To Be Alone With You

Album: Nashville Skyline (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • If you traveled back in time to before the release of Nashville Skyline and played this song, you wouldn't believe it was Dylan. His vocal styling is totally different than his norm and the music is clean and country-flavored rather than raw and wild. Everything about it is unlike the music Dylan made in the early-to-mid-1960s.

    "To Be Alone With You" is a love song with completely forgettable lyrics that don't try to do anything but be there for something to sing. Dylan even resorts to the clichéd, "They say the nighttime is the right time" line.

    It's by no means a bad song, but it's just distinctly out of place coming from one of the most distinctive-sounding musicians in history. Love him or hate, people always knew when a song was a Dylan song, if for no other reason than the nasally voice.
  • When Dylan made the Nashville Skyline album, he really was a different person than he'd been a couple years earlier in 1967 with his eighth studio album, John Wesley Harding. He spent the previous 14 months resting, healing, and enjoying life, mostly in Woodstock, New York. This long restful stretch was triggered by a motorcycle accident in which Dylan cracked vertebrae, but it ended up going well beyond physical recuperation.

    Dylan found himself exhausted from the frenetic pace he'd been living. He felt like his manager, Albert Grossman, and other business types had taken advantage of him and driven him to the breaking point in order to make some money. The Dylan that emerged from that period wasn't the same man as he'd been when he wrecked his bike (he's said as much himself multiple times). He was tired of the life he'd been living and was determined to change it. The Dylan on Nashville Skyline was rested and happy.
  • Dylan enjoyed learning from the structured Nashville music scene, which was already by that time a smooth-running machine - what a slightly younger Dylan would have scoffed at. This post-wreck Dylan, though, loved it. Afterwards he would comment about how he felt like he'd only just then truly learned music.

    His old hardcore fans, of course, hated this song and this album. They wanted the brooding Rimbaud-rock that he'd been giving them before, or they wanted the politically revolutionary songs (which often were imagined by them rather than resulting from any political intention on Dylan's part) that made him a hero of the counterculture.

    Dylan was done giving it to them. This song is simple fun, and that's all Dylan intended it to be.
  • Dylan didn't perform this song live until October 15, 1989, but after that Dylan opened shows with this song many times and ended up playing it well over 100 times.
  • Dylan recorded this on February 13, 1969 in Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. It was the first song he recorded for the album.
  • Just after the start of the song, Dylan asks, "Is it rolling, Bob?" This isn't a cheeky reference to himself. He was actually talking to producer Bob Johnston.

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