Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sorry Bob Dylan

Someone Anonymous commented that he/ she didn't feel that Bob Dylan didn't mean some of his lyrics. Well, Anonymous, congratulations for getting to No. 43 on my list of 100 things. It was hard for even me to get there. Still, these are few of the lyrics which I feel Bob Dylan could not really have meant. Now, please note that most of these songs are my favourites.

1. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

With your childhood flames on your midnight rug,
And your Spanish manners and your mother's drugs,
And your cowboy mouth and your curfew plugs,
Who among them do you think could resist you?

2. 4th Time Around

She screamed till her face got so red
Then she fell on the floor,
And I covered her up and then
Thought I'd go look through her drawer.

I love these songs, but these are just so, so sad. The above is just an example. I said this in context of Chronicles I, mostly because BD didn't really seem so bitter and so sad or so vicious. Chronicles made me think of BD as a family man and a happy one at that, so I can't really tie the lyrics to the book.


At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello again. Just to clarify, I was surprised that you thought Dylan didn't mean *most* of his lyrics, not *some* of it.

If you say that in a 44-year career, he wrote a few lines or verses he didn’t mean, I can’t help but agree with you. We all have talked falsely when the hour may or may not have been getting late, and there is no reason for me to believe that Dylan is any different.

But to say that that is largely true of most of everything he wrote is surely not right, is it? At least, to me, it doesn’t seem to be. More often than not, the words rang true and glowed like burning coal. Has your experience been different?

You’ve cited two verses. I’m not sure I understand what’s so bitter or sad or vicious about them but for the sake of argument, if I were to suppose they were indeed what you claim them to be, it’s still not clear to me how you feel that he didn’t mean them at the time.

Both of these songs were written in 1966 when Dylan was 25. Chronicles was written almost 40 years later. Are you saying that Dylan didn’t mean the words he wrote then because he’s a “happy family man” now?

Sad Eyed Lady is an exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m not sure if there is much meaning to be found there or indeed, if much meaning has been intended. It has always struck me more as a wash of words and sound, the textures of which are more important than their meaning. Even the title (a play on Sara Lowndes) points to that.

Fourth Time Around is a tongue-in-cheek retelling of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood. I think the content of the song reflects the context of the times. In 1966, The Beatles were the darlings of mainstream pop culture. This was before McCartney had spoken of their LSD experiences or Lennon had gone naked on the Two Virgins cover. They were safe and lovable, singing of love won and lost. The kids loved them but also, their parents liked them. Dylan, on the other hand, was a revolutionary, a scruffed-up, telling-it-like-it-is troubadour who spoke of flesh-coloured Christs and kingdoms of Experience. When he sings his version of Norwegian Wood, it is not just another song but a come-on to The Beatles, a veiled invitation to drop their (until then) more juvenile concerns. In this light, you’ll find his telling of the tale is necessarily darker.

Of course, there's no way we can argue on whether he meant any particular verse or not. Who is to say what went through his mind when he wrote something? Not you, not I, nor any of the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse.

With peace, tranquillity and goodwill,


At 11:57 AM, Blogger Plumpernickel said...

Ah! I thought it was you!
Well, I thought that chronicles did relate to the first part of his life, anyway, I need to read it again.

I didn't know the Norwegian wood connection, but then I consciously dont look for connections because I like enjoying Dylan my own way.

As I said, meaning or no meaning, each song is beautiful.


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