Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block.
I'd ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don't talk.
And the ladies treat me kindly
And they furnish me with tape,
But deep inside my heart
I know I can't escape.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Well, Shakespeare, he's in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she's talked,
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line.
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine.
An' I said, "Oh, I didn't know that,
But then again, there's only one I've met
An' he just smoked my eyelids
An' punched my cigarette."
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Grandpa died last week
And now he's buried in the rocks,
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen,
I knew he'd lost control
When he built a fire on Main Street
And shot it full of holes.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Now the senator came down here
Showing ev'ryone his gun,
Handing out free tickets
To the wedding of his son.
An' me, I nearly got busted
An' wouldn't it be my luck
To get caught without a ticket
And be discovered beneath a truck.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Now the preacher looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of headlines
Stapled to his chest.
But he cursed me when I proved it to him,
Then I whispered, "Not even you can hide.
You see, you're just like me,
I hope you're satisfied."
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, "Jump right in."
The one was Texas medicine,
The other was just railroad gin.
An' like a fool I mixed them
An' it strangled up my mind,
An' now people just get uglier
An' I have no sense of time.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon,
Where I can watch her waltz for free
'Neath her Panamanian moon.
An' I say, "Aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante."
An' she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want."
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.
An' here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.


Lyrics submitted by roger wilco, edited by Mellow_Harsher, Roxy24


Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again song meanings
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  • +5
    General Comment"Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again"
    Oh, the ragman draws circles
    Up and down the block
    I'd ask him what the matter was
    But I know that he don't talk
    And the ladies treat me kindly
    And furnish me with tape
    But deep inside my heart
    I know I can't escape
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.
    The Ragman is an interesting character. He’s silent, drawing circles up and down the block. Is he the artist – unwilling to “talk” about his art and meaning? The ladies treat the speaker kindly, but their kindness involves tape, which can be sticky and restraining. Interesting image in view of the speaker’s comment that he’s “stuck” inside of Mobile.


    Well Shakespeare he's in the alley
    With his pointed shoes and his bells
    Speaking to some French girl
    Who says she knows me well
    And I would send a message
    To find out if she's talked
    But the post office has been stolen
    And the mailbox is locked
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.

    Shakespeare could represent the artist’s desire to move into more “literary” territory (away from folk songs and toward poetry?) The French girl believes she knows the speaker very well, yet he is unable to communicate with her any longer (no post office) – he’s in a new place (stuck or otherwise).

    Mona tried to tell me
    To stay away from the train line
    She said that all the railroad men
    Just drink up your blood like wine
    And I said "Oh I didn't know that
    But then again there's only one I've met
    And he just smoked my eyelids
    And punched my cigarette"
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.
    Is Mona the French girl? Is she associated with a disconnected past? She’s sees the railroad men of his current life (Mobile – which can suggest movement) as a threat – she advises that he “stay away from the train line.” The train can symbolize movement and change, and the Mona who is not part of the speaker’s transformation. Rather than drink his blood his blood like wine (a troubling Christ image – is the artist being crucified by those who venerated his earlier incarnation?) they smoke his eyelids! This odd, somewhat druggy image reinforces the idea that things are not what they used to be; he’s now in a world Mona could never understand.

    Grandpa died last week
    And now he's buried in the rocks
    But everybody still talks about
    How badly they were shocked
    But me, I expected it to happen
    I knew he'd lost control
    When he built a fire on Main Street
    And shot it full of holes
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.
    Grandpa is a common figure in folklore (and folk music), and as an aging person also represents the past (and the wisdom of the past). The speaker of the song wasn’t shocked at his death – he expected it. Transformative change is already here. Grandpa’s attempt to shoot and burn the new order (the new art? The new society of the 1960s? Electric music?) are the reason for his extinction.

    Now the senator came down here
    Showing ev'ryone his gun
    Handing out free tickets
    To the wedding of his son
    And me, I nearly get busted
    And wouldn't it be my luck
    To get caught without a ticket
    And be discovered beneath a truck
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.
    I’m thinking the Senator is part of the old order, asserting his power (the gun) and turning his son’s wedding into a spectacle with tickets. He’s commercializing something that should be intimate and real. Even a wedding, though, could be seen as a dated ritual in this new, bizarre world we’re seeing. “Caught without a ticket” is what happens to railroad bums riding the rails. The fact that it’s now a truck (perhaps a more advanced technology) is just another indication of the displacement of tradition.


