Bob Dylan – Positively 4th Street

This song down the path of being a Dylan fan. The raw angry emotional way Dylan spits out the lyrics sounds true. The song never lets up…Bob just keeps hammering away at someone relentlessly. The song was rumored about people rather than one person. The people rumored were Phil Ochs, Richard Farina, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and various journalists but we will probably never know because I don’t see Dylan opening up about it. I always thought of this song as Like a Rolling Stone’s sister song.

Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, You’d know what a drag it is to see you… cutting and brilliant. The song peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100 and #8 in the UK in 1965.

From Songfacts.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, this song is about all the naysayers and plastic people Dylan encountered during his time in Greenwich Village (when he lived on West 4th street) and his stint on fraternity row at the University of Minnesota (located on 4th Street in Minneapolis). The song deals with the jealousy he encountered from people in the artistic community who resented his success.


Positively 4th Street

You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend
When I was down you just stood there grinnin’
You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on the side that’s winnin’

You say I let you down, ya know its not like that
If you’re so hurt, why then don’t you show it?
You say you’ve lost your faith, but that’s not where its at
You have no faith to lose, and ya know it

I know the reason, that you talked behind my back
I used to be among the crowd you’re in with
Do you take me for such a fool, to think I’d make contact
With the one who tries to hide what he don’t know to begin with?

You see me on the street, you always act surprised
You say “how are you?”, “good luck”, but ya don’t mean it
When you know as well as me, you’d rather see me paralyzed
Why don’t you just come out once and scream it

No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief perhaps I’d rob them
And tho I know you’re dissatisfied with your position and your place
Don’t you understand, its not my problem?

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is to see you

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

25 thoughts on “Bob Dylan – Positively 4th Street”

  1. I’m going to offer an alternative scenario and say Bob was writing as someone saying those things to him. True he must have encountered naysaying and criticism fueled by jealousy, but he dished it out, too. According to the Phil Ochs documentary, Ochs looked up to Bob, and Bob sensing that weakness, criticized Ochs almost for sport. He seems like a perpetually annoyed, cantankerous and restless person. Maybe he was reciting a conversation real or imagined, in which one of those people–Ochs, Baez, or one of the others, was scolding him. I could also see Bob telling a BS made up story to Rolling Stone about where the song came from. I’d be tempted to do that myself. :p Anyway, I think of this song as a pure masterpiece. Whatever the original inspiration, I’m glad we have it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. He did play journalist… Him and Bob Neuwirth would terrorize people all of the time. What you said sounds very plausible. After the motorcycle wreck he seemed to calm down a little.
      Just a great song.


  2. What astounds me about Dylan is how simple he keeps the words, but he’s able to arrange them so masterfully that they become more. I have got to say, after having listened to Dylan many many times, this does not sound like his voice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The way he phrases them…makes them mean more. It’s a blistering attack but a good one.
      He has many voices. I’ve seen him 8 times and everytime I’ve seen him he sounds different and does differents songs with different arrangements.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow you’ve seen him 8 times??? I’m guessing a lot of big groups come through Nashville? I saw him one time, in Grand Rapids, at a baseball stadium, and he was so far away it was a waste of time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well big groups come through now…since the Titans came and built the stadium. In the 80s only mid size groups came. No big groups ever came until Vanderbilt opened their football stadium to them…Pink Floyd and the Stones finally came then.
        I first saw Dylan in 88 and the last time was 2 years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That is a deal… I would love to see Dylan in 60s when The Band backed him…see the Beatles in the Cavern and The Stones in 72.,. I know when…I just need the machine now.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes and No… He was trying to stop drinking and they gave him medicine to curb his drinking. It should not have been given to someone without a doctors care…of all people Keith Moon . He woke up in the mddle of the night and took more after taking some before he went to sleep. .. .well so that would be a yes I guess…just not what most people think .

        Liked by 1 person

      5. We’ll get there before all that happens and stop it. We’ll help Keith get clean and sober! You know maybe one day there will be time machines. Have you seen the movie, “12 Monkeys” ?

        Liked by 2 people

      6. No I haven’t seen that. I’ve wanted to see it. I love Time Travel movies. The Time Machine, Chronicle, an d many Doctor Who episodes .

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Dylan’s voice may be an aquired taste…I’ve always liked it…of course it depends on what era it is because he changes it.
      Knocking on Heaven’s Door is great the way he sings it.

      Liked by 1 person

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