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Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna Lyrics 5 months ago
I find when trying to understand a meaning to Dylan\'s songs, especially one like this, two great mistakes are made. The first is much of the meaning is in the musical "mood", how does the style and music inform the song because Dylan\'s surrealistic lyrics are often stream of consciousness. Thus, for example, both Highway 61 Revisited (song) and Tombstone Blues are wild, nearly out of control pace, cacophonic. The music as well as lyrics mirror the insanity of the landscape seen by the author. Desolation row, conversely, is laconic, weary, moving like a slow river as sanctuary is sought from that insanity.\n\nBut (two), a song, especially in these most formative albums, has to be seen **in context** of the entire album. They are part of an overall mood, a stance, a perspective. Thus while the album Highway 6 Revisited, which preceded Blonde on Blonde, was a savage all out assault on the horrors of conventional society ("Jack the Ripper sits sits at the head of the Chamber of Commerce".), Blonde on Blonde is a surrender to that existential emptiness. Where in Desolation Row, there is sanctuary in which to view the crazy menagerie, here there is none. One is now trapped within it.\n\nSong after song reflects existential despair, from the angst of the jaunty "I Want You", to the anguish of "Just Like a woman", the sarcasm of "Absolutely Sweet Marie" and "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" to the bitter anger of "Sooner or Later". The album, except for the outlier "Sad eyed Lady of the Lowlands" is bookended by two truly great songs that reflect this despair, "Stuck inside of Mobile" with its quasi ballad structure, and "Visions of Johanna". So in order to more understand this song, this context is necessary, for it was birthed *within* this psychological framework.\n\nAs many have pointed out, VOJ contrasts two worlds, or archetypical energies, the barren, empty world of modern life, and something higher, fulfilling, maybe ethereal. These are the "Visons of Johanna" which haunt the singer, "conquer my mind", "have now taken my place", "kept me up past the dawn", "make it all seem so cruel", " are now all that remain". As in "Stuck Inside of Mobile", the narrator is trapped in this barren landscape, and there is something he has been exposed to that inspires a deeper yearning, a longing for something he cannot attain. Strangely, this mirrors the same yearning in a much earlier, great song, although there the sense of futility was not present. That song is "Mr. Tambourine Man"\n\n"And if you hear vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme\nTo your tambourine in time\nIt\'s just a ragged clown behind\nI wouldn\'t pay it any mind\nIt\'s just a shadow you\'re seeing that he\'s chasing"\n\n"Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky\nWith one hand waving free\nSilhouetted by the sea\nCircled by the circus sands\nWith all memory and fate\nDriven deep beneath the waves\nLet me forget about today until tomorrow."\n\nI am not going to go into every symbol and image in VOJ and others have had some very good insights but certain ones stand out. Also, there is dichotomy whether Johanna is a literal person and he mourns her loss or she stands for something else, a higher reality. So is it Visions OF Johanna (a person) or (the) VISIONS of Johanna, a world view. I personally relate to the latter. I do think "Johanna" is Joan Baez, but unlike Dylan, she never gave up her idealism and activism. So this idealism, this connection to a higher reality haunts Dylan which he cannot shake. Is there a literal piece here about their relationship? Maybe. But I think these ideals, these "Visions" are what inform the song\'s core.\n\nRight off the bat, the landscape is exposed \n" We sit here stranded, though we\'re all doin\' our best to _deny it_"\n\nLouise is the carnal, the earthy. \n\n"And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin\' you to defy it"\n\nRain for Dylan is a symbol of sorrow, of grief, of loss"\n"Tonight as I stand inside the rain"-Just Like a Woman\n"Buckets of Rain, Buckets of Tears"\n"the *rain man* gave me two cures, Then he said, “Jump right in”\n"Rainy Day Women"\n"The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain"\n"Shelter From the Storm"\n"A *Hard Rain\'s Gonna Fall"\n"clouds so swift, *rain won\'t lift*\n"If not for you, My sky would fall, **Rain would gather too.**\n"I stood unwound beneath the skies And clouds unbound by laws. The **cryin’ rain** like a trumpet sang,, And asked for no applause."\n\nRain appears in 40 Dylan songs. So here all "Louise can offer him is a "handful of rain" (sorrow) and tempts him to "defy it".\n\nI never understood "ghost of electricity" until recently. The modern world is completely upheld by electricity. Except for lightening, there is no electricity in nature, the natural world. For Louise as the material modern world,\n \n"The ghost of \'lectricity howls in the bones of her face". \n\nElectricity is a ghost, an all encompassing phantom that envelops her and everyone in this barren world, complete with meaningless radios, flickering lights,, and a night watchman in an empty lot clicking a flashlight.\n\nI will finish this later

