Friday, October 26th, 2012
An in-depth discussion of the lyrics, writing style, music, and historical factors related to Bob Dylan’s first eight albums.
Informative site! I like how readers can add their own comments. hope you add more over time.
site matches the purpose. thanks!
I’ve decide to take this site beyond the first seven albums. See the “In Progress” section under “Contents”.
You’re doing a great job! We havent’ had any news for a long – time, not since Drifter’s Escape. Please don’t stop.
Hi Charlotte – Thanks for checking in and the encouraging words!
I kind of got off track working on technical WordPress stuff. Recently I’ve gotten back to this site – should finish “I Am a Lonesome Hobo” shortly!
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January 17, 2015 at 1:44 am
See in context
January 15, 2015 at 6:13 am
October 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm
September 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm
September 25, 2013 at 7:24 pm
October 7, 2017 at 9:51 pm
See comment on paragraph #15.
October 7, 2017 at 9:50 pm
Never trust any commentator on Biblical themes who does not know the name of the last book of the Bible. It is Revelation, or the Revelation to St. John. It is not “Revelations.” It is one long revelation. Anybody who does not know this probably doesn’t know much about how the book should be interpreted.
September 21, 2017 at 9:17 am
September 21, 2017 at 9:11 am
Ahab not Arab 🙂
September 19, 2017 at 6:31 pm
Retracted, it’s clearly about his woman on the side : )
Still a great depiction of a fearsomely loyal woman.
September 17, 2017 at 12:38 pm
I think the museum scene is coherently surrealistic and absolutely brilliant – history and the infinite, how long life can feel without your love, the contrast between the idealized Mona Lisa (“the delicate wallflower”, which is just insanely brilliant) and the repulsive women admiring the painting. While rhyming “freeze, sneeze, knees” may just seem like more loose rhyming, they are coherently offensive depictions of women (a jelly-faced woman sneezing, mules with their jewels and binoculars, presumably to inspect the art better), though the last fat joke about not being able to see their knees is redeemed by the fact that Mona Lisa also doesn’t have knees, or anything else from the neck down….that she is not perfect either, beyond her “highway blues”.
The last stanza is the most cryptic and most tempting to dismiss. I think the reference to two Jewish archetypes (peddler, fiddler) is very striking. And there is something suggestive about a violin player – a musician and artist – delivering the message (or perhaps simple life advice) that there are no debts, that we are not beholden, on something as prosaic as a fish truck. Dylan’s “conscience explodes”, suggesting the resulting freedom of the realization. And then he makes his own music with the skeleton keys of his harmonica, transforming the visions of Johana into art – the only thing you can do with lost love other than dwell or try to forget.
September 17, 2017 at 12:23 pm
Sean Wilentz writes in passing, in “Bob Dylan in America”, that this stanza is from Louise’s perspective.
I thought perhaps it is the voice inside the narrator who won’t let him forget Johanna (“speaks of a farewell kiss to me”), but has a lot of gall to hang around the narrator constantly, muttering, even though he has nothing useful to contribute.
But yes, like so often in Dylan, the (at times too easy) rhymes inform the lines, and efforts to read too deep into every word are misplaced.
September 17, 2017 at 12:19 pm
I used to find this one of his sloppier lyrics actually, and my interest in the lyrics (as opposed to the amazing musical arrangement) waned after the absolutely genius mood-setting of the opening (“but there’s nothing really nothing to turn off”.
It was only when I really reflected on the blinding brilliance of the line”the ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face” that I gave the rest of the lyrics real attention.
I think “handful of rain” is a metaphor for Louise crying into her hands. She is perhaps a woman who uses her love for the unsatisfied narrator – and the devastation it would cause if he left her – to guilt him into staying, even though he knows the relationship is not right. For whatever reason, maybe because he already knows no one will measure up to Johanna, he can’t defy her tears and move on.
September 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm
I think you could write a dissertation on Dylan’s use of the word “mama”.
In this case, my first instinct was to think he is contrasting his wife/lover with his fearsomely loyal mother, who will do anything for him – keep him fed with bread, sew him up with thread (metaphysically speaking, naturally), and even continue to make up his bed after he dies, but who can’t save him from death itself or even existential despair.
As in “It’s Alright, Ma”, the mother is the figure that Dylan’s narrators call out to when they are on the edge of despair or death (also see: “Mama take this badge off of me”).
May 25, 2017 at 6:37 am
There’s a theory that this song was about a transvestite. I believe Dylan was hanging out with Andy Warhol at this time and he took him into the oddity of his world and introduced him to lots of different characters. The line about not fitting might have some thing to do with this too? I don’t know – it’s still mystery and one to chew over.
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