1968 from album “John Wesley Harding”
Didn’t Chart – Not a Single
Picture a sunset on the wild west landscape, with cacti slightly budging from the hot — yet dry — air. Some other vegetation fills the picture, with long shadows stretching to the otherwise abandoned desert. A rustling of a tumbleweed and a sudden flick of an eye from a lizard catches your eye, because otherwise, the complete tranquility of the moment goes unblemished.
When the album of “John Wesley Harding” is mentioned between other fans and myself, I often get this mood and picture in my mind about the sound off of the album. Coming with it is the change of harmonica from the wild, uncontainable noise from his previous works “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde”, to the mostly soft, mood setting noise that sets up songs like “All Along the Watchtower” and “As I Went Out One Morning” so well. The album talks about criminals and wrongdoers to great detail, whether about specific ones like “John Wesley Harding”, or fictional ones such as “Drifter’s Escape” and “All Along the Watchtower”. This specific song is about neither, but more about a wrongdoer, to whom the listener gets to decide the identity.
Song #200 is a song played only once in concert (’74) and one of which is commonly overlooked on the album compared to “All Along the Watchtower” and “I’ll be Your Baby Tonight”. Although this is probably justifiably so, “As I Went Out One Morning” remains to be an excellently set up song in sound, and in execution.
Telling of “the finest damsel that ever did walk in chains”, the narrator offers her his hand. She then proceeds to grab him by the arm, to which he realises she intends to do him wrong. After pleading her case to which the man denies her, he relents to secretly accept her, to which Tom Paine (the owner of the area’s land) tells her to yeild, and apologizes to the narrator.
Although a simple three verses, the scenery is set. Not in a sunset wild west, but early one morning, with still that desert, criminal sort of air to it.
You know nothing of the characters, but that makes it seem truly like that old western feel. Just the dust in the teeth, the glaze from sweat, and John Wayne riding off with the “Fairest Damsel”, just with a different ending because of this Tom Payne.