Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

When I hear jangly Rickenbacker guitars I’m automatically happy … The Byrds influence everyone from Tom Petty to Cheap Trick to Big Star to new bands now. If I could go back to any era… it would be the mid-sixties. Much of the music we hear today has elements of this period.

Bob Dylan wrote “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which was originally released on his fifth album Bringing It All Back Home in early 1965. His version wasn’t released as a single, but when The Byrds released their cover later in 1965, it was a massive hit.

It peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, and #2 in Canada in 1965. topping the charts in both the US and UK. It’s the only song Dylan ever wrote that went to #1 in America.

Roger Mcguinn said he was trying for a vocal between John Lennon and Bob Dylan.

David Crosby: “He came to hear us in the studio when we were building The Byrds. After the word got out that we gonna do ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and we were probably gonna be good, he came there and he heard us playing his song electric, and you could see the gears grinding in his head. It was plain as day. It was like watching a slow-motion lightning bolt.”

From Songfacts

Dylan wrote this on a road trip he took with some friends from New York to San Francisco. They smoked lots of marijuana along the way, replenishing their stash at post offices where they had mailed pot along the way.

The Byrds version is based on Bob Dylan’s demo of the song that he recorded during sessions for his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan (Dylan’s version was not yet released when The Byrds recorded it). It was The Byrds manager Jim Dickson who brought in the demo and asked them to record it – the group refused at first because they thought it didn’t have any hit potential. When The Byrds did record it, they took some lyrics out and added a 12-string guitar lead.

Only three of the five members of the Byrds performed on this song: Roger McGuinn sang lead and played lead guitar; Gene Clark and David Crosby did the vocal harmonies.

Session musicians were brought in to play the other instruments, since the band was just starting out and wasn’t deemed good enough yet by their management. The session musicians who played on this song were the Los Angeles members of what came to be known as “The Wrecking Crew” when drummer Hal Blaine used that term in his 1990 book. This group of about 50 players ended up on many hit songs of the era.

The Byrds who didn’t play on this one were bass player Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke.

This was the Byrds’ first single. In a 1975 interview with Let It Rock, Roger McGuinn explained how the unrefined sound of this song came about. Said McGuinn: “To get that sound, that hit sound, that ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ sound, we just ran it through the electronics which were available to us at that time, which were mainly compression devices and tape delay, tape-sustain. That’s how we got it, by equalizing it properly and aiming at a specific frequency.

For stereo-buffs out there who noticed that ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ in stereo isn’t really stereo, by the way, that’s because when Terry Melcher, the producer, first started mixing records he didn’t know how to mix stereo, and so he made all the singles up to ‘Turn Turn Turn’ mono. The label is misrepresentative. See, when Columbia Records signed us, they didn’t know what they had. So they gave production to someone low on the totem-pole-which was Terry Melcher who was Doris Day’s son who was getting a token-job-in-the-mailroom sort of thing. They gave him the Byrds and the Byrds were supposed to flunk the test.”

This was inspired by a folk guitarist named Bruce Langhorne. As Dylan explained: “Bruce was playing with me on a bunch of early records. On one session, [producer] Tom Wilson had asked him to play tambourine. And he had this gigantic tambourine. It was, like, really big. It was as big as a wagon wheel. He was playing and this vision of him playing just stuck in my mind.”

Dylan never told Langhorne about it (Bruce had to read about it in the Biograph album liner notes, like the rest of us). He wrote the song and recorded a version with Rambling Jack Elliot that got to the Byrds (known as the Jet Set at the time) before it was ever put on a record.

Dylan claims that despite popular belief, this was not about drugs: “Drugs never played a part in that song… ‘disappearing through the smoke rings in my mind,’ that’s not drugs; drugs were never that big a thing with me. I could take ’em or leave ’em, never hung me up.” >>

This was the first of many Bob Dylan songs recorded by the Byrds. Others include: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” and “Chimes of Freedom.”

The production style was based on The Beach Boys song “Don’t Worry Baby,” which was the suggestion of producer Terry Melcher. Bill Pitman, Leon Russell and Hal Blaine had all played on that Beach Boys song, so it wasn’t hard for them to re-create the sound on this track.

