Lyric
http://bobdylan.com/songs/tonight.html

Throw my ticket out the window,
Throw my suitcase out there, too,
Throw my troubles out the door,
I don't need them any more
'Cause tonight I'll be staying here with you.

I should have left this town this morning
But it was more than I could do.
Oh, your love comes on so strong
And I've waited all day long
For tonight when I'll be staying here with you.

Is it really any wonder
The love that a stranger might receive.
You cast your spell and I went under,
I find it so difficult to leave.

I can hear that whistle blowin',
I see that stationmaster, too,
If there's a poor boy on the street,
Then let him have my seat
'Cause tonight I'll be staying here with you.

Throw my ticket out the window,
Throw my suitcase out there, too,
Throw my troubles out the door,
I don't need them any more
'Cause tonight I'll be staying here with you.

Discussion

This song was first released on the album Nashville Skyline (Columbia Records1969), but I got into it listening to my Dad's old vinyl copy of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

The story that the song tells is a good and simple one: a man1 is obliged, perhaps by work, to leave town. As he waits for the train, having said goodbye to his sweetheart, he realises that he cannot bear to leave her, and abandons his journey. He turns up back at her door that evening, and they live happily ever after.

There are many different ways that this story could be told - the quick run-through in the previous paragraph is one of these. Another approach might be to tell the story in its linear form, making a bit more of a poetic job than I have, either in the form of a song, a poem, or a short story. The downfall of this approach is that it relies on the story building up to the emotional climax, the point at which the man returns to his lover's door. Once one has heard the story a couple of times, there is no build up or surprise, and some of the power is lost.

Dylan's approach is to stay with that climactic moment, and describe it in great detail. The whole song takes place in that moment, glancing back and forward form there. Since this point can be said to be the nucleus of the story - the focus of any telling - Dylan's approach is a very pure one, and it enables the song to retain its power and emotion even after repeated listens.


1 I've said that the narrator is a man, and that his lover is a woman. Dylan is not so crude, and there is nothing in the lyric to establish the sex of either party.

There is an alternative version of this song on The Bootleg Series 5 1975 The Rolling Thunder Revue. Mr. Dylan is known for his progressive approach to his art, in the way that his songs rarely keep the same forms, musically or lyrically. Joan Baez notes (in the booklet that comes with The Bootleg Series 5) how difficult -and exciting- it is to play alongside Dylan, because one never knows when he is about to go into a brand new chord sequence or verse that no one, not even the band, has ever heard before. I like to imagine that Dylan thinks them up in his head as he's preparing to go on stage, but no matter when he writes his alternative versions, they're just as wonderful and important as the originals.

This live version is so different from the Nashville Skyline version that I think of them as two completely different songs. The Nashville Skyline recording is calm, soothing, and balanced: there is a sweet, steady rhythm, and Dylan sings in a smooth, echoing voice. It's excellent. But the Rolling Thunder version is explosive: Dylan pretty much shouts the words, in a way that you know he means what he's saying. He's excited, the band's excited, and it doesn't take long before we're all excited, playing this track again and again until we're sick of it, staying away from it, only to come back after we've had some time apart. The guitar riffs that were pretty and controlled in the studio recording have turned into quick and high-pitched sounds of success. It's kind of like the Nashville Skyline version is sung by a man who is recalling his experience of returning to his loved one, while the live version is sung by a man who is on his way home. Hear them both.


Throw my ticket in the wind
Throw my mattress out there too
Draw my letters in the sand
'Cause you got to understand
That tonight I'll be stayin' here with you.

I could have left this town by noon
By tonight I'd been to someplace new.
But I was feeling a little bit scattered
And your love was all that mattered.
So tonight I'll be stayin' here with you
Get ready, 'cause tonight I'll be stayin' here with you.

Is it really any wonder
The changes we put on each other's head
You came down on me like rolling thunder
I left my dreams on the river bed.

I can hear that lonesome whistle blowin'
I hear them semis rollin' too
If there's a driver on the road
Got to let him have my load
'Cause tonight I'll be stayin' here with you.

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