    Now the preacher looked so baffled
    When I asked him why he dressed
    With twenty pounds of headlines
    Stapled to his chest
    But he cursed me when I proved it to him
    Then I whispered, "Not even you can hide
    You see, you're just like me
    I hope you're satisfied"
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.
    Here’s more change. The preacher takes his place alongside Grandpa and the senator as a figure who no longer makes sense. His spiritual life is corrupt – he seeks publicity and headlines. He doesn’t bless the song’s narrator but curses him. The speaker underscores his phoniness, telling him “you’re just like me?” “Just like me” here suggests, lost - in a period of revolutionary change, in a place where old systems (family politics, religion) no longer have a lock on the “truth,” a place of poetic disassociation, dream-reality, getting high and no longer fitting into an established order.

    Now the rainman gave me two cures
    Then he said, "Jump right in"
    The one was Texas medicine
    The other was just railroad gin
    And like a fool I mixed them
    And it strangled up my mind
    And now, people just get uglier
    And I have no sense of time
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.
    I see the “rainman” as a medicine man or shaman encouraging a new vision: “Jump right in.” he says. When the speaker drinks the “cures” he has a somewhat psychedelic experience in which time dissolves and people look “uglier.” His mind is strangled by the reality shift he perceives. (I think it’s humorous that people don’t get “ugly” but instead get “uglier!”)

    When Ruthie says come see her
    In her honky-tonk lagoon
    Where I can watch her waltz for free
    'Neath her Panamanian moon
    And I say, "Aw come on now
    You know you know about my debutante"
    And she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need
    But I know what you want"
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.

    Ruthie is part of the new reality – the debutante part of the old. The Id is in revolt against the superego.


    Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
    Where the neon madmen climb
    They all fall there so perfectly
    It all seems so well timed
    And here I sit so patiently
    Waiting to find out what price
    You have to pay to get out of
    Going through all these things twice
    Oh, Mama, is this really the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.

    The image of bricks falling so perfectly is the central image here. Is the narrator standing outside of reality observing things over which he has no control? A place where madmen climb (aspire and climb to power?)? Yes. That disconnect and powerlessness is certainly there. One can’t help but notice, though, that out chaos and change, out of dream-like and sometimes troubling images comes this beautiful song. The song’s imagery can appear random on first listening, but it comes to make artistic sense, to be a rich and provocative statement about both the positive and negative aspects of radical change whether in society, in music or in consciousness. The artist lays the words and verses of the song on Grand Street (no longer on Main Street) like the perfectly fallen bricks. He creates art from chaos, beauty from meaninglessness, understanding from disorientation.
    Grand Street is a place of magic and beauty. The narrator is still stuck in the mundane world, still struggling through the change of Mobile, but nearing Memphis, the longed-for place of artistic beauty and truth.
    bookmnon March 16, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Commentlisten you guys, this song is about the circus his world turned into once he went electric. All chaotic and surreal. Around this era many songs are about the same thing, so don't let them trick you into any other b.s.
    Anyway, Mobile is a southern town, I think in Alabama,i.e. folk music
    Memphis, i.e. Elvis, i.e. rock n' roll
    So he's stuck in the middle of both tendencies
    Great concept, great song
    cavernon February 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm not sure what it means, but I love the images. The line about the railroad man is a reference to the mountain ballad "A Mole in the Ground," sung by Bascom Lamar Lunsford: "I don't like a railroad man./A railroad man, he'll kill kill you when he can,/And he'll drink up your blood like wine." And then Dylan follows it with the surreal "An' he just smoked my eyelids/An' punched my cigarette."
    Brilliant.
    gershomon June 16, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentscotch & worstishire sauce = texas medicine
    Cider & tomato juice = railroad gin
    edrebberon May 28, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentanybody have a clue on the dead grandpa?
    difficult song
    Zwinkon October 15, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwell, i think it's about being stuck in a cycle, and that everything is pretty much the same no matter what.

    "i know i can't escape"- he can't escape this cycle and is basically stuck doing the same thing (and a mobile just turns round and round always playing the same song).

    just my interpretation, i don't know.
    jordynsaysrawron June 19, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHas anyone else noticed that this is the second occurence of a French girl in an alley?

