When she said, "Don't waste your words, they're just lies"
I cried she was deaf
And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes
And saying "What else you got left?"

It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, "Don't forget
Everybody must give something back
For something they get"

I stood there and hummed, I tapped on her drum
I asked her how come
And she buttoned her boot, and straightened her suit
And she said, "Don't be cute"

So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs
And gallantly handed her my very last piece of gum

She threw me outside, I stood in the dirt
Where everyone walked
And, when finding out I'd forgotten my shirt
I went back and knocked

I waited in the hallway, she went to get it
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against

Her Jamaican rum, and when she did come
I asked her for some
She said, "No, dear", I said, "Your words are not clear
You'd better spit out your gum"

She screamed till her face got so red
Then she fell on the floor
And, I covered her up and then went and looked through her drawer

And when I was through, I filled up my shoe
And brought it to you
And you, you took me in, you loved me then
You never wasted time
And I, I never took much, I never asked for your crutch
Now don't ask for mine

Lyrics submitted by oofus

"Fourth Time Around" as written by Bob Dylan


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4th Time Around song meanings
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  • +5
    General Commentfirst off, i strongly believe that this about Edie Sedgwick and Bob Dylan. It has been said that Blonde on Blonde was mostly inspired by edie. I think maybe because she dyed her hair blonde so many times, repeatedly dying over the hair that was already dyed. The songs that are most said to be based off of her are "like a rolling stone" "leopard skin pill box hat" and "just like a woman." they all portray a poor little rich girl character living off of dad' pocket book. a very vulnerable, sensitive, confused girl. i beleive this song "4th time around" is about their 4th time sleeping together. dylan denies it, but it widely recognized that they did have a little love affair. little, but nonetheless intense. and inspiring to dylan as a poet. it's rumored that she ended up aborting a child by dylan. the clue might be that it says the picture of you in your wheelchair and i never asked for your crutch. very shortly after edie met dylan for the first time late december 1964, she got in a car accident leaving her with a broken leg and lacerated forehead. she was in a wheelchair and had crutches for awhile, like till february. so the affair with dylan came about spring 65' so she might of had a picture of herself in a wheel chair and some crutches. the main story is the "morning after" story. they've made love and this is how they interact in the morning. it seems that this guy is actually Dylan. he is not really serious about this relationship. the whole she put on her boots and straightened her suit. very edie. edie loved wearing tall leather boots. she worked on his face (slapping) before breaking his eyes (black eye). she asks whatelse you got left as in she sees this as a fight, dylan probably wasn't hitting but flinging his arms out to keep from getting hurt. when she says everyone must give something back for something they get, she was angry and saying like fine. if you're gonna treat me like a hooker, you got to give me something in return. and when he says why? it's a sly way of saying why do you have to get something in return in this relationship. isn't this enough? just having a good time. it's also him being smartass like he doesn't understand how prostitutes work, and she says don't be cute. and he being the smartass that he is gives her his freaking gum. she gets offended by the fact that she is only worth a stick of gum to him so she throws him out. and then he knocks on the door for his shirt. in the process the jamaican rum gets out, and being drunk edie forgives dylan for everything and takes his gum and basically compromises with that because she's sad and lonely and desperate for affection. the whole tantrum where she turns red and rolls on the floor definitely sounds like edie drunk and getting frustrated because she can't speak clearly to dylan because she's plastered and chewing gum. basically she ends up passing out on the floor and dylan decides to cover her up and look through her drawers. i mean, who doesn't look through their boyfriend's/girlfriend's drawers when their drunk? she took him in (sex) didn't waste time meaning she was very aggresive. and the whole crutch thing is i never asked for your help so don't ask me to be your aid. you're too needy. i can't take it anymore.
    me4thon May 02, 2007   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI think this song is about a break up, finding new love and not repeating mistakes.

    Initially, the narrator isn't interested in the giving and taking - only the girl is ("give something back for something they get"). She's doing all the talking about that, he's just humming and drumming (hum drum ho hum). He "forced [his] hands in [his] pockets" because he didn't want to be part of this love-as-a-balance-sheet, he found it ugly.

    At the end of the song, however, he's taken what he's learnt from this first relationship and he's trying to make sure he doesn't get into the same space with the second relationship ("I never took much, I never asked for your crutch, so don't ask for mine").

    One of the really interesting things about this song is that the words seem very literal, but the situation they described is abstract. For example, you might believe that "she" falls dead on the floor or that he's forgotten his shirt. If you want to be literal about it, I think she threw him out without giving him time to button up his fly, let alone grab his shirt. But what it really means is that when she threw him out, he feels naked ("forgotten my shirt") and feels out of place with no sense of belonging ("I stood in the dirt, where ev'ryone walked"). He goes back in to seek his shirt (or his dignity or sense of belonging) because these feelings are so uncomfortable for him.

    If you take it literally, "her face got so red" with anger that "she fell on the floor" and died (of anger or a heart attack, whatever). I think that this is abstract and he's merely experiencing her as dead: he's over it, she's dead to him, he's pulled the cover over the whole ugly affair ("I covered her up..."). All the same, the callousness of "cover her up and then thought I'd go look through her drawer" is remarkable.

    In the last verse, he takes stock ("look through her drawer") and asks himself what he's taken and learnt from this relationship. Turns out, all he's got out of it fits into a single, stinking shoe! Nevertheless, he takes his shoe-full and he brings it to his next relationship, where he finds himself again taking account of who gives what. He finds it equally distasteful in this second relationship, but he's doing the talking this time and he's not letting the relationship dwindle into demands ("don't ask for [my crutch]").

    Others' interpretations of the title was really interesting! I'd always felt it was about the chords, which feature the 4th very heavily, leaving the song with a slightly spooky, empty feeling. Perhaps Dylan wrote the chords to reflect the title??
    JessKon May 09, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt's a parody of John Lennon's "Norwegian Wood". Dylan and Lennon were very influential on each other (and also very competitive).
    Turtle_Soupon March 20, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt's a beautiful song. Dylan claimed it was a parody but, though there are similarities, it doesn't send up the Beatles song. I guess it's more likely that Dylan loved the song's melody and made something that chimed with it.

    It contains a joke that's so well worked I smile every time I hear it: first she demands that he gives her some gum as a gift, then asks her to spit it out! I love the way this is woven into the song, leisurely spread over several verses.

    It's just about a relationship breaking up really badly and he apparently feeling no remorse. The last verse hints that he found the woman too needy, it sounds like he was quite glad to be shot of her.
    Paegaon August 24, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe song describes a specific incident, and there are 3 people in the incident, although the 3rd person is absent for most of it. There's the giver of the stick of gum, the recipient of the gum stick, and a third person, who the gum stick givers mind inclines towards when he's at the 2nd characters house. Then he brings what he took from the 2nd character to the third character.

    The joke about the giving of the stick of gum is a joke about the hypocrisy of the woman who requests that he give something back for something she gave him. The joke spans a couple of verses, because when he asks for some Jamaican rum, she's infuriated to hear her own logic turned back on herself.

    He goes to see the girl in the wheel chair who doesn't ask for anything, which is much better, as seeing an act of love, or maybe even just an act of oral sex which I think the song is also wryly about, as a favor demanding compensation of some kind cheapens or belittles what might be happening between them. Thus, he gives a stick of gum to mock her cheap way of looking at things with one of the cheapeast things someone can buy.

    As for the oral sex, I worked in a used clothing store, and pimps, these slobs come in with their prostitutes to buy them clothes, and they are invariably eating sweet strongly flavoured things like a popsicle to eliminate the foul lingering aftertaste of going down on someone. Jamaican rum and a stick of gum are good examples of such aftertaste eliminators.

    Apart from that sordid aspect, the wheelchair really emphasizes the strength of this other woman. She might have some incapacities that might make you think she feels sorry for herself, but she doesn't ask for anything extra, even though you might think she is the more deserving of something extra. So that she doesn't ask is all the more attractive and sort of noble, especially when considering the lady he leaves in the begining of the song.

    And that he takes from one woman to give to another, sort of shows how the gifts are not really proferred in a logical system of exchange, which is how the 1st lady mistakes it to be, or tries to force it to be. Through coincidence and a wandering mind, and desires we are all taking and giving in a very haphazard sort of way, which is better then thinking that debts are owed, which can really sour things.

    I also love the classical guitar, it's sort of atypical from the rest of the songs on Blonde on Blonde, because they fall into a either a blues/rock category with those basic progressions, to the non-blues more romantic progressions like those found in I Want You and Stuck Outside of Mobile. The contrast between the sentiment of the guitar and the unsentimental way he looks at an incident with this one lady and then the other makes it a rare sort of love song, because the sound is sort of romantic in a light hearted way, but the subject is kind of troubled and not obviously pretty.

