Pledging My Time
|"Pledging My Time"|
|Song by Bob Dylan from the album Blonde on Blonde|
April 1966 (single)
|A-side||"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"|
|Recorded||March 8, 1966|
|Blonde on Blonde track listing|
"Pledging My Time" is a blues song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan for his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. The song was recorded on March 8, 1966, in Nashville, Tennessee, with veteran Nashville musicians and Canadian guitarist Robbie Robertson. "Pledging My Time" was released the next month by Columbia Records as the B-side of the single "Rainy Day Women#12 & 35", a hit record in both the United States and Great Britain. The two songs also led off Blonde on Blonde, which was officially released on May 16, 1966, and today is considered among the best albums of all time.
"Pledging My Time" is a 8-bar blues song various writers link to the influences of Chicago blues legends Elmore James and Muddy Waters, as well as Mississippi Delta greats Robert Johnson and the Mississippi Sheiks. Dylan was first exposed to the blues as a teenager during the 1950s. He wrote and recorded a handful of blues songs for his early acoustic albums, but began focusing on the genre with his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited, which featured several electric blues tracks.
Early in the fall of 1965, about a month after Highway 61's release, Dylan was back in Columbia's New York studios to begin work on his next album. After five sessions that stretched into early 1966 and produced only one usable track, Columbia producer Bob Johnston convinced Dylan to move the recordings to Nashville, where Johnston had previously worked at Columbia's studios on the legendary Music Row.
Dylan, who was on the North American leg of his 1966 World Tour, arrived in Nashville in mid-February with only a couple new songs in mind and only two musicians from the New York sessions, guitarist Robbie Robertson and organ player Al Kooper. Johnston assembled a studio band that included some of Nashville's top session men, including drummer Ken Buttrey, keyboardist Hargus "Pig" Robbins, bassist Henry Strzelecki, and guitarists Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss and Joe South.
After three days of recording with his new ensemble, Dylan left Nashville to play eight dates that took him from New England to Canada to Florida. He returned to Music Row, and on March 8 the group laid down three new songs, "Absolutely Sweet Marie", "Just Like a Woman" and "Pledging My Time". Only two full takes of "Pledging My Time" were recorded, the second being the master. (The first take was released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966 in 2015.) Dylan wrapped up recording with two more sessions that week.
"Pledging My Time" was released the next month, in April, as the B-side of "Rainy Day Women#12 & 35". The single reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the UK Singles Chart. Blonde on Blonde was issued as a double album in mid-May with "Rainy Day Women" and "Pledging My Time" as its first two tracks. In 2003, the album was ranked #9 in Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" issue.
Influences and meaning
"Pledging My Time" opens with Dylan's harmonica, as do 10 other of the 14 songs on Blonde on Blonde. The song proceeds at a slow pulsing pace set by Ken Buttrey's drumming, with Robbie Robertson's guitar and Hargus "Pig" Robbins' piano creating the song's heavy Chicago blues sound. According to writer Andy Gill, the song has a "smoky late-night club ambiance", while author Oliver Trager in Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia describes the singer as sounding "reluctant, fatigued, and maybe even a little stoned".
Gill observes that following the "goodtime goofing" of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", the first track on side one, "'Pledging My Time' sets the humid, emotionally oppressive tone" for the rest of the album. The song's lyrics center on a boyfriend pledging himself to his girl, "hopin' (she'll) come through, too." The imagery includes the singer's "poison headache," a hobo stealing his lover, the thought of the relationship not working out, and the stuffy room where everyone's gone except for him and his girlfriend and he "can't be the last to leave".
Well they sent for the ambulance
And one was sent
Somebody got lucky
But it was an accident
Now I'm pledging my time to you
Hopin' you'll come through too.
The stanza's "somebody got lucky" offers a clue as to one of the song's inspirations. Marqusee and Trager both point to the similarity between "Pledging My Time" and Robert Johnson's "Come on in My Kitchen", especially regarding the line in Johnson's song, "some joker got lucky".
Ah the woman I love
Took from my best friend
Some joker got lucky
Stole her back again
You better come on in my kitchen
Babe it going to be rainin outdoors
Live performances and covers
Dylan neglected "Pledging My Time" in concert performances for over two decades. In 1987 he revived the song along with several others he had not previously performed live in a series of six concerts with The Grateful Dead. He also included the song in his tour that year with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. When Dylan began his Never Ending Tour in 1989, "Pledging My Time" was on the set list, and he continued performing it in concert through the late 1990s.
The song was first covered by the Japanese psychedelic band The Apryl Fool in 1969 for their lone, self-titled album. Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson recorded a version of the song in 1999 that appeared on several blues compilations, including three Dylan tributes. In addition, American singer-songwriter Greg Brown recorded "Pledging My Time" for Nod to Bob, a 2006 album by various artists issued on the occasion of Dylan's 65th birthday.
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