My Top 1000 Songs #578: Too Much Of Nothing

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

"Too Much Of Nothing"--not to be confused with the previously-referenced Who obscurity "Too Much Of Anything"--is the latest on our list of Dylan songs where I greatly prefer the better-known cover to the Dylan original. (See also the Byrds and Manfred Mann and the Grateful Dead and Rainy Day...)

One of the handful of 8-track tapes my dad had when I was a kid was Peter, Paul and Mary's Greatest Hits. And like most of his music, I came to resent it quite a bit when I finally discovered rock & roll radio at the age of nine, and was dismayed to learn I'd been growing up on "Puff, The Magic Dragon" when I could've been listening to the Beatles & the Who. (Or, if I'm being fair to my 9-year-old self, Sweet and Queen.)

Yet one song from that tape which has forever haunted me is their take on a then-unreleased "Too Much Of Nothing," one of countless songs Bob recorded with The Band while recovering from a motorcycle accident back in '67, most of which gradually saw light of day on bootleg recordings and, finally, 1975's official Basement Tapes collection. Dylan's song is... fine. But what Peter, Paul and Mary did with the chorus for their 1967 cover is remarkable. It's barely 15 seconds, but the ethereal harmonies are permanently etched in my imagination.

"Say hello to Valerie, say hello to Marion. Send them all my salary, on the waters of oblivion."

Don't know what it means, but Mary Travers' delivery simply stops time for me. For those 15 seconds, nothing else exists. It's likely the song which triggered my lifelong love of a good harmony. (Check out my Harmonic Convergence mixtape, one of my favorite creations.) I don't know enough about music theory to explain what it is about the vocal arrangement that blows me away, but I've never heard anything else like it.

Now, apparently Dylan was pissed that the folk trio changed the names from Valerie & Vivian--the names of two wives of poet T.S. Eliot--but, while Bob's blueprint is something I've come to appreciate, I'm all in for the cover, which has haunted my dreams for half a century. 

The Peter, Paul & Mary version:

Peter, Paul & Mary live on the Smothers Brothers show, 1969:
Bob Dylan & the Band on the Basement Tapes:
Stripped-down early Dylan take:
British folk-rockers Fotheringay, with the legendary post-Fairport Convention Sandy Denny (singing the PPM lyrics):
Turned into sunny sunshine pop by the New Seekers (1970):