This was the first influential folk-rock song. All of the characteristics of that genre are present, including chorus harmonies, a rock rhythm section and lots of thought-provoking lyrics.

This was discussed in the 1995 movie, Dangerous Minds. In the movie, they talked about the underlying drug references this song might entail… Example: “Mr. Tambourine Man”=Drug Dealer; “Play a song for me”=give me a joint. The basis for this theory was that music was heavily censored at that time, so musicians would share their feelings about drugs and unallowed subject material through coded songs. >>

Although the Byrds didn’t write this or play most of the instruments, they would later write the song “Rock N’ Roll Star,” which made fun of The Monkees for not writing their own songs and not playing their own instruments. 

In the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers (Mike Myers) attempts to play the CD of this album on a record player. 

While many interpreted the song as a thinly veiled drugs record, McGuinn had other ideas. Having joined the Eastern cult religion Subud just 10 days prior to entering the studio, he saw the song as “a prayer of submission.” McGuinn told The Byrds’ biographer, Johnny Rogan, in 1997: “Underneath the lyrics to ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ regardless of what Dylan meant, I was turning it into a prayer. I was singing to God and I was saying that God was the Tambourine Man and I was saying to him, ‘Hey God, take me for a trip and I’ll follow you.'”

Chris Hillman admitted to Mojo that he’s never been a fan of The Byrds’ version. “Even though it opened the floodgates, I never liked that track,” he said. “I loved the song, but I never liked the track – it was too slick. I always wonder what would have happened if we cut it ourselves. But in a business sense Columbia were hedging their bets, because we were a pretty crude sounding band then.”

Bob Dylan didn’t make it to Woodstock, but four of his songs did, including “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which Melanie included in her set on the first day. Joan Baez and The Band both did “I Shall Be Released,” and Joe Cocker sang two Dylan songs: “Just Like A Woman” and “Dear Landlord.”

Roger McGuinn admitted to Uncut magazine he was petrified going into the studio to record “Mr. Tambourine Man.” “I was playing with the big boys, the Wrecking Crew. I was so nervous that Hal Blaine kept saying to me, ‘Settle down kid. Why don’t you go out and have a couple of beers?'”

 

Mr. Tamourine Man

Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

Take me for a trip upon your magic swirling ship
All my senses have been stripped
And my hands can’t feel to grip and my toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wandering

I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade
Cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

 

Bob Dylan – Gotta Serve Somebody

This single won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male in 1979. Dylan performed the song at that same ceremony.

Slow Train Coming was Bob Dylan’s first release since becoming a born-again Christian. What a way to start it out…

I’ve always liked this song and this part of his career. It didn’t matter to me if it was a Christian song …it’s a good song.

The song peaked at #24 in the Billboard 100 in 1979.

Much of the album thus deals with Dylan’s faith and Christian teachings. While some of his older fans were not happy…he did gain some new fans because of it.

This was one of three songs Dylan played when he was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 1979. It was the only time he appeared on the show.

You Gotta Serve Somebody

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone

A snare drum shot starts this song that helped shape the sixties.  In 2004 Rolling Stone named Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” the greatest song of all time. When Bob sings  “How Does it Feel?” you can feel the venom.

“Like a Rolling Stone” runs 6:13. It was a big breakthrough when the song got radio play and became a hit, as many stations refused to play songs much longer than 3 minutes. It was also rare for a song with so many lyrics to do well commercially.

The title was taken from the proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Dylan got the idea from the 1949 Hank Williams song “Lost Highway,” which contains the line, “I’m a rolling stone, all alone and lost.”

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #3 in Canada, and  #4 in the UK in 1965. The song was on the album Highway 61 Revisited that was released a few weeks after this single.

I like the studio version the best but I also like the “Judas” live version in 1966. Bob with The Hawks (later The Band) backing him fought boos and shouts through the tour. The world it seemed was upset at Dylan for going “electric” and having a band back him up. These are my favorite live Dylan performances…both versions are at the bottom of the post.

