“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is a song written and performed by Bob Dylan and featured on his Bringing It All Back Home album, released on March 22, 1965 by Columbia Records (see 1965 in music). The song was recorded on January 15, 1965 with Dylan’s acoustic guitar and harmonica and William E. Lee’s bass guitar the only instrumentation. The lyrics were heavily influenced by Symbolist poetry and bid farewell to the titular “Baby Blue.” There has been much speculation about the real life identity of “Baby Blue”, with possibilites including Joan Baez, David Blue, Paul Clayton, Dylan’s folk music audience, and even Dylan himself.
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” has been covered many times by a variety of artists, including Joan Baez, Bryan Ferry, The Seldom Scene, Them (also by Van Morrison as a solo artist), The Byrds, The Animals, The Chocolate Watchband, Graham Bonnet, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Marianne Faithfull, Falco, The 13th Floor Elevators, the Grateful Dead, Link Wray, Hugh Masekela, Echo and the Bunnymen and Bad Religion. Them’s version, released in 1966 influenced garage bands during the mid-60’s and Beck later sampled it for his 1996 single “Jack-Ass”. The Byrds recorded the song twice in 1965 as a possible follow up single to “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want to Do”, but neither recording was released in that form. The Byrds did release a 1969 recording of the song on their Ballad of Easy Rider album (see 1969 in music).
Bill Janovitz of Allmusic describes the music as beautiful, with folk guitar chord changes and a somber melody, while the chorus, with its line “and it’s all over now, Baby Blue” has a heartbreaking quality to it. Like other Dylan songs of the period, such as “Chimes of Freedom” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”, the lyrics of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” bear the strong influence of Symbolist poets such as Arthur Rimbaud. Lines such as “take what you have gathered from coincidence” reflect the I Ching philosophy that coincidence represents more than mere chance. The song was described by Q magazine as, “The most toxic of strummed kiss-offs, with not a snowball’s chance in hell of reconciliation.” Dylan, later describing the song, said that “I had carried that song around in my head for a long time and I remember that when I was writing it, I’d remembered a Gene Vincent song. It had always been one of my favorites, Baby Blue… ‘When first I met my baby/she said how do you do/she looked into my eyes and said/my name is Baby Blue.’ It was one of the songs I used to sing back in high school. Of course, I was singing about a different Baby Blue.”
The Belfast band Them (featuring Van Morrison) recorded a cover of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” that was first released on their album, Them Again, in January 1966 in the UK and April 1966 in the U.S. The song was subsequently issued as a single (b/w “I’m Gonna Dress in Black”) in the Netherlands during October 1966 but failed to reach the Dutch Singles Chart. It was later re-released in Germany in December 1973 with “Bad or Good” on the B-side, following its appearance in the 1972 German television movie, Die Rocker (aka Rocker). The single became a hit in Germany, first entering the charts in February 1974 and peaking at #13, during a chart stay of 14 weeks.
Morrison recalled his first encounter with Dylan’s music in an interview in 2000: “I think I heard [The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan] in a record shop in Smith Street. And I just thought it was just incredible that this guy’s not singing about ‘moon in June’ and he’s getting away with it… The subject matter wasn’t pop songs, ya know, and I thought this kind of opens the whole thing up.” Morrison’s record producer at the time, Bert Berns, encouraged him to find models for his songs, so he bought Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home album in March 1965. One of the songs on the album held a unique fascination for Morrison and he soon started performing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in small clubs and pubs as a solo artist (without Them).
Producer Tommy Scott was conscious of the importance of Dylan’s music on the current pop scene and was eager for Morrison to cover “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” during the 1965 sessions for Them’s second LP. After a failed, preliminary attempt to record the track with session pianist Phil Coulter at Regent Sound studios in London, Scott reconsidered his approach to the song. Scott recalled in interview that “The number wasn’t going down, Van wasn’t sure. Then the guys said he didn’t fancy it and thought it was cheap because I’d tried to go after the “Here Comes the Night” tempo.” The band returned to the song during a later session at Decca’s recording studios. Scott decided to rearrange the song’s musical backing, incorporating a distinctive recurring blues riff and piano work from Them’s keyboard player, Peter Bardens, resulting in a finished recording that the band were satisfied with. The song featured one of Morrison’s most expressive vocals and included subtle changes to Dylan’s lyrics; instead of singing “Forget the dead you’ve left” Morrison alters the line to “Forget the debts you’ve left”.
Greil Marcus stated in a 1969 Rolling Stone review that “Only on Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ does Van truly shatter all the limits on his special powers…Each note stands out as a special creation – ‘the centuries of emotion that go into a musician’s choice from one note to the next’ is a phrase that describes the startling depth of this recording. Played very fast, Van’s voice virtually fighting for control over the band, ‘Baby Blue’ emerges as music that is both dramatic and terrifying.” In recent years, author Clinton Heylin has noted that Them’s 1966 recording of the song is “that genuine rarity, a Dylan cover to match the original.” After Van Morrison left the band in 1966, Them spinoff group, The Belfast Gypsies, recorded a cover of the song on their 1967 album, Them Belfast Gypsies.
Them’s interpretation of the song, with Morrison as vocalist, became influential during the years 1966 and 1967, with several garage rock bands, including The Chocolate Watchband and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, recording versions of the song that were indebted to Them’s cover version. Beck used a sample of Them’s 1966 recording of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” as the basis for his single “Jack-Ass”, which appeared on his 1996 album, Odelay (see 1996 in music). Insane Clown Posse later sampled Beck’s song as the basis for “Another Love Song”, which appeared on their 1999 album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers. Hole’s cover of the song also uses Them’s recording as a blueprint. Them’s original 1966 version of the song has appeared in movies, such as the 1996 film Basquiat, the 1972 German film Rocker by Klaus Lemke and the 2000 film Girl, Interrupted.