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Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker Lyrics 4 years ago
@[LouiseLailah:27684] I think you are being too literal. Cohen was not particularly concerned with Judaism and his feelings were more Universal than just one event.

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Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker Lyrics 4 years ago
@[jwinterscom:27683] See my reply above. I think the point is there is no point, except deep feeling.. Cohen always had a nihilistic streak and this is one of the most profound songs I ever ever heard concerning a "loving God", yet the cruelty and Evil in the world. He pulls no punches
"A million candles burning for the help that never came
A million candles burning for the love that never came"

He can't comprehend this. Religion makes no sense to him yet he uses religious terms to frame his profound rage and inability to understand. Contrast this with Dylan's "every Grain of Sand". (who knows what Dylan thinks now, he changes his mind so much.)

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Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker Lyrics 4 years ago
@[hln:27682] You are projecting your Christian POV all over this song. Cohen's lyrics must be taken in context of all his other work. You can't take one song and project all this stuff in it. Cohen never had a traditional religious POV and takes God and life to task in many songs, especially later in life. This is a movement that flows effortlessly but in a darker direction from his previous work.. Cohen inverts scripture to show its absurdity, not its glory. He NEVER had a traditional bone in his body concerning God.. Otherwise why have Jesus' death be futile in Suzanne? Why write "Closing Time" and "Everybody Knows" which take big time shots at the idea of a benevolent Divine plan?

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Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker Lyrics 4 years ago
@[Hlloyge:27681] This is not the first time Cohen has had ambiguity or a beef with God. As early as Suzanne Cohen expressed issues with easy answers.
Jesus 'crucifixion is seen as futile.

"But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone"

But he contrasts this lens with a song like "Sisters of Mercy".

As he gets older he gets bolder. "Everybody knows" is quite nihilistic.

In Closing Time he writes

"So we struggle and we stagger
Down the snakes and up the ladder
To the tower where the blessed hours chime
And I swear it happened just like this
A sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
The gates of love they budged an inch
**I can't say much has happened since
But closing time"**

and ends the song with

"And I lift my glass to the awful truth
Which you can't reveal to the ears of youth
Except to say ** it isn't worth a dime**
And the whole damn place goes crazy twice
And it's once for the devil and once for Christ
But the boss don't like these dizzy heights
We're busted in the blinding lights
Of closing time"

Who's the Boss? God is the boss. He is closing the place down. "The gates of love they budged an inch I can't say much has happened since but closing time." This parallels, "A million candles burning for the help that never came
A million candles burning for the love that never came."

Yet the same artist could write Anthem. Cohen to me appears deeply ambivalent and in the end believes there is a cruelty to God (directly) and to life he cannot comprehend. So in this song I feel both rage and resignation. Cohen used Jewish and Biblical motifs all his life, but was a Buddhist, which is a non theistic religion.

I always appreciated Cohen's profound depth, even when I do not agree with him philosophically. He had a great heart and his only equal (or greater) as a lyricist was Dylan.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[PaulAnka:7728] One must be careful in ascribing direct meaning from a life experience. As described above, the old song about the railroad men is very influential. Dylan was extremely aware of folk music and its traditions. I agree that the image of Grossman and cigarettes, from what I've read, probably came to Dylan as he was writing this verse. The potency of the image probably appealed to him. Is it about Grossman? I doubt it. The image was useful to inform the lyric and Dylan most likely drew upon it for resonant power. But the artist has broader intentions as he draws from multiple sources. I did read the account and in the limited regard, I think you are correct.

