“Bringing it all back Home” was the first album I was permitted to listen to on my own. Not for any reason other than I had scratched the Sgt. Pepper record previously and was prohibited from putting any records on by myself. So I was allowed to press the “Automatic” button on the turntable and listen to whatever was on there. When no one was home I would go into my brother’s room, turn on the receiver, press the automatic button for the arm to move towards the left and then to rest its needle onto the vinyl.
I would go to lay down with the album cover on my stomach and listen, over and over again him telling stories about everything and everyone around him.
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” As an 8 or 9 year old hearing those words caused me to smile. I thought they were funny. As a 12 year old hearing those words told me what I needed to know in life; don’t take other peoples words as the truth; you go check yourself, live it and feel it. That is how I have tried (failed many times) to live my life. So many times I should have listened to the “weatherman” but I needed to do things my way and got caught in the storm with no shelters in sight. For several weeks I would listen to Side 1; beginning with Johnny in the Basement and ending with Columbus sailing into town. Great songs and I know them all by heart, but to me, what lay waiting on the other side of the record would be life transforming.
One day I had the nerve to switch sides and put the album on side 2. My life changed…
“Mr. Tambourine man.” I closed my eyes and listened to him and I was mesmerized;
Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow…
My brain was on fire and I listened to the song once again, then I let it move ahead to the next song…“Gates of Eden” ends with these lyrics which seduce me with dreams of my own.
At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden
The next song shifted my soul and I am not exaggerating here; I was an 8 or 9 year old kid at the time and the words took me away. The singing and the guitar playing felt as if he was directing it straight to me. I was too young to comprehend the actual meaning of the words; but there was something planted in my brain. I was around 14 years that life is not easy; that life and people are shaped by people who have something to sell or an agenda they want to see realized. Each verse can be broken down as a sentence in the bible; each verse sung by a young man basically saying he is who he is, defines the unhappiness around him – all based on disguises and fears of discovery. Just look at this one verse from, “Its alright Ma (I’m only bleedin)
Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you
You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you
Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue
Perhaps he is saying that the world is such a mess its better off to just blow it up and start again somewhere else. Or possibly its one mans quest to just leave home and the memories behind. The beauty of the lyrics across his entire career; they cannot be defined as black and white.
A snow day somewhere around 1980; I am at home nursing my broken heart with hot chocolate and Yodels when my brother tells me to listen to an album. He puts it on and then leaves me alone in his room, closing the door.
Once again, my reality shifted and my heart was on fire. From the opening guitar and then his voice, “Early one morning the sun was shining…” The album takes you through the different relationships in the the narrator’s lifetimes. From the first song, “Tangled up in Blue” where he basically tells the story of love, love lost and the never ending search for new love. This whole album could have been a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald or even Shakespeare – no boundaries of time periods. Love has no boundaries and time has no business holding loves hand in any way.
In this verse he uses a car as a metaphor for love that has broken down, leaving the two passengers on a road somewhere; one walking East the other walking towards the North West. Read the lyrics below; each word is robust and bursting with emotion.
She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam, I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue
The poetry and the blood poured on the tracks of this album are cathartic for the listener and perhaps for the artist. Think of the titles, “Simple Twist of Fate.” The title alone can inspire tomes.
People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate
Followed by, “You’re a Big Girl Now” where the artist paints a picture of lost love with black paint dripping with red spots from his rawest emotions.
I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh
With a pain that stops and starts
Like a corkscrew to my heart
Ever since we’ve been apart.
“Idiot Wind,” is definitely the centerpiece of this album which was initially recorded acoustically and then re-recorded. There are bootlegs of the original recording called, “Blood on the Tapes,” which has the songs played acoustically, alternative lyrics and tempos.
The original “Idiot Wind,” is a stark recounting of the love and trust that was lost. The words are painful in a toned down manner which cuts to the core. The released version is more of a angrier emotional outburst while the original is more of a introspective remorseful tone.To me they each, the released version and the acoustic version, are expressed in the swings of emotion that occur when love is lost.
I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above
And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.
The next song on the collection, “You’re gonna make me Lonesome when you Go,” recedes back to the relationship towards the end but one all lovers can relate to, especially the closing words.
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go
Meet Me In The Morning is the first song on side 2 – I never fell in love with that song which takes away the perfection of the album (to myself) as released. I prefer the alternate version which was on the original collection of songs, “Call Letter Blues,” which contain the telling words
Well, children cry for mother
I tell them, “Mother took a trip”
Well, I walk on pins and needles
I hope my tongue don’t slip
Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts One of my favorite Dylan songs tells the story of a group of people, all disenchanted with whom they have turned out to be. The Jack of Hearts, Lily, Rosemary and Big Jim. There were Jack of Hearts boys breaking through the wall of the bank, the drunk judge who was sober, the backstage manager and the crowds of people. I always loved this line – so many ways to define it.
Lily washed her face, took her dress off and buried it away
“Has your luck run out?” she laughed at him, “Well, I guess you must
have known it would someday
Be careful not to touch the wall, there’s a brand-new coat of paint
I’m glad to see you’re still alive, you’re lookin’ like a saint”
Down the hallway footsteps were comin’ for the Jack of Hearts
If You See Her, Say Hello is the hangover from the pain of separation. There is a sense of pain and regret but it is tempered with the hope against hope that they will meet again.
Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast
If she’s passin’ back this way, I’m not that hard to find
Tell her she can look me up if she’s got the time
Shelter From The Storm Sometimes you need to wander far away in order to find your way back home. You end up running and searching for the Shelter from the Storm only to open your eyes and see that the shelter is within reach the whole time.
I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
The album ends with Buckets Of Rain buckets of tears; the misery of new found love or is the misery of love lost? The album ends with these lines of acceptance.
Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
I’ll do it for you, honey baby
Can’t you tell?
His most recent collection of original material, an album called, “Tempest,” was released in 2012. Since then he has released two collections of songs from the Sinatra genre which he has done a Dylanesque job with.
In the “Early Roman Kings,” from “Tempest” he sings,
And you’re standing there
Wave your handkerchief
In the air
My bell still rings
I keep my fingers crossed
Like them early Roman kings
“Tempest” where he tells the story of the Titanic through the eyes of several passengers. This song is just as great and well written as anything he has written in his career. My favorite line humanizes one of the men who gives up his seat on a lifeboat after laughing to himself that he never learned to swim.
He never learned to swim
Saw the little crippled child
And he gave his seat to him
Streaming from the East
Death was on the rampage
But his heart was now at peace.
Today, October 13, 2016 Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Any person who doubts whether a musician can be awarded such a prize should sit down and read his book of lyrics which will be released in November. Bob Dylan Lyrics 1961-2012. No writer has touched and changed the world the way Mr. Dylan has. There are generations who will still be listening and deciphering his lyrics forever – Shakespearean for sure. Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, Jack Frost, The Jester and Lucky Wilbury; among his other names has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Roll on Bob, roll on. As he sang for his contemporary John Lennon.
Shine your light
You burned so bright
Roll on, John