Talkin’ World War III Blues


Tim Riley commented that Freewheelin’ needs the comic relief of Talkin’ World War III Blues and Bob Dylan’s Blues to counterbalance the heaviness of Blowin’ in the Wind and Hard Rain. Good point. Dylan’s next album, The Times They Are A’Changin’, consists of one heavy song after another and suffers as a result.

Talkin’ is a clever song about the comic plight of a survivor of an atomic blast. He wanders around the city, lighting his cigarettes on radioactive parking meters. He tries to make contact with fellow survivors. He finds some, but they are afraid of him and run away, which is both depressing and ironic since that this is exactly the fear that caused the war in the first place. The song ends, in a comic fashion, with a plea for understanding and compassion. Along the way, Dylan skewers pop singers, psychiatrists, and anti-communists, among others. Funny stuff.

Todd Harvey notes that Talkin’ is based on Guthrie’s Talking Sailor. Talkin’ was Dylan’s last talking blues in the Guthrie style. Years later he used a variation of this style for The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest, and much later on for Highlands, on the album Time Out of Mind.

A lively version is included on The Bootleg Series Volume 6: Live 1964.

“I looked in the closet and  there was Donovan.”

This tune sounds familiar!

Weird version by Billy Bragg.


Some time ago a crazy dream came to me,
I dreamt I was walkin’ into World War Three,
I went to the doctor the very next day
To see what kinda words he could say.
He said it was a bad dream.
I wouldn’t worry ’bout it none, though,
They were my own dreams and they’re only in my head.

I said, “Hold it, Doc, a World War passed through my brain.”
He said, “Nurse, get your pad, this boy’s insane,”
He grabbed my arm, I said “Ouch!”
As I landed on the psychiatric couch,
He said, “Tell me about it.”

Well, the whole thing started at 3 o’clock fast,
It was all over by quarter past.
I was down in the sewer with some little lover
When I peeked out from a manhole cover
Wondering who turned the lights on.

Well, I got up and walked around
And up and down the lonesome town.
I stood a-wondering which way to go,
I lit a cigarette on a parking meter
And walked on down the road.
It was a normal day.

Well, I rung the fallout shelter bell
And I leaned my head and I gave a yell,
“Give me a string bean, I’m a hungry man.”
A shotgun fired and away I ran.
I don’t blame them too much though,
I know I look funny.

Down at the corner by a hot-dog stand
I seen a man, I said, “Howdy friend,
I guess there’s just us two.”
He screamed a bit and away he flew.
Thought I was a Communist.

Well, I spied a girl and before she could leave,
“Let’s go and play Adam and Eve.”
I took her by the hand and my heart it was thumpin’
When she said, “Hey man, you crazy or sumpin’,
You see what happened last time they started.”

Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown
And there was nobody aroun’,
I got into the driver’s seat
And I drove 42nd Street
In my Cadillac.
Good car to drive after a war.

Well, I remember seein’ some ad,
So I turned on my Conelrad.
But I didn’t pay my Con Ed bill,
So the radio didn’t work so well.
Turned on my player-
It was Rock-A-Day, Johnny singin’,
“Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa,
Our Loves Are Gonna Grow Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah.”

I was feelin’ kinda lonesome and blue,
I needed somebody to talk to.
So I called up the operator of time
Just to hear a voice of some kind.
“When you hear the beep
It will be three o’clock,”
She said that for over an hour
And I hung it up.

Well, the doctor interrupted me just about then,
Sayin, “Hey I’ve been havin’ the same old dreams,
But mine was a little different you see.
I dreamt that the only person left after the war was me.
I didn’t see you around.”

Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody’s having them dreams.
Everybody sees themselves walkin’ around with no one else.
Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
Some of the people can be all right part of the time.
But all the people can’t be all right all the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that.
“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours,”
I said that.

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