"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" as written by and Bob Dylan....
When you're lost in the rain in Juarez when it's Easter time, too
And your gravity fails and negativity don't pull you through
Don't put on any airs when you're down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there and they really make a mess outta you

Now, if you see Saint Annie, please tell her thanks a lot
I cannot move, my fingers are all in a knot
I don't have the strength to get up and take another shot
And my best friend, my doctor, won't even say what it is I've got

Sweet Melinda, the peasants call her the goddess of gloom
She speaks good English and she invites you up into her room
And you're so kind and careful not to go to her too soon
And she takes your voice and leaves you howling at the moon

Up on Housing Project Hill, it's either fortune or fame
You must pick one or the other, though neither of them are to be what they claim
If you're lookin' to get silly, you better go back to from where you came
Because the cops don't need you, and man, they expect the same

Now, all the authorities, they just stand around and boast
How they blackmailed the sergeant-at-arms into leaving his post
And picking up Angel, who just arrived here from the coast
Who looked so fine at first but left looking just like a ghost

I started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff
Everybody said they'd stand behind me when the game got rough
But the joke was on me, there was nobody even there to bluff
I'm going back to New York City, I do believe I've had enough


Lyrics submitted by ZinbobDan, edited by LogLaddie

"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

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Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues song meanings
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  • +5
    My InterpretationI think this is a morality tale, which is about redemption and sin. The beginning has "lost in the rain" and "it's Easter time too" (the story of the resurrection - redemption from sin) and ends with "I'm going back to New York city, I do believe I've had enough". It is like the story of the prodigal son, he comes to his senses and returns to his father after wasting all his money on prostitutes. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you." New York (Big Apple) is a metaphor for the garden of Eden (Greenwich Village?)- the place before the fall, a return to innocence.

    All the verses are detailing the archetypal temptations/sins that a person can succumb to: despair =gravity fails/negativity, Pride = Don't put on any airs, greed/lust=hungry women, lethargy=I cannot move/My fingers are all in a knot/don't have the strength, superstition=[the gypsy soothsayer in her room] the peasants call her the goddess of gloom, lack of faith=steals your voice (Zechariah lost his voice when he refused to believe), paganism/lust=howling at the moon, It's either fortune or fame=Satan's temptations of Jesus, idleness=just stand around, pride/vanity=boast, corruption=blackmail, and addiction=I started out on burgundy But soon hit the harder stuff. Salvation is found by becoming true to oneself (the truth will set you free): no one there to call my bluff, which is a poker reference. When no one is around to ask you to reveal your hand, you can still see your own cards, you can't fool yourself. It ends with faith "I do believe I've had enough".

    Why is being lost being played off against it being Easter time too? Easter time is about being found/saved. Also, Juarez is across from El Paso, the boundary between Mexico and the US - it an image of not knowing one's borders/boundaries and descending into the valley in between. The song is about forgetting about one's limits and suffering the consequences (lost in the rain/you're down/really make a mess out of you/I cannot move/leaves you howling at the moon (insane?)/the joke was on me There was nobody even there to call my bluff (losing one's real friends).

    Of course, it may have been primarily influenced by other stories, that were in turn influenced by these concepts.
    melco99on December 20, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI believe the title is an allusion to Rimbaud's "My Bohemian Life": "My only pair of trousers had a big hole./Tom Thumb in a daze, I sowed rhymes". The poem also has a line sometimes translated as "strong Burgundy" (un vin de vigueur). This leads me to believe that this song is a response to the concept of "la vie boheme" that was very popular in the 1960s. Dylan goes through a laundry list of bohemian artist cliches; drugs, prostitution, drinking, rejection of money, antagonistic relationship with the police, before eventually deciding, in the final lines to leave it all and go back to New York.
    chairmanroflmaoon February 28, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYou can't beat songs about hookers! I love the opening piano riff too.
    DJacques75on May 24, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's a famous childeren story about a poor kid with a lot of brothers. And their parents try yo get rid of them by leaving them lost in the city. Tom Thumb, smart fellow, had suspected something funny was goin' on so he left breadcrumbs all over the trail from their house. This piece of breath was, of course, their only meal. So the brothers go back where their parents were crying in regret for leaving them. They get together and lived happily ever after. Ta - da!!!

