Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're tryin' to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we're all doin' our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin' you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there's nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman's buff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper their escapades out on the "D" train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it's really him or them that's insane
Louise, she's all right, she's just near
She's delicate and seems like veneer
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna's not here
The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He's sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it's so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze
I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

The peddler now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him
Sayin', "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him"
But like Louise always says
"Ya can't look at much, can ya man?"
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys in the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain


Lyrics submitted by dreambox, edited by Mellow_Harsher, christoforo

Visions of Johanna song meanings
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  • +5
    General Comment"A song that never really ends, about a girl he's never really gonna find, in a place that he'll never really leave."

    "[a song] about being eternally, existentially, stuck in the same place."

    yep.
    AllynTon June 21, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentBest song ever wrote and played in my view. KNow everything about it might post it one day. ONe of Dylans Favs as well.
    dreamboxon March 10, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI would love for Mr. Dylan to just stop being so closed and tell us how he came up with this song. Is it ramblings of a drug induced night? Is it about someone? Or was he just playing with words?
    What ever it is about or not, it is simply grandiose!

    "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" Holy fuck! What a line, what a line.
    serge_67on November 17, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is about the difference between imagined love, the singer's ideal, and what he really finds in the world. Of course, it is in the frame work of the romantic ideal - as if God's love came to us that way of necessity.
    Stanza 1 - He wants to love and be loved, so he settles for someone he can have, as opposed to what he envisions.
    Stanza 2 - There's always hookers and sluts, but he wants someone he "loves", so he'll just have to take Louise. You get the idea he has an actress or TV personality in mind - or maybe the electricity is all in his mind. Anyway, he's clearly lost in his fantasy.

    3 - Hey, how can this other guy be her true love, when I am? He can't quite seem to solve the puzzle, although the answer is that this girl isn't really Johanna either.

    4- Women have these same issues, and, what's worse, they get fat, grow facial hair and become ugly and one day you're at the Louvre with them and realize your not in love with them after all! What you can imagine is always going to out do what is real. And, you can never have it. Not if you live forever. Instead, living forever in separation from what you desire would probably really suck, since life really just goes down hill.

    5- People are all trying to game one another in this thing they call love. They leach off one another for affection, all the while looking for something better, even when they point that out to you. And, in case you haven't noticed, you can look everywhere, Jesus symbols and all, and you ain't gonna find Johanna. However, and here's the hard part to swallow, he claims that belief in Johanna is what is really real, that it represents faith, and it is the only thing that is enduring. Skeleton keys open all the doors, and he's saying that this song has opened the door that shows you that "Beauty is truth and Truth is Beauty".
    As a born-again Christian, I disagree that that is all you know on earth, and all you need to know. But I think it's a great and powerful song, nonetheless.
    montresoron November 18, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think the song is about wanting something you can't have and everything around you reminds you of it.

    1 Stanza- if you read over it, it's metaphors for emptiness: lights flickering in the opposite hall, the heat pipes are making noise, and the country music station. Country music is mostly sad and depressing; when he says there's nothing to turn off, he means there's nothing that he hasn't heard or felt for himself.

    2 Stanza- The girls playing blindman's bluff is kind of like the women are just playing around with men without the men knowing it, so in a way they're blind. He refers to Louise as the mirror. When he looks at her, he see's his misery in her because she reminds him of Johanna. Electricy is powerful and something hard to explain. He can't really explain the look on Louise's face.

    3 Stanza- He's talking to Johanna's boyfriend and everytime he mentions her to him he trys to change the subject. He's useless to him.

    4 Stanza- the museum is his memories. Johanna makes his good times hurt to remember.

    5 Stanza- People let go of the things they once loved, and it's upsetting. "The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain." Music takes you anywhere you want to go and it controls the way you feel sometimes, but really the memory of Johanna is all that he has left.