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Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna Lyrics 6 years ago
@[skakayla:7711] Little boy lost imo is self referential. It has nothing to do with Johanna's :boyfriend". In this song the inner and outer are one.

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Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna Lyrics 6 years ago
@[serge_67:7710] You have to infer from this song in context with his other work its general meaning. Its obviously a song about a person, the singer, in existential crisis. I think there are personal references but they are just jumping off points for the larger world view.

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Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna Lyrics 6 years ago
@[AllynT:7709] Yes. A kindred song to "Stuck Inside of Mobile".

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Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna Lyrics 6 years ago
@[montresor:7708] Wow are you off. Although there are some elements in this you cite, it is WAY beyond the issue of ideal love in romantic form. If you want to believe that a form of "higher love" (or "peace of the soul") is longed for, then I would agree. But you are taking it too literally.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[ken1025751:7705] I don't know why he site did not format my post properly. Sorry. this /n makes no sense to me.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
With Dylan, I think often attempts at understanding misfires because one does not look at the context of the song within the album, the period of time Dylan was writing, the issues that were important to him, and the arc of his career. Thus there attempts to make Desolation Row about the Holocaust, which it is not. It is about contemporary America, which is almost all he wrote about beyond relationships.
On Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan reached his zenith in his scathing assault on the American shadow and the corruption of society. This was non personal (Tombstone Blues, Highway 61, Desolation Row, Ballad of a Thin Man) and semi personal (Like a Rolling Stone). This critique was withering and all out.
However the album ends with the astonishing and exceptional Desolation Row, which is acoustic, not electric.
In Desolation Row, the fury Dylan has mounted, not only in this album, but in the previous one (Bringing it All Back Home-where is "home"?-good old USA), and the three albums before it, is now finally dying down. like a fire that is becoming embers. Dylan is weary and he retreats to sanctuary where he can spin his vision in broad, still stark, but gentler terms (in tone) of a world gone mad and off the rails.
What I find interesting is Blonde on Blonde is the next stage in this transition of weariness. The artist has little more to say in his previous incendiary manner. However these issues are still with him but he chooses to frame them differently. The political becomes far more personal.
With a difference.
The weariness of Desolation Row has turned into a semi exhaustion and despair. Where there is wit, it is sardonic and muted ("To live outside the law you must be honest. I know that you would say that you agree.")
If one listens closely, almost the entire album is from a frame of reference of bleakness and dispossession. "Just Like a Woman" is a wail of betrayal. "I Want You" is a song of pleading. "Sooner or Later" is in the same vein.

So we come to Stuck of Mobile-a truly exceptional major work. I don't think deconstructing the individual verses is so important. The tone is terribly bleak and the constant refrain is of one who is trapped and literally cannot escape. There may be some truth that his relationship to his audience was a trigger, but these are themes Dylan had been wrestling with all his adult life. And the presence of the great Visions of Johanna is almost the same song philosophically raised to another octave.

Everywhere Dylan turns in this song, in every verse, there is a dead end, everywhere. As the song says, "I know I can't escape". The refrain , as a wail (Ohhh, Mamma" or Ahhh, Mama") becomes deeper and more pronounced as the song nears its conclusion of " "What price- you have to pay to get out of, going through all these things twice" (or more-he was in his 20's when he wrote it-surprise.)
Therefore I don't think it is necessary to try and deconstruct each verse as a particular thing, the tone, mood and references generally speak for themselves, whether it be the railroad men, the girls in the alley, the rain man's cures, Ruthie, the preacher, the Senator. As in Desolation Row, they are the mosaic of a landscape, but now not of corruption but of dead ends, of being trapped.

However, there is one linkage people do not see in this song and it shows the shift I mentioned from previous work. The song it inverts is "Like a Rolling Stone". In that song, and in almost all Dylan's previous work, he is in control, he is the caustic observer, casting wisdom to the landscape, to the culture with what feels like a fiery prophet's vision.
Now the roles are changed. In Stuck Inside of Mobile it is DYLAN who is now the the dispossessed, the outcast. He feels powerless now before the forces of the society that he has condemned. This does not mean he agrees with its distortions, only that he feels overcome by them
How else to explain the 5th verse and the Senator. Dylan is not invited to the party, is oblivious to those in power, and now it is HE who is"Out on the streets wit no direction home" and fears he will be "discovered beneath a truck"
As with Desolation Row, Dylan hides this terrible nihilism within a beautiful musical score, that becomes haunting and compelling.

