Dylan may be the popular music genius of our times, but that doesn’t mean he never writes a bad song. Ballad in Plain D is proof.
Plain D is a baldly autobiographical song, written about his painful breakup with Suze Rotolo and the role her sister Carla supposedly played in the event. There‘s no reason to go into why it’s a bad song. Just look at the lyrics.
Dylan realizes the song was a mistake. From an interview with Bill Flanagan in March 1985 for the book Written in My Soul.
BILL FLANAGAN: What about “Ballad in Plain D”?
BOB DYLAN: Oh! Yeah. That one… That one I look back and I say, “I must have been a real schmuck to write that.” I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I’ve written, maybe I could have left that alone. But if that’s the only one I look back and say maybe I shouldn’t have written, I think that’s [Another Side of Bob Dylan] a pretty good record.
Dylan has never played the song live. Good move.
I once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze.
With the innocence of a lamb, she was gentle like a fawn.
I courted her proudly but now she is gone,
Gone as the season she’s taken.
Through young summer’s breeze, I stole her away
From her mother and sister, though close did they stay.
Each one of them suffering from the failures of their day,
With strings of guilt they tried hard to guide us.
Of the two sisters, I loved the young.
With sensitive instincts, she was the creative one.
The constant scapegoat, she was easily undone
By the jealousy of others around her.
For her parasite sister, I had no respect,
Bound by her boredom, her pride to protect.
Countless visions of the other she’d reflect
As a crutch for her scenes and her society.
Myself, for what I did, I cannot be excused,
The changes I was going through can’t even be used,
For the lies that I told her in hopes not to lose
The could-be dream-lover of my lifetime.
With unknown consciousness, I possessed in my grip
A magnificent mantelpiece, though its heart being chipped,
Noticing not that I’d already slipped
To a sin of love’s false security.
From silhouetted anger to manufactured peace,
Answers of emptiness, voice vacancies,
Till the tombstones of damage read me no questions but, “Please,
What’s wrong and what’s exactly the matter?”
And so it did happen like it could have been foreseen,
The timeless explosion of fantasy’s dream.
At the peak of the night, the king and the queen
Tumbled all down into pieces.
“The tragic figure!” her sister did shout,
“Leave her alone, God damn you, get out!”
And I in my armor, turning about
And nailing her to the ruins of her pettiness.
Beneath a bare light bulb the plaster did pound
Her sister and I in a screaming battleground.
And she in between, the victim of sound,
Soon shattered as a child ‘neath her shadows.
All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight.
I gagged twice, doubled, tears blinding my sight.
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love’s ashes behind me.
The wind knocks my window, the room it is wet.
The words to say I’m sorry, I haven’t found yet.
I think of her often and hope whoever she’s met
Will be fully aware of how precious she is.
Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me,
“How good, how good does it feel to be free?”
And I answer them most mysteriously,
“Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?”