Hanging in the Balance

Thanks to Mary Clare Kersten, I’ve learned that Bob Dylan’s masterpiece of — in the Kierkegaardian sense — inwardness, “Every Grain of Sand,” has an alternate ending.

Of course it has an alternate ending. Dylan never stops tinkering, never leaves well enough alone, never heeds his own advice when he says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — if indeed he ever says that (and surely even his Bobness must have said it once or twice, even if he asserts, elsewhere, that “everything is broken.”)

The studio version of the song as it appears on Shot of Love, ends thusly:

I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

But when Mr. Dylan played the song in Missoula on July 28, and, according to Ms. Kersten, at other times in the past, depending on his mood, the words were:

I am hanging in the balance of His perfect, finished plan,
like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

I don’t really have much to say about the alternate ending. It’s interesting, though. I guess I would read it as a commentary on the original “reality of man.” But now I can’t help but want to try out other alternate endings. “I am hanging in the balance … of … the … of … the …”


  1. Alison Vonderland says

    … broken Crayola crayon.

  2. Henri Young says

    … mystery mini-van

  3. Rufus McCain says

    red light I just ran

  4. bathtub electric fan

  5. sunburn that’s not a tan

  6. back alley garbage can

  7. Jan and Dan says

    sonnet that doesn’t scan

  8. Network Administrator says

    virus-riddled LAN

  9. a lack of bran

  10. You Know Who says

    … and I’m your biggest fan

  11. Stan the man dancing the can-can

  12. “A man without a plan is not a man”

  13. Jackie Chan says

    Jackie Chan

  14. My niece, Denise says

    cranberries minus the cran

  15. my beef with the ku klux klan

  16. Pin Handler says

    and listening to Chopin

  17. Han Pandle says

    freaky frying pan

  18. Have a muffin, bran.

  19. the mighty quin says

    I’m pretty sure that’s the version on the Bootleg series. And if that isn’t incentive enough to go and buy the three disc set, you can also hear a dog barking in the background.

  20. Jonathan Potter says

    Dang, I have that — love the dog barking in the background — but I don’t recall noticing the different lyrics before. I’ll have to give it a listen.

    … I am hanging in the balance of a bridge that doesn’t span.

  21. Pervez Musharraf says

    bombs of Pakistan

  22. Annie Panini says

    bells of old St. Anne

  23. Gloria Steinem says

    canon balls we’d ban

  24. Salmon Fishdie says

    bearded bad man of Iran

  25. arriving where I began

  26. John Broome says

    mustachioed Chinaman

  27. World Youth Day Vati-Can

  28. Greg Brady says

    the mom and her daughter, Jan

  29. John McCain says

    one month before the election ban

  30. a tug-o-war between Ollie and Stan

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