It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue


Dylan sang It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when he came back to the stage with his acoustic guitar for an encore after his controversial electric performance. Why did he choose this particular song? By most accounts, Dylan’s brash electric performance was booed by many of the folk purists at the show. Perhaps he just wanted to play any acoustic song in order to get the crowd off his back. Maybe he just happened to pick this one.

Or perhaps he was sending his folkie fans a message conveyed through the lyrics of this song. Read in that light, the song could very well be understood as Dylan saying goodbye to the folk movement and hello to the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll. “Strike another match, go start anew/It’s all over now, Baby Blue”.

These ideas could be way overblown and the song could really be just another of Dylan’s vitriolic breakup songs. Paul Williams thinks the song is being sung to someone that is heading for a fall. Some suggest it could be about Joan Baez. This theory does suit Baez perfectly, she being the queen of the folk movement who would be half-forgotten in the ensuing rock age. Dylan denies it in an interview with Craig McGregor, but then again, he’s never been very forthcoming with the press.

Whatever or whoever the song is aimed at, It’s All Over Now is a great example of how Dylan’s songs often work on many levels, subject to wildly different interpretations.

From the Biograph notes:

“I had carried that song around in my head for a long time,” said Dylan, “and I remember that when I was writing it, I’d remembered a Gene Vincent [an early rockabilly singer] song. It had always been one of my favorites, Baby Blue… ‘When first I met my baby, she said how do you do, she looked into my eyes and said /my name is Baby Blue.’ It was one of the songs I used to sing back in high school. Of course, I was singing about a different Baby Blue.”

Although the lyrics are rather biting, Dylan sings the song softly, backed by a delicate guitar pattern. The performance reminds me of Don’t Think Twice, which also masks some very bitter feelings with an understated arrangement. Blowing the woman/his audience off with a cursory “it’s all over now”, the narrator warns of a rough road ahead: there’s a “fire in the sun”, the highway is “full of gamblers”, and even the sky is threatening to “fold-up. Nothing sentimental in this goodbye, but Dylan sings it like a lullaby.

A running joke between Dylan and his entourage that is captured in D.A. Pennebaker’s film Don’t Look Back is the supposed rivalry between Dylan and the English folksinger Donovan. This rivalry was played-up fiercely by the British press. At one point in the film, Dylan is seen reading one of the articles and exclaiming how much he “hates” Donovan. Dylan is clearly having fun with the whole thing.

Was there any animosity between the two folk singers? There’s a very interesting scene in Don’t Look Back in which Dylan and Donovan are sitting in a hotel room with some other people sharing songs. Donovan sings a rather insipid number, To Sing For You, at the end of which Dylan says “that’s a great song” and then adds that “he plays like Jack [Ramblin’ Jack Elliot]”. Donovan requests that Dylan play Baby Blue, which Dylan does, exhibiting a big shit-eating, self-satisfied grin the whole time. The expression on Dylan’s face could be interpreted as showing how much he is enjoying the contrast between his complex, multifaceted song and the simple ditty Donovan had just played. Or he could just have been enjoying himself. I think the former myself.

Also in Don’t Look Back is a clip from a performance of Talkin’ World War III Blues in which Dylan in mid-song quips “I looked in my closet, and there was Donovan”, implying perhaps that Donovan was in his closet listening for songs to copy. Many have noted the similarity of Donovan’s Catch the Wind to Dylan’s Chimes of Freedom. Others have noted the similarity between Geraldine and Boots of Spanish Leather. Then again, Dylan may just be referring to all the Donovan/Dylan comparisons in the press.

Below is a short article from Melody Maker published on May 5th, 1965.

BOB DYLAN and Donovan met this week.

One of the biggest controversies that has ever split the British music scene ended when the British singer — accused of copying Dylan’s every antic — went to the Savoy Hotel, London, where Dylan is staying during his tour of the country.

Later, Dylan told the Melody Maker: “He played some songs to me … I like him.. He’s a nice guy.”

But thousands of Dylan fans throughout the country are voicing their anger at Donovan at every show the American gives. He mentions Donovan in one of his most important songs, ‘Talking World War Three Blues,’ and the crowd jeers Donovan’s name. Dylan said backstage: “I didn’t mean to put the guy down in my songs. I just did it for a joke, that’s all.”

There was some rivalry between the two, but for the most part, it seemed to be a friendly one. Donovan speaks very highly of Dylan in his interesting autobiography, Hurdy Gurdy Man. For his part, Dylan said he “digs” Donovan, a comment that was plastered all of the British tabloids.

Marianne Faithfull, a popular English singer and very beautiful girlfriend of Mick Jagger in the sixties, wrote in her autobiography that Dylan was very interested in Donovan. She writes that during the 1965 tour he played Donovan’s Catch the Wind over and over again. She adds that it was Dylan’s idea to set up the meeting with Donovan that was captured in Don’t Look Back. According to her, Dylan wanted Allen Ginsberg to judge whether Donovan was the “real thing” as a poet.

Donovan says that he helped Dylan draw the words to Subterranean Homesick Blues on the white poster boards that Dylan flips through in the famous video that is used in the opening scene of Don’t Look Back.

It’s All Over Now seems to be one of Dylan’s favorites: he plays it at his concerts almost every year. The song appears on Live 1966 and Bob Dylan Live 1975. An alternative version appears on No Direction Home, the soundtrack to the 2005 Martin Scorsese documentary. None of these versions bests the original.

Van Morrison (when he was with the group Them) did a cover.

Bryan Ferry (formerly of Roxy Music) has done many Dylan covers, often pretty good.


You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence.
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home.
All your reindeer armies, are all going home.
The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor.
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

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