In the tumultuous summer of 1986, two different homemade cassettes kept me afloat. The first one was a tape I made of Hüsker Dü’s Candy Apple Grey to which I had appended the epic b-side “All Work And No Play.” And the second was a tape I made of Blood on the Tracks, which I ended with “Up to Me,” which had shown up on Biograph the year before and almost instantly became a Top 5 Dylan song for me.
Let’s put it this way: if “Up to Me” actually ended Blood on the Tracks, then it would be my favorite Bob Dylan album, hands down. Instead of just probably my favorite Bob Dylan album, since, as far as I’m concerned, “Up to Me” does end Blood on the Tracks.
In every possible way it is the perfect album-ender, even more so than the utterly awesome “Buckets of Rain.” Because it – both musically and lyrically – pretty much sums up the entire record, and in a weird way, adds a note of hope and optimism to it.
One one hand, it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story, like “Tangled Up in Blue” or “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts:”
Oh, the only decent thing I did when I worked as a postal clerk
Was to haul your picture down off the wall near the cage where I used to work
Was I a fool or not to try to protect your identity?
You looked a little burned out, my friend, I thought it might be up to me
But then, in the very next verse, it’s as simple and direct as “You’re a Big Girl Now” or “If You See Her, Say Hello:”
Well, I met somebody face to face and I had to remove my hat
She’s everything I need and love but I can’t be swayed by that
It frightens me, the awful truth of how sweet life can be
But she ain’t a-gonna make me move, I guess it must be up to me
Oh, and like nearly all of Blood on the Tracks, the melody is sadly beautiful, winding its way through each verse with such ragged precision you don’t even realize that you’ve internalized it until you realize you know exactly when he’s going to sing “up to me.”
My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist: