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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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  • +4
    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
  • +3
    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
  • +2
    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
  • +2
    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
  • +2
    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 15, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWith 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
    ken1025751on December 21, 2015   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."
    gershomon June 17, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentscotch & worstishire sauce = texas medicine
    Cider & tomato juice = railroad gin
    edrebberon May 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOh I had thought that texas medicine and railroad gin were types of acid. Especially back in the 60's, people would sell spot with "street-names" that pretty much said what type of ride you were in for. I thought maybe Dylan mixed two types that didn't go well together, but I guess crazy_Ira and edrebber's comments would make more sense.
    I think that the stanza that starts "When Ruthie says come see her" is just about him coming to see a woman who is trying to seduce him. He says that his debutante (his girlfriend) stands between him doing anything with her and she says that his girlfriend gives him the love that he needs but that she can give him the pleasure that he wants.
    Great song. It makes me happy anytime I hear it.
    jparl001on August 20, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentanybody have a clue on the dead grandpa?
    difficult song
    Zwinkon October 15, 2007   Link

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