better, nothing is best
Take heed of this and get plenty rest

I've read several discussions and essays about the story hidden in the song. Many people seem to think that it's a warning to a drug dealer to deliver the drugs for which the buyers paid. I think that when you get a bunch of people who are into country rock/hippy rock, they will interpret song lyrics according to their preoccupations, one of which is the drug deal. But the enduring quality of songs from the Basement Tapes is their woodsy, homespun, old-time homily nature. These songs, however nonsensical some of the lyrics be, are about proverbs, old saws, maxims, fireside truths and practical Farmer's Almanac advice, all touched with the shadow and weight of dead ancestors and vanished generations. Narrowing a song with such general admonishments as this to a frustrated attempt to buy pot does injustice to the song. What they ARE singing about? I think there's a basic morality tale here that says that you must right the scales to balance what you give with what you take, whether that's an item, a piece of advice, a lesson or anything. A good deed unreciprocated by a good deed of its own is an offense to universal equilibrium. But like many of the songs that Dylan and the Band recorded in 1967, I don't know for sure, though you can see that I stayed away from drug reference in the haiku while emphasizing the idea of payment for services, whether quotidian or profound.

The song, meanwhile, appears on the 1975 album "The Basement Tapes," and more than one version of it appears on the complete Basement Tapes recordings on volume 11 of the Bootleg Series.

1 comment:

  1. Yes Robert another track from down in the basement come up and get something delivered inside Bob Dylan's Music Box You can listen to every version of every song composed, recorded or performed by Bob Dylan, plus all the great covers and so much more.