Too Much of Nothing
|"Too Much of Nothing"|
|Single by Peter, Paul and Mary|
Dylan – vocal, guitar; Robbie Robertson – electric guitar; Garth Hudson – organ; Richard Manuel – piano, backing vocal; Rick Danko – bass, backing vocal. Overdubbed 1975: Hudson – additional keyboards; Helm – (possibly) drums, backing vocal.
Themes and history of song
One of the most haunting themes of The Basement Tapes is an apprehension of the void. Shelton hears in this song an echo of the bald statement that Lear makes to his daughter Cordelia, "Nothing will come of nothing" (act I, scene 1). Marcus asserts that this was one of the songs recorded at the end of "the basement summer" in August or September 1967. He writes that these songs "are taken slowly, with crying voices. Dylan’s voice is high and constantly bending, carried forward not by rhythm or by melody but by the discovery of the true terrain of the songs as they’re sung. Richard Manuel’s and Rick Danko’s voices are higher still, more exposed."
By November 1967, this song was a Top 40 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary. In Dylan's original, the chorus addresses two ladies—"Say hello to Valerie/Say hello to Vivien/Send them all my salary/On the waters of oblivion"—but Peter, Paul and Mary changed the second name to "Marion," displeasing Dylan. According to the trio's Paul Stookey, Dylan consequently became disenchanted with the group: "We just became other hacks that were doing his tunes." Patrick Humphries notes that, whether by accident or design, the two women originally named share the names of the two wives of the major 20th-century poet T. S. Eliot.[a 1] Lachlan MacKinnon  writes that the lines do refer to Eliot's wives and are "remarkably shrewd", suggesting the poet's "strange combination of self-distancing and financial propriety".
This song also appeared on Spooky Tooth's debut album It's All About, and on Fotheringay's debut album, as well as Albert Lee's Black Claw & Country Fever sessions. All three versions substituted "Marion" for "Vivien".
- "Too Much of Nothing" – Lyrics reproduced on Dylan official website.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll: Getting back to rock's funky, essential essence." (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.
- Gordon, Lyndall (2000). T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life. Norton. ISBN 0-393-32093-6.
- Humphries, Patrick (1991). Oh No! Not Another Bob Dylan Book. Square One Books. ISBN 1-872747-04-3.
- Marcus, Greil (1975). The Basement Tapes (CD booklet). New York: Columbia Records.
- Marcus, Greil (1997). Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. Picador. ISBN 0-330-33624-X.
- Shelton, Robert (1986). No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan (hardback ed.). New English Library. ISBN 0-450-04843-8.
- Sounes, Howard (2001). Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1686-8.
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