    -increase the peace
    skakaylaon June 28, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Commentwhen i first heard this song, my first thought was he was describing a mental institution. there were several reasons behind this:

    "In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman's bluff with the key chain"

    "We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
    Ask himself if it's him or them that's really insane"

    The "jelly-faced" women, the one with the mustache who "can't find her knees"

    "Muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall"

    and the entire last verse. it sounds like louise is taking care of a patient. it also talks about an "empty cage" and "skeleton keys."

    i dunno that was just my first impression. I've been told that there is a word in Hebrew, "Gehenna," that refers to the afterlife. That could make the line "infinity goes up on trial" make more sense. he could be asking, is there an afterlife? does anything last forever?

    just some random thoughts of mine, could be completely off. dylan's a hell of a writer, isnt he.
    xFireandIcexon February 06, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentOpening line - His creative drive. The songs he can't get out of his head.

    He's the lover. Louise is a distraction (his rational side). Johanna is an unachievable ideal (his irrational side). Not a girl, but greatness.

    blindman's bluff - the game of creating art. The key to the ideal/art, being illusive.

    The insanity is his creative side, like Van Gogh. The irrational as opposed to the rational. Johanna not there - doubting his ability to achieve true greatness. Louise is like a mirror, being less than, and revealing that about himself. The "Visions" have taken his place - obsessed by it.

    Little boy lost....etc - the artist/himself. He's being a bit facetious. Taking a stab at himself. Farewell kiss - again he can't catch her/it.

    Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial (what a line!)
    But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues, You can tell by the way she smiles
    This whole stanza bringing into question many things regarding these issues - the museums and who decides what the ideal is? What a masterpiece is? Are they in the hotel with him (or da Vinci) when he's driven mad my his creativity? Do they have the right to then judge it, after all he's been through? There's a bit of pride here (and rightfully so). That's what Mona's (da Vinci) smirking about. Mona Lisa is also a nice metaphor - she's alluring and mysterious, like that creative ideal, never achieved. She symbolizes the ideal, a masterpiece by all standards, yet never fully understood. Bob likes to fancy himself the same. Modona "not showing" later in the song is the same thing, an unachieved ideal.

    "Name me someone that's not a parasite", "We see this empty cage now corrode", "He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed" and "While my conscience explodes" - All art comes from somewhere. Takes influence. Things being returned which were owed and his conscious exploding mean the things he rips off, however he's uncomfortable about it. He's obsessed with the ideal, the perfect song, art, etc.

    OOOOOR....the song could be a drug induced rant. Nah!!!!! He deserves more credit than that.

    If Bob DID (like some here were begging for) explain this or any other song, it would for sure be a disappointment. He knows that. That's why he doesn't tell. Picasso never engaged in the details of what cubism was about, he knew not to. And for christ's sake, this is "poetry", it's interpretive. That's the point. If he wanted to say something specific he'd write an essay.
    RVCon December 06, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain"

    Since is the conclusion to the song I am feeling it is an image of the entire song wrapped into one phrase. The harmonicas representing himself, the skeleton keys representing the accessibility to the Louise figure directly relating to the ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face, and the rain of course, which Louise is daring him to defy but can't, and all that's left is the elusive Johanna.
    raginggloryon September 29, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWell, if you go the museum, you will see jelly-faced women, and they likely will have signs of material wealth (jewels) hanging from their heads. Binoculars makes me think of another activity I see these people at viewing art, that is where infinity goes up on trial - plays/opera. He menans to label them as common people dressed up like they should be something more who are merely observing the action of the meaningful characters. Of course, the most meaningful character, Joanna, doesn't even appear. In fact, you are supposed to wonder if she even exists. So, you are supposed to compare these women to the Mona Lisa - who you desire, and they desire to be. you can react as you see fit - cry, laugh, sneer at the absurdity of it all........
    montresoron December 21, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAgreed. Not to be esoteric or anything, but what I was getting at was that this is the closest Dylan ever got to attaining meaning through Keatsian/or Rimbaudian synesthesia... that is to say, the imagery coupled with the sounds of the words (as opposed to the words themselves alone) provoke the listener to create meaning. I did not say it was 'about a painting' (although it may be so, in part)... I said that it IS a painting.

    Years later, around the time of 'Blood on the Tracks', Dylan said that he had finally learned to 'recreate consciously what [he] used to be able to do unconsciously' with his writing.

    Much of this song was created unconsciously.
    elephant_rangeon April 04, 2005   Link

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