When I first heard this song, I was in college. I had not heard Blonde on Blonde and I listened to the jaunty but yearning "I Want You." Then this came on. I was with some younger college kids, a couple, and the song began to draw me in. At the end of the 5th verse (the Senator) I burst into tears. The young guy looked at me and said "Wow, you look like you really know what he was talking about." All I could do was nod.
It was 1970 and for a generation that was assaulted and displaced by the War, and was in terrible conflict with its parental generation, the song reflected exactly how I felt at the time. The personal was deeply political.
A great, great song, on a great album by the greatest Rock-Folk lyricist who ever lived

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[stringy:7703] I think you are reaching.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[nkerklaan:7702] The thread of existential despair is what connects them.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[samiam653:7701] Interesting. When was that?

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[fwilhelmn:7700] He does both. Read reviews of Desolation Row. Many of the references are quite specific. If not to particular events and people, to distinct societal mores and attitudes. This occurs in most of his surreal songs. This one is less surreal than others.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[MC:7699] Kairos You select one verse out of many. In the absurdity of this one verse is deep pathos and it is followed by the most serious verse of the song, ("discovered beneath a truck".) The singer is feeling totally devalued, totally invisible and powerless, which is the heart of the meaning of the refrain.
How is that funny?

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[mbrachman:7698] I don't think Dylan was joking at all in this song and the mood is totally different from 115th dream. While there is some absurdist imagery, Dylan is not laughing in the least. This is a song of utter despair with the exclamation point that there is no way out. I can not see how this is seen as joking. There is no distance here from the absurd and the real, as in the other. "being discovered beneath a truck" or "people just get uglier and I have no sense of time", "or "punched my cigarette" are not indicators of humor.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[elephant_range:7695] I think you are being too specific. Blonde on Blonde seamlessly follows on the retreat exhibited in "Desolation Row" into a form of nihilism and despair, except for "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", which was written for his wife. But yes, here he is overwhelmed.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[mbrachman:7694] I agree that the tumult is deeply influencing the song, and the album, but I think the song expresses his feelings of being trapped by it, buy life in general, and the despair that has arisen. The companion song is Visions of Johanna, which expresses the same existential despair at a higher, more symbolic octave.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[jordynsaysrawr:7693] Agree. But Mobile is a city in Alabama. He's stuck in Mobile with the Memphis Blues. I do like the reference that Memphis is the home of Elvis. So if there is a reference here, it is that the idea that the artist's life, that Rock and Roll would free him, has turned out to be an illusion.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[cavern:7692] Everyone here refuses to look at these songs in context. One must look at this one in relation to the entire album, and to his previous work, especially the album before it, Highway 61 Revisited. Although I agree there might be some influence of his weariness with his "following" here, if it were a response to what you say it would be prominent on Highway 61 which it isn't. The only reference is very specific in the last verse of Desolation Row where Dylan remarks on the letter printed in Sing Out magazine that ripped him for betraying the folk music movement. ("I received you letter yesterday.") I will generally comment on the album's overall despair and weariness but I do not think at all this is an album dedicated to the issues around going electric. Dylan was not that prosaic an artist. You lose a point.

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Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again Lyrics 6 years ago
@[bookmn:7691] IMO you are WAY over analyzing this song. The song is about a retreat into despondence. Each verse represents a dead end, a place where things are out of kilter, don't work. This despondence culminates in the final verse. Things seem to "fall perfectly" and are so "well timed" but for the singer the reality is he sits patiently wondering what price, you have to pay to get out of all of these things ((The Memphis Blues) twice". It is a song of feeling trapped.
Take one verse about the Senator
"Showing everyone his gun" is symbolic of the power the rich and powerful display
"Wedding of his son" shows that to these people everything always is just fine
"Me I nearly got busted"- the singer is not part of the upper class, he is a member of the underclass, the one's the Senator controls and arrests for petty crimes
"And wouldn't it be my luck"-transition
"To be caught without a ticket, and be discovered beneath a truck".
As with the other verses. this is the height of powerlessness and despair. It is the theme of the entire song. Nothing goes right and conventional forces (Railroad men- preacher) either assault one or are phonies. Even "Ruthie" sees through the singer's pretenses of happiness.

The idea that "Memphis" is a longed for place of beauty and he is nearing it is nonsense. Memphis is dreaded and is quite literal, for the blues of terrible despair somehow are associated with it and to find one again in them is excruciating. ("Can this really be the end".

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[turquoiseumbrella:7029] There are 66 and many replies.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[rbh104:7028] Except the artist differentiates himself quite clearly, not only here but sll throughout the next album. Especially on Desolation Row.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[Trio:7027] You are wrong. He is extremely specific and precise in what he wants to say. But his songs are like dreams, they speak a right brain language and that language must be understood.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@:)4thecamera The hand made blade probably refers to knives made in prison-criminals. Contrast to the innocence of children (child's balloon.) All are engulfed by this shadow and darkness.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[MichaelAdams81:7026] P.S. We must distinguish between Canadian and American Conservatism. (If such a thing exists). To repeat, the song sets up the darkness that has engulfed everything, those born with a silver spoon, innocent children, criminals and has perverted the natural order (Eclipses both the Sun and moon). Whether Dylan consciously knew it or not he is paralleling and countering one of the most famous phrases of the New Testament from Jesus "The rain falls on the just and unjust alike." To Jesus rain is God's love for it provides nourishment to all. For Dylan, the opposite has occurred. Therefore one feels it like a punch in the gut (the moan), and a sick realization that any uniqueness one has felt is empty, and dread and fear begin to spread.

If this were an American conservative critique, then government would be the focus. But a great aim of Dylan's wrath is business (the agents of the super human crew), the beloved of the right wing. Here "Human God's-corporations and business elites- corrupt everything for the bottom line (Flesh colored Christ's that glow in the dark), Con one with advertising signs, pervert learning to the service of money ($100 plates), and the victims (caught in the rat race choir) fall into bitterness. The right is further eviscerated in pointing out those that "In limited sex they dare, push fake morals, insults and swears." These are the evangelical right wing preachers who preach of "evil fates", the Jimmy Swaggarts who rail against non traditional sexual norms but get caught with prostitutes in motels. The war makers and those who hew to the party line of the crowd (Strict party platform ties) are also slashed at but the bulk of the song's blistering rage is given to those elites, mostly in business who are the "Masters who make the rules". as today, the politicians are their servants.

This is NOT a song that comes from an American conservative place.

Despite all this the singer has hope and a certain faith in himself. He can "dodge people's games", he can "make it", he exhorts others to find their own center and authenticity "It is not he or she or it that you belong to", and despite everything that is thrown at him says "what else can you show me". He is defiant and has not been beaten. The song ends with a zen line, "Its life and life only". Things are what they are.

This ferocity will carry through most of Highway 61, lashing out in wilder surrealistic images, but at the end he begins to surrender. He has given it everything over a remarkable span of 5 (soon to be 6) albums, an intensity that would be a lifetime for most. In weariness he settles into the sanctuary of Desolation Row and by Blonde on Blonde the fight has gone out of him.

This period will be one of the great achievements of modern music-literary-cultural history, will define Dylan, and will enshrine him on the Mt Rushmore of contemporary artists. He will never achieve these heights consistently and over such a span again, except for the great "Blood on the Tracks". With a motorcycle accident, real or faked, he withdraws completely, only to reemerge as a country crooner who can occasionally summon greatness (All Along the Watch Tower) and mounts a similar ferocity in the Rolling Thunder tour. But without the political focus. The creative instinct and genius is still there in that tour, but nothing will ever touch this body of work in which Its All Right Ma stands at the center.