    The title speaks about getting lost in some weird adventures and findiig your way back. The Saint Annies, Melissas, Rue Morgues etc. are, once again, nicknames that Dylan uses to speak about the people he meets and the things he lives. But he likes to "re-arrange their faces and give them all another name" to protect his own privacy and to have a little fun.
    Great great great underestimated song. Great version by Neil Young on the 30th anniversary

    .... and she takes your voice....
    cavernon March 14, 2007   Link
  • +1
    MemoryJuarez is the Mexican border town across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. In the mid-1960s at the time Dylan wrote this song, the town was famous for its bars and whorehouses. College students from schools throughout the Southwest went there to drink tequila and cheer each other one as they got drunk but yelling "bite that lime." There was a ritual to getting drunk on tequila at that time. The Army guys were from nearby Fort Bliss. Most had just finished basic training, were about 18 years old and there to get drunk and get laid before shipping out to Vietnam. If you stayed there for more than a few days, the drinking and whoring wore you out. The best lines that give it meaning are near the end when he mentions that Angel (presumably, a Hell's Angel biker from California) arrived from the coast and left three days later looking like a ghost. Given their reputation as drinkers and battlers, you get the idea that Juarez could drain every bit of life out of anyone. And it would.
    Blue51on September 05, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionI think it is about the pressures and temptations and betrayal of fame, and those surrounding you abusing and misleading your fame. Fame as femme fatale siren, as an enemy in friend's clothing, and 'authorities' of state, arts, society, race all pushing him one way or the other as a poster boy example and nexus of something he reluctantly performed as a bewildered monkey. And, Dyaln as out of place, imposter like, feeling inadequate where he wants redemption (or even more so, some salvation escape rather than form of forgiveness) from fame and change to just happen; but, alas, redemption doesn't just 'happen.' He is left sucking his thumb, consumed with worries and regrets and second guessing himself and everyone in his life--and to come.

    This period was the time when dylan in fact was going through second guessing himself and others motivations---fortunes and fame and artistic motivations. And, he grew tired of being a poster boy for civil rights, folk, beats, and even those his enemies and higher authorities deemed as prime example of changing rebellious youth culture. Moreover, he did feel like an imposter, as folkie, beat, civil rights, and 'rebellious' archetypes and fountainhead leader.

    Issues of trust, fame, redemption, regret etc are all loosely a part of the dylanology landscape, as Hicks and others have greatly decoded and discussed in their books on the subject....definitely not an explicit elliot or joyce or other poetic homage here though.....all in my opinion of course, which is what is great about bobby d--his lyrics and his mythic mystery of veiling his intentions and meanings, and guarding his personal life.
    blizon October 20, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGod I love this song. Play it on guitar all the time. First song I ever played on guitar for my wife when we were dating.

    Talking about being away from home and everything goes wrong. Screw it at the end...go back home.
    jersey73on October 18, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Live '66 version is the BEST!
    HibbingismyHolyLandon December 13, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwell as with everything everyone brings in their own views. i have said this before but some of dylan's 60's stuff is probably drug induced ramblings and he got a kick out of people trying to figure out what he is trying to convey. But i shall stab at it with what it means to me. to me it is talking about how women girls whatever you wish to call them, can be flirtatious and will just play with you like a toy while you are doped up and being in love. I am surprised that this hasn't been ripped to shreds.
    riderofwaveson February 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRipped to shreds? At least you didn't COMPLETELY dismiss it as some 'drug induced rambling' like so many other people do when trying to understand poetry and whatnot. Amen, HibbingismyHolyLand. Actually, I'm listening to that version as I'm typing this. LOVE it! LOVE Dylan!
    Squevenon March 29, 2006   Link

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