Motorpsycho Nightmare

Commentary

Nightmare is another silly little song in the same vein as I Shall Be Free No. 10 and I Shall Be Free, but not quite as funny or clever. Oh well, Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run ever time either.

The plot of Nightmare is based on the old joke about a young stranger showing up one night at a farmer’s home, a farmer that happens to have a beautiful and promiscuous daughter. Said farmer is bound and determined to prevent the stranger from getting in her pants. Events take a bad turn, the farmer chases the stranger with a shotgun, and the stranger runs away.

Dylan uses this song to poke fun at stereotypical values that people assign people based on class, a theme that he returns to many times in his career. The farmer assumes the narrator is honest because he’s a doctor. The narrator trusts the farmer because he’s an honest working man, with “dirt under his nails”. As it turns out, neither can be trusted.

A few of the references may need explanation. It’s mentioned that the daughter just stepped out of the “La Dolce Vita” (which means “the sweet life”). The influential Italian director Federico Fellini made a film with that name that was popular with the artsy crowd around the time Another Side came out. I suppose the point of this reference is to explain that Rita is extremely beautiful, since the jet-set women in the movie are very attractive, if your into the heavy-makeup/big-boobs thing.

During the Another Side time frame Dylan’s artistic influences were clearly expanding from primarily folk and blues musicians to include the works of poets, painters, avant-garde filmmakers, and others. Fellini seemed to have made quite an impression on Dylan. In Chronicles he mentions the impact the La Dolce had on him. In the liner notes to Biograph he mentions the influence another Fellini movie had on Mr. Tambourine Man.

I don’t know, different things inspired me … that Fellini movie? What was it? La Strada. It was all sort of like the same thing, you know. Drugs never played a part in that song … ‘disappearing in the smoke rings in my mind’, that’s not drugs, drugs were never that big a thing with me. I could take ‘m or leave ‘m, never hung me up.”

The mention of “Tony Perkins” is an allusion to the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho. Tony Perkins played the leading role, an insane murder who – dressed as a woman – stabs a woman to death as she takes a shower.

The inclusion of the reference to Reader’s Digest – a conservative, sometimes simple-minded American magazine – is (most likely) meant to illustrate the farmer’s limited reasoning capabilities.

The song has never been played live.

Not many covers either. Here’s a Tod  Snyder-style take:


Lyrics

I pounded on a farmhouse
Lookin’ for a place to stay.
I was mighty, mighty tired,
I had gone a long, long way.
I said, “Hey, hey, in there,
Is there anybody home?”
I was standin’ on the steps
Feelin’ most alone.
Well, out comes a farmer,
He must have thought that I was nuts.
He immediately looked at me
And stuck a gun into my guts.

I fell down
To my bended knees,
Saying, “I dig farmers,
Don’t shoot me, please!”
He cocked his rifle
And began to shout,
“You’re that travelin’ salesman
That I have heard about.”
I said, “No! No! No!
I’m a doctor and it’s true,
I’m a clean-cut kid
And I been to college, too.”

Then in comes his daughter
Whose name was Rita.
She looked like she stepped out of
La Dolce Vita.
I immediately tried to cool it
With her dad,
And told him what a
Nice, pretty farm he had.
He said, “What do doctors
Know about farms, pray tell?”
I said, “I was born
At the bottom of a wishing well.”

Well, by the dirt ‘neath my nails
I guess he knew I wouldn’t lie.
“I guess you’re tired,”
He said, kinda sly.
I said, “Yes, ten thousand miles
Today I drove.”
He said, “I got a bed for you
Underneath the stove.
Just one condition
And you go to sleep right now,
That you don’t touch my daughter
And in the morning, milk the cow.”

I was sleepin’ like a rat
When I heard something jerkin’.
There stood Rita
Lookin’ just like Tony Perkins.
She said, “Would you like to take a shower?
I’ll show you up to the door.”
I said, “Oh, no! no!
I’ve been through this before.”
I knew I had to split
But I didn’t know how,
When she said,
“Would you like to take that shower, now?”

Well, I couldn’t leave
Unless the old man chased me out,
‘Cause I’d already promised
That I’d milk his cows.
I had to say something
To strike him very weird,
So I yelled out,
“I like Fidel Castro and his beard.”
Rita looked offended
But she got out of the way,
As he came charging down the stairs
Sayin’, “What’s that I heard you say?”

I said, “I like Fidel Castro,
I think you heard me right,”
And ducked as he swung
At me with all his might.
Rita mumbled something
‘Bout her mother on the hill,
As his fist hit the icebox,
He said he’s going to kill me
If I don’t get out the door
In two seconds flat,
“You unpatriotic,
Rotten doctor Commie rat.”

Well, he threw a Reader’s Digest
At my head and I did run,
I did a somersault
As I seen him get his gun
And crashed through the window
At a hundred miles an hour,
And landed fully blast
In his garden flowers.
Rita said, “Come back!”
As he started to load
The sun was comin’ up
And I was runnin’ down the road.

Well, I don’t figure I’ll be back
There for a spell,
Even though Rita moved away
And got a job in a motel.
He still waits for me,
Constant, on the sly.
He wants to turn me in
To the F.B.I.
Me, I romp and stomp,
Thankful as I romp,
Without freedom of speech,
I might be in the swamp.

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