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Outlaw Blues

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Commentary

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 According to the records of the the first day of the Bringing It All Back Home recording sessions, Outlaw Blues was originally named California, Dylan rewrote it and re-recorded it the next day as Outlaw Blues. He apparently has never given it any thought since: he’s never played it live. Yet there is much of interest in this seemly throw-away tune. That there is so much to tell tells us something about Dylan’s art.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Robert Shelton thinks that Dylan is trying to satirize the typical blues lyric. Tim Riley calls it “absurdist”. These comments are right on the money. Dylan is having fun with this one, combining his deep knowledge of the blues with his new, beat-inspired, absurdist point of view. Although the lyrics don’t really go anywhere – the final verse takes off in a completely different direction from what came before – there’s a lot of fun to be had along the way.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The first line clues the listener in to what’s going on:

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 “Ain’t it hard to stumble and fall into some funny lagoon”

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 “Ain’t it hard to stumble” is probably borrowed from the very well-known traditional song I’m a Stranger Here, the title of which Dylan would use later in his song Nobody ‘Cept You, released on the Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. Dylan may have learned Stranger from Odetta, a popular folksinger and one of his early influences. Stranger must be a favorite of his, since he again borrowed the phrase, “worried man”, for Dignity and the “saddle” image is used in Country Pie, Unbelievable, Gates of Eden, and Idiot Wind.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 The lyrics are reprinted below (there are many versions).

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 I’m a Stranger Here

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 2 Ain’t it hard to stumble when you’ve got no place to fall?
Ain’t it hard to stumble when you’ve got no place to fall?
In this whole wide world I’ve got no place at all.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 I’m a stranger here, I’m a stranger ev’rywhere.
I would go home but honey, I’m a stranger there.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Hitch up my buggy, saddle up my black mare.
Hitch up my buggy, saddle up my black mare.
Goin’ to find me a fair deal in this world somewhere.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long.
I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long.
It takes a worrled man to sing a worried song.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Baby caught the Katy, she left me a mule to ride.
Baby caught the Katy, she left me a mule to ride.
When that train pulled out that mule laid down and died.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Looked down the track just as far as I could see.
Looked down the track just as far as I could see.
And a little bitty hand kept a-wavin’ back at me.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Here’s another version by the great Richie Havens.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Just for good measure, Dylan also borrowed the “nine below zero” line from blues great Sonny Boy Williamson, who wrote a well-known song with the same name.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 The lyrics are pretty funny. The narrator compares his looks to those of Robert Ford, a member of the outlaw Jesse James’ gang in the late 1800’s. Ford had been arrested for murder, but made an agreement with the governor of Missouri to kill James in return for his freedom and a ten thousand dollar reward. Ford shot James in the back as he was attempting to hang a picture on the wall. Armed with this background information, the second verse is pretty amusing:

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Ain’t gonna hang no picture,
Ain’t gonna hang no picture frame.
Ain’t gonna hang no picture,
Ain’t gonna hang no picture frame.
Well, I might look like Robert Ford
But I feel just like a Jesse James.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 The next verse is one of my favorite of Dylan’s throwaway lines. Some Australian tourist company should develop a advertisement campaign around it:

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Oh, I wish I was on some
Australian mountain range.
I got no reason to be there, but I
Imagine it would be some kind of change.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 The next stanza is just some hipster themes and blues imagery, but also contains a nice couplet that could have been written by one of the blues greats. Maybe it was?

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 2 Don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’,
I just might tell you the truth.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 The final verse really doesn’t seem to relate to anything that came before, but contains a sly reference to the plethora of blues songs with lyrics that evaluate the intrinsic beauty of various shades of skin-tone among black women.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 She’s a brown-skin woman
but I love her
just the same

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Thus, the song winds up right back where it started, paying homage but also poking a little fun of the blues.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 The lyrics of this tune are interesting, but the real story is the new, hard blues sound that Dylan creates. The song really works and is a tribute to the outstanding session players that worked on the recording.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 The White Stripes did a really energetic version.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0


34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Lyrics

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Ain’t it hard to stumble
And land in some funny lagoon?
Ain’t it hard to stumble
And land in some muddy lagoon?
Especially when it’s nine below zero
And three o’clock in the afternoon.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Ain’t gonna hang no picture,
Ain’t gonna hang no picture frame.
Ain’t gonna hang no picture,
Ain’t gonna hang no picture frame.
Well, I might look like Robert Ford
But I feel just like a Jesse James.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Well, I wish I was on some
Australian mountain range.
Oh, I wish I was on some
Australian mountain range.
I got no reason to be there, but I
Imagine it would be some kind of change.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 1 I got my dark sunglasses,
I got for good luck my black tooth.
I got my dark sunglasses,
I’m carryin’ for good luck my black tooth.
Don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’,
I just might tell you the truth.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 1 I got a woman in Jackson,
I ain’t gonna say her name.
I got a woman in Jackson,
I ain’t gonna say her name.
She’s a brown-skin woman,
but I
Love her just the same.

Page 57
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Source: http://www.bobdylancommentaries.com/bringing-it-all-back-home/outlaw-blues/