It is tribute to Dylan's greatness that he erupts with periods of excellent work, even after touching the mind of God in his youth. There is no one like him. All lyricists and many rock artists followed in his wake. There would be no Springsteen if not for Dylan. Nor Jackson Browne or even mid-later Beatles. And all the countless others who now had the opportunity to bring lyrical sensibility to Rock and Roll.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[MichaelAdams81:7022] Well I wasn't going to do this but I think I will add my two cents. I will deal only with the first two set of three as all follow from the first three. The initial three verses are symbolic, them the song becomes more pointed and literal.
"Darkness at the break of noon..."
Something is wrong. The natural order is inverted. Darkness is at night, not at the height of the day. The noon does not "break", dawn does. The darkness has invaded the light.
"Shadows even the silver spoon"
The darkness is so great that even those supposedly with everything (born with a silver spoon) are over run, even if they don't realize it.
"The handmade blade, the child's balloon"
The handmade blade is one made in prison, a symbol of darkness and evil, it juxtaposes and inverts innocence (the child's balloon.)
"Eclipses both the sun and moon", even these cannot withstand the shadow, the entire natural order is engulfed
"You understand you know too soon"- a grim realization is dawning in the soul
"There is no sense in trying". An existential nihilism may be at hand.

"Pointed threats they bluff with scorn"- The darkness and those who embrace it need not even do its thing, it merely has to bluff to get its way
"Suicide remarks are torn from the fools gold mouthpiece, the hollow horn"
The fool in literature and other times was the one who kept the king in check, his instrument is hollow, empty
"Plays wasted words, proves to warn"
The rants of those attempting to show the depth of the shadow are wasted
"That he not busy being born is busy dying"
If one is not creative, if one is not bringing authenticity and light to life, then one might as well be dead.

"Temptations page flies out the door"
The desires of life that are presented as what one should want are ripped from one's book of life"
"You follow find yourself at war"
As you rush after them the corruption of the land is upon you and suddenly order and sense of self is lost
"watch waterfalls of pity roar"
All around the landscape is filled with horror-the truth contains waterfalls of pity
"You feel the moan but unlike before"
Now one must feel the deep pain of the darkness, the shadow *but unlike before*
"You discover that you'd be just be one more person crying."

This last is extremely important because it sets up the entire focus of the song. And what is that? That " specialness" is an illusion. This theme reoccurs. "Advertising signs they con-what' "You into thinking YOU"RE THE ONE". Even those who claim they are for peace hate. Learning is reduced to money. even Jesus is not authentic but a vehicle for profit.

So what is Dylan aiming at? This idea of "specialness. Dylan lived and lives in a particular time and place and society. It is America and its dominant idea of itself is called "American Exceptionalism". "We are the greatest nation on Earth. We are unique. We are the good guys. We are the city on the hill. We are endowed with destiny. GOD IS ON OUR SIDE."

This is Dylan's heart of darkness. He came of age and wrote most of his seminal material in the confrontation with the horror of the echo of the greatest evil of slavery in the history of the world. With America on the verge of one of the greatest criminal acts of international war and terrorism of the 20th century-the war in Vietnam.

All the details that follow are subordinate to this main theme, the revealing of the truth, that this sense of entitlement is corrupt beyond measure, is built upon lies and incalculable greed and cruelty, where the truth of its depravity of the soul is laid bare, and where nothing is held sacred except profit, domination, and the bottom line, In Highway 61 (song), this corruption of the soul is so vast that the "roving gambler who was very bored" and "wanted to start a third world war" runs into a promoter who says "Yes I think it can be very easily done". The Cuban Missile Crisis was two years removed when Its All Right Ma was written and the idea that those enthralled and in the grip of the shadow would not end it all in pursuit of their own ends (as the Joint Chiefs nearly did) was not so far off in reality.

We can go to the second three but already we now see the details of this shadow which will fill the rest of the song.

"Some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred"

The political and military leaders are obsessed with victory or downfall (Anti communism) , the reasons for their insanity can be great or small, that total control is the desire (killed to crawl) and even those who cry for peace buy into this division and give in to hate and polarity "Which side are you on" asks Desolation Row".

The next verse needs no interpretation. It is all quite clear and direct.

"Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred"

Is there even a need to interpret the obvious?

"While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it":

Again the obvious except now the singer reveals one ray of hope, that he can make it through the land mines of this incredibly corrupt landscape. This theme will build as he contrasts the depth of shadow with the possibility that one can still live authentically in this God forsaken place.