From Rolling Stone Magazine:

The music here is much more in that celestial mode, like it’s ether-borne, rather than anything originating from mind, guitar, bass, drum, organ, voice. The final showdown begins when someone in the audience, from out of the tension of the attendant silence, shouts, “Judas!” In the annals of heckling, that’s a pretty good one. Dylan responds with “I don’t believe you” – a nice little reference, too, to the earlier song. There is venom in his voice. “You’re a liar.” Another pause, before Dylan turns to his band and orders them to “Play fucking loud!” And goodness do they, right on command. Dylan puts his entire body into the “How does it feel?” line, like he is jumping straight down someone’s soul and punching the crap out of it. Then it is all over. Dylan says, “Thank you,” and “God Save the Queen” plays on the PA. Time to be rolling on. 

 

 

From Songfacts

This was the only song on the album produced by Tom Wilson, who produced Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Wilson had been a jazz producer and was brought in to replace John Hammond. Wilson invited keyboard player Al Kooper to the session, and Al produced the famous organ riff that drove the song. This was the last song Wilson worked on with Dylan, as Bob Johnston took over production duties.

Thanks to The Rolling Stones, many associate the phrase with a life of glamor, always on the move, but Williams’ song is about a hobo paying the price for his life of sin. Dylan also used the phrase to indicate loneliness and despair: his rolling stone is “without a home, like a complete unknown.”

Dylan based the lyrics on a short story he had written about a debutante who becomes a loner when she falls out of high society. The lyrics that made it into the song are only a small part of what was in the story.

Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, who revolutionized the music manager profession and was known as a shrewd defender of his artists, was the one who told Columbia Records that they couldn’t shorten “Like a Rolling Stone” in order to make it more radio friendly.

Dylan recorded another version in 1970 for his Self Portrait album. This time, he used experienced session players in Nashville, Tennessee. Ron Cornelius played guitar on the album and told us about the session: “You’re not reading manuscripts. In Nashville the players are booked because of what they can create right now, not what’s written on a piece of paper. Everybody’s creating their part as the tape is rolling. Out of everybody I’ve worked with, I don’t know of anyone who’s been any nicer than Bob Dylan. He treated me wonderfully, but at the same time you knew being around him day after day that this man wakes up in a different world every morning. On a creative level that’s a really good thing and to try to second guess him or to ask him what he actually meant by these lyrics, you’re shooting in the dark because he’s not going to tell you anyway. And he might be telling you the truth when he says “I don’t know, what does it mean to you.'”

It is rumored that this was written about one-time debutante Edie Sedgwick, who was part of artist Andy Warhol’s crowd. She was the subject of an emotional tug-of-war between the Dylan camp and the Warhol camp.

According to this theory, the song includes some fanged, accusatory lines about Warhol and the way he mistreated the girl:

Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal

“Poor Little Rich Girl” Sedgwick is viewed by many as the tragic victim of a long succession of abusive figures. After escaping home and heading to New York, she ran into Warhol, who soon began to use her as his starlet. When her 15 minutes had come to an end, Warhol moved on.

Sedgwick and Dylan had a brief affair shortly before the musician married Sarah Lownds, and many say that this Dylan song was written about her. It should be noted that there is absolutely nothing beyond circumstantial evidence to support this idea, but the myth is so widely known that it’s taken on a life of its own and is therefore recognizable on its own terms.

This made Bob Dylan an unlikely inspiration for Jimi Hendrix, who before hearing this considered himself only a guitarist and not a singer. After hearing this, he saw that it didn’t take a conventional voice to sing rock and roll.

Hendrix often played “Like A Rolling Stone,” including a performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix and Dylan met only once, but Jimi had a knack for bringing out the emotions in Dylan’s songs: he also did a very successful cover of “All Along The Watchtower.” 

The Rolling Stones didn’t take their name from this song, but rather the 1950 Muddy Waters track “Rollin’ Stone.” The magazine Rolling Stone was named after this song, with a degree of separation: Ralph Gleason wrote a piece for The American Scholar about the influence of music on young people called “Like a Rolling Stone,” