All I Really Want To Do

Commentary

The basic story in this song is about a woman who protests to her lover that he is trying to run her life, and his retort that he is not the least bit interested in telling her what to think or what to do, he’s only interested in being her friend.

A less literal interpretation – and surely one Dylan knew would be obvious to many listeners – is that the song is addressed specifically to his most fanatical fans, telling them in a light-hearted way that he is not interested in being their guru or teacher, that he’s not his generation’s ‘spokesman’. It probably not a coincidence that Dylan chose to debut this song at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival at a time when his fans were anticipating more of the serious-minded political songs that filled his previous album.

All I Really brings to mind another album opener, Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35 from Blonde on Blonde. Like Rainy Day, this song has both a serious and playful side. Rainy Day can be interpreted as a song about stoning and also about getting stoned. All I can be thought of as a missive about a relationship and also as a good-natured ‘take that’ aimed at his fans. The carnival music on Rainy Day and the Jimmy Rodger-like yodeling on All I reinforce the dual meanings.

Dylan’s performance of the song on Another Side is delightful. He starts the songs with a somber tone but towards the end stumbles over the lyrics, laughs, lets out few yodels, and blows an energetic harmonica solo. Contrast this performance with the god-awful Las Vegas-style version from At Budokan.

Dylan changes the order of the verses and adds a few lines in the At Budokan version. The major new lines are below:

I don’t care if you analyze me
Categorize me or hypnotize me
I don’t care if you feel like me
See like me or be like me

An energetic version was released on The Bootleg Series Volume 6: Live 1964.

A good version from Newport Folk Festival.

The Byrds, of course.


Lryics

I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you,
Beat or cheat or mistreat you,
Simplify you, classify you,
Deny, defy or crucify you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

No, and I ain’t lookin’ to fight with you,
Frighten you or uptighten you,
Drag you down or drain you down,
Chain you down or bring you down.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I ain’t lookin’ to block you up
Shock or knock or lock you up,
Analyze you, categorize you,
Finalize you or advertise you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don’t want to straight-face you,
Race or chase you, track or trace you,
Or disgrace you or displace you,
Or define you or confine you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don’t want to meet your kin,
Make you spin or do you in,
Or select you or dissect you,
Or inspect you or reject you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don’t want to fake you out,
Take or shake or forsake you out,
I ain’t lookin’ for you to feel like me,
See like me or be like me.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

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