In "Its All Right Ma" Dylan is still fighting and counter punching. He is in the middle of an all out assault on this shadow that has perverted everything that began with Freewheelin' and will only end with the fatigue of "Desolation Row" and the retreat into the existential nihilism and despair of "Visions of Johanna" and "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" that pervades Blonde on Blonde.. Dylan's hopes for societal change will morph into sanctuary of personal love "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" which will be dashed and chronicled in "Blood on the Tracks".

To understand an artist such as this, to truly take him seriously, the song(s) cannot be viewed in a vacuum but must be understood in the context of his tapestry of life and work, the times he lives, and his consistency of thought and feeling.

Otherwise one is just mentally floundering. This guy knew exactly what he wanted to say and exactly who and what he was aiming at. Forget all his protestations to the opposite.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[heavycola:7020] Dylan was better than Frost. Frost was too frigging obvious. And had no real edge.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[societiespliers:7019] Nice post.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[cavern:7018] You get it. I said it was the first mass rap song ever written. Take away the music. It still works. Good for you. Thinking out of the box.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[TurnMeOn:7017] Get a life.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[tobearockandnottoroll:7016] The lady is an idiot. Stick to your guns.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[jms11733:7015] I'm sorry Optimistic.You are way over thinking. Dylan's songs and verses must be put in context of the entire cloth he has created, not just on this album but in the gestalt of his vision at the time.

There is no ambiguity here. Preachers do their hell fire thing, but its BS, as all teaching, all "values", have been reduced to is money-where are the bucks? (can lead to $100 plates), Goodness hides behind its gates (It cannot be out in the open for it will be eviscerated.

This theme reverberates all through the song as Dylan attacks the hypocrisy and shallow phoniness of consumer culture. (As Mad Men was to do decades later.)

"Advertising Signs they con....
"Money doesn't talk it swears".
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred"

Its all through the song, the same critique. Like different facets of the diamond. Dylan is not struggling with anything. Except how to cope with this mess. He is enraged.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
This is the greatest political song ever written. It still stands up, it towers, 50 years later. Dylan wrote other more direct songs (Masters of War, etc), more precise ones (Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, etc.), more wildly surrealistic, brilliant takes on the same issues (almost the entire Highway 61 album), but none, none as clean, powerful and direct as this.

If you take away the music you will see Dylan either invented or was one of the first mass users of rap. For this is rap in its finest form. We can analyze the verses to death, but there is no need. Unlike the surrealism of Tombstone Blues and Desolation Row, nothing is hidden or oblique here. Dylan is in the middle of his scathing assault on the shadow and excesses of American and Western culture, begun on Freewheelin' and to end its great wave with Desolation Row. He would try to return to it often, but nothing he did in this vein after those three albums could be bettered.

The song is a masterpiece. Like others here, I found it mind blowing. In college I listened to it every night before I went to bed. I am a storyteller. I love words and this is the greatest lyrical composition in Rock history. It flows as if from God's mouth. The rhyme schemes, the cadence linked to its primal meaning are extraordinary and astonishing.

That Dylan could create a composition at once etheric

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to."

Yet also be blunt beyond imagination

"Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their marks
Made everything from toy guns that sparks
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred."

Is an achievement unlike any in recent musical history. The song is so tight, so crisp, so brutal yet so clear one watches him flay and rip the skin off piece by piece the madness that passes for much of human culture and behavior in the modern world, especially America. No corner of this lunacy is left untouched.

Later on in Desolation Row, the same themes are addressed but softer, as Dylan is worn out. But not here. Here the artist and his creation, his vision, his fury are incandescent. This is the Mount Everest of lyrical achievement and audiences knew it when he sang it for no one, no one moved an inch during its performance. They were transfixed and under Dylan's spell. And one still is today. I appreciate that so many here get it. Its freaking incredible. As Hendrix was to the guitar, Dylan was to language. And this was his greatest use of it.

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Bob Dylan – It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Lyrics 6 years ago
@[MichaelAdams81:7014] If you think this song is about conservatism and traditional values, you are delusional. This is the man who wrote Masters of War, Hard Rain, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Tombstone Blues, , Highway 61, Ballad of a Thin Man, and DEsolation Row DECADES before he went Christian for a while.