    I think that the subject must be wondering how he came to be so enmired with a lady who inspires him to mock her ugly way of characterizing what it is that's happening between them, be it a blow job, or something metaphoric.
    charliewexworthon August 01, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think so. It's just about expectations from love/relationships. The girl expects him to give and is upset when he doesn't deliver, instead of just letting the relationship happen and being content with such an experience.
    Fypaston March 31, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt seems that the main character is leaving a relationship with an emotionally high maintenance girl. Needy and controlling, she demands more of him, but he's finally had enough indicating that he doesn't really owe her any more than a stick of gum. She gets pissed, kicks him out. When he promptly returns to reclaim his shirt, he sees a picture of someone in a wheelchair and refers to them in the first person indicating that the song is being sung to that person. After he slings the gum-spitting jab at her, he steals stuff and heads over to the wheelchair girl's house.

    I think the clincher is that he declares he never asked for the crutch of the wheelchair girl and that she isn't to ask for his. I like how he seems to make his ex out to be more of a cripple than a girl in a wheelchair for her sheer emotional neediness.

    And yeah, the feel reminds me of Norwegian Wood, but it's far from a parody. This song has much more intellectual merit than (no offense to the Beatles) and a considerably distinct melody from the Beatles tune. Plus, don't forget the sitar!
    chuckroaston October 10, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHe never gave the first girl his heart, so she's pissed and trying to deny him everything from her trust to the rum, but there's nothing she can really do to be on top of the situation anymore because she already gave him her heart. She's trying to deny him every little thing in order to make up for the fact that she's already given him the biggest thing and not gotten the same in return.

    All he can do is offer his stick of gum. He can give her everything but what she wants, his love. He can't give himself completely emotionally.

    The first girl is also probably pissed because she's friends with his new girl; that's why girl 1 has girl 2's picture in her apartment.

    I agree with the part about being emotionally crippled. The first girl has given the guy her "emotional legs" by giving him her heart. The guy just can't return the same feelings. He seems to be incapable of doing it with anybody. Even though he's found a new girl, he won't ask for a lot "I never asked for your crutch" because he knows he can't give a lot "Don't ask for mine"

    He's unable to fully give in to love or fully give love, and he's warning girl 2 not to expect too much. Girl2 was in an actual wheelchair that she needed, kind of like the guy who won't give up his "emotional wheelchair". He can't give up his "wheelchair" (his heart). This is how he relates to Girl2. She also couldn't give up hers.

    BUT the song indicates growth. Just as Girl 2 moves on to only needing crutches, perhaps there's a chance that maybe the guy will have a little more emotional give than he had before, but never fully. After all, Girl 2 will eventually be able to walk without crutches (symbolizing how she will one day be able to give herself fully to the guy), but there's no clear indication that he will ever want to give up his heart (it's his permanent "crutch, and in the warning tone of the last two lines, it's pretty clear he's afraid of her losing her "emotional crutch" because then he'll get stuck in the same situation as in the first relationship)
    jsaldarriaga86on February 02, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe title of the song tells you that this is a guy who is on his "4th time around," and the content of the song further describes a guy who does not take his relationships too seriously--he offers a "stick of gum" when this girl asks him to "give something back."

    So the song is just describing an encounter he had with one girl (his 4th girlfriend) that taught him that the more you accept from your girl, the more she will expect from you. The guy doesn't like his girl to demand or expect too much from him, so he learns not to "ask for much."

    The whole wheelchair/crutch thing is another metaphor layered on top of the same theme: don't let the girl become your crutch, and vice-versa.

    He takes stuff out of the girl's "drawer" to give to his next girl. He has decided that the 1st girl is too needy/high-maintenance/serious, so he just takes one more thing from her and moves on to the next girl. He has learned his lesson on this 4th time around with a girl and won't let things get to this point with the next girl.

    Amazing song both musically and lyrically, but I love how Dylan piles the different metaphors on you to create so much depth.
    Deuce Exon October 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthat would make so much sense. the first time i listened to this song i thought to myself "this has the same vibe as norwegian wood." well that's good stuff, thanks turtle soup
    goofyasfuckon April 23, 2004   Link

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