Because I should have known better, the other day I revisited Eric Clapton's No Reason to Cry.
It was a huge disappointment to me in 1976-- I think it may have been the last Clapton side I've bought-- but could it have been as bad as that? I mean, it features an otherwise unrecorded Dylan song, with Dylan chiming in on vocals, Ron Wood, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson played on it-- how bad could it be?
Bad. Very, very bad. At his worst (which is, let's face it, most of the time) Eric Clapton sounds like he just woke up from a nap. You'd think that at least the Dylan song might salvage things, but remember, it was 1976:
You speak to me
In sign language
As I’m eating a sandwich
In a small café
At a quarter to three
But I can’t respond
To your sign language
You’re taking advantage
Bringing me down
Can’t you make any sound?
In 1976 Dylan was collaborating with Jacques Levy on lyrics, and this little excerpt may explain why. Rhyming "language" with "sandwich" is one thing, but that's not the half of it. We expect finer grained observation from Dylan. This doggerel just makes me want to think about the sandwich. What kind of sandwich was it? Was it a corned beef sandwich? That seems like the wrong kind of sandwich to be eating when you are contemplating the mute signals your lover is conveying to you in a restaurant. Perhaps a croque monsieur? That's kind of a knife-and-fork sandwich, but he did say he is in a café. If he was in a deli that wouldn't really wreck the rhyme, so I suppose it might be a fancy kind of sandwich. Come to think of it, "In a Subway" sort of fits too, but if he was in a sub shop he'd have said he was eating a meatball hero or something. "As I'm eating a Royal sub"... no, that really doesn't work.
Of course, the real problem is that the song is so very dull that the only thing interesting to contemplate is the sandwich (tuna? A nice grilled cheese and tomato?). The singer is sad about the relationship, but who cares? The sandwich is what engages our curiosity. Maybe it was a club sandwich....