Dylan's world view was derived from the folk protest movement (Woody Guthrie, his biggest early influence was a socialist), the beats, the surrealists, and the hipsters.

Did you ever see "Don't Look Back"? If by "Conservative values" you mean integrity, truth honesty, care for others and revulsion at excessive Capitalism, Imperialism, greed, and consumer culture then perhaps you might have a point. Perhaps "Conservative" means something different North of the Border.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their marks
Made everything from toy guns that sparks
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

In America these lines are a scathing assault on that which is most near and dear to Americans-B-U-S-i-N-E-S-S and B-O-T-T-O-M L-I-N-E.

Old lady judges, watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

These lines were NOT written by a conservative. Watch Dylan's Time Magazine Interview.

You lose a point.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[Highterrain:6948] Read other replies on this. Its not about the Holocaust, although it is referenced. It was not a main concern for Dylan. Contemporary America was.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[stephaybabe:6947] Its not just about the government. Its about the culture as a whole. The notions of romance, sexuality, fame, what is appropriate behavior, honesty, control and dominance. The first verse, where a mob historically lynched 3 innocent black men was not government. The fighting on the Titanic is not government, nor is the issue of the letter in the last, nor is Einstein in the 4th. You're on the right track. Stretch your mind.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
PO.S. Best review of all. But read mine too. It deals with mote than the lyrics.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[SmoothLikeARhapsody:6936] Dylan is not living in despair in Desolation Row. That comes on Blonde on Blonde. Here he is angry and frustrated and weary but stiil, trying to get people to see.. good thoughts though on a lot of it.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[luckystrike6:6935] NO. See my other replies. You've lost yourself in literalness.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[Sioux33:6934] This is NOT about the Holocaust, although it certainly is referenced often. I don't know why so many people think this. Dylan's obsession was contemporary America. The first verse is about an historical incident that happened in Minnesota (as others have noted) about 3 black men who were lynched for allegedly raping a white girl. Pictures were taken and made into post cards. The 8th verse is entirely about conventional Western business rat race issues and jealousy of non conformism, and the last verse is a rebuke to the editor of Sing Out magazine who ripped Dylan personally. Did Dylan use Holocaust references to buttress and parallel his revulsion of the darkness in society and the war in Vietnam? Certainly. Is it only about the Holocaust? No.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[mpalmer:6933] A tremendous review. I don't agree with everything but your opening was so right on. It mirrors my own review completely (see newest). I would only add the last verse is about a real event, the letter published in Sing Out magazine rebuking Dylan for abandoning the protest movement. The verse is his counter." I will listen to you only when you wake up (to the state of awareness" you reference. Otherwise, don't bother me.
Very nice job.
.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[ken1025751:6932] P.S. I agree with many who just "feel" the song. Surrealism is like that. The mood, tone and pace means as much as ostensibly the lyrics. Desolation Row has an extremely dream like quality and like dreams, expresses itself almost entirely in symbol and metaphor. In dream interpretation language, the bizarre , seemingly "nonsensical:" nature of the lyrics would be the "manifest content", but the underlying, coherent meaning is the "latent content". So the song is not gibberish. But one must make effort to understand it, which many have done well here in deconstructing mann of the verses.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[JackDuluoz:6931] I think you miss the point. The characters are all famous icons of Western Civilization. Who Dylan "rearanges" to make his point.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[RHBarfly:6930] One can intuit what an artist has to say. Its not in a vacuum. It fits with a broad, scathing critique of modern society that spanned years.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[justnick:6929] Actually not. Read my comment. Dylan is still too invested on this album and in this song. You're comment is more appropriate for Blonde on Blonde, but even then I would never say Dylan thought life was meaningless. However, B on B is extremely existentialist.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[FloyDylaN:6928] The Holocaust is referenced but it is about far more than that. Dylan's obsession was with contemporary American society. Look at verse 8. It s the most direct in the song.

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Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics 6 years ago
@[EricPower:6927] You don't get iyt. He always knew exactly what he was writing, even when protesting the opposite.

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