    See Bob Dylan's 115th Dream:
    "They asked me for some collateral
    And I pulled down my pants
    They threw me in the alley
    When up comes this girl from France..."

    Both great songs, full of humour and some great Dylanisms.
    mjfoleyon July 01, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Punched my cigarette" is a reference to Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, who smoked his cigarettes using an unorthodox fist-grip. I read this in the excellent book "The Mansion On the Hill" by Fred Goodman. This book describes the birth of the modern music industry, focusing on the business side of the rises of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
    PaulAnkaon July 14, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLike all of Dylan's songs, the lyrics are overdetermined, and can be interpreted numerous ways. I agree that the seventh verse (about the Texas medicine and the railroad gin) is probably a reference to drugs; I always assumed "Texas medicine" referred to indigenous hallucinogens (i.e., peyote cactus buttons, source of mescaline, or psilocybe-genus mushrooms, source of psilocybin) and that "railroad gin" referred to cheap booze of some kind (possibly the notorious "ginger jake," a harsh alcoholic beverage favored by hoboes and tramps for decades because of its low-cost high, but with all kinds of nasty side-effects). I'd sure like to know who "grandpa" was, too. Some thought it might refer to Dylan's idol Woody Guthrie, then slowly dying of Huntington's Disease in a New York City nursing home, but Guthrie did not die until 1967, and Blonde on Blonde was released( just in time for Dylan's 25th birthday) in May 1966. Similarly the hypothesizing about MLK; this song was written 1965-66, and MLK was not murdered until 1968 (admittedly in Memphis). Some of the lyrics were eerily prophetic about the marketing of right-wing politics: the gun-flashing senator in verse five presages all the politicians, in thrall to the gun lobby, who block meaningful handgun control; and the cursing, 20-lb.-headline laden TV preacher in the following verse shows Dylan was enormously prescient about the marketing of holier-than-thou right-wing fundamentalist religion in politics. I do agree that this was a tumultuous time for Dylan, starting in 1964 when he began to distance himself from the "purist" late '50s-early '60s left-wing/protest/acoustic guitar coffee house folkie scene, retreated to Northern California to smoke a lot of weed, drop a lot of psychedelics, write songs, and carouse with Joan Baez, continuing with the rapid-fire releases of Bringing It All Back Home (May 1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (the following August), with his notorious "electric" appearance at Newport in between, constant touring, stopovers in England where he hung out with (and took drugs and consumed vast quantities of alcohol with) the Beatles, especially John Lennon, then the release of Blonde on Blonde, the first double album in commercial rock and roll, and, just as the counterculture was crossing over from the pages of alternative newspapers to the front pages of mainstream newspapers and Time, Life, and Look magazines, he has a motorcycle accident, mid-summer 1966, is AWOL throughout the so-called "summer of love" in 1967 and the Monterey Pop Festival, and doesn't reemerge until the end of 1967, with, of all things, a back-to-acoustic folk/blues/country-roots album, John Wesley Harding, thus presaging the soon-to-come country rock trend, while most "hipsters" were still immersed in psychedelia. "Stuck Inside of Mobile..." reflects all this tumult as Dylan is still living it and in the midst of it, before that motorcycle "accident" and the quasi-reclusive retreat to upstate New York.
    mbrachmanon November 10, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDylan's lyrics follow a weird rule of "twisted" perspective. The thing in a way makes his songs so present.

    In these song's lines is built a portray of an abnormal society yet one knows that is only the poetic perspective that makes the things to seem so deviated.

    These song is about Freedom and how the Freedom can be lost. Each verse represents different lost freedoms. freedom of free-speaking-your-thoughts, freedom of being a man *before becoming addicted to sex*, freedom to change the world...Jfk was shot right in the street *because he made public the existence of illuminati - grandpa*, freedom of an artist *rainman means the industry which basically kills the artists ...literally, and spiritually by giving them the right to choose between bad and worst...and i'm going to watch a movie now and I stop here...Stuck inside a mobile.... means that we are badly f***ed and even if we realised that it'd be too late anyway for a change.

    Dylan was a courageous man for writing this song.
    redblueg191reenon November 23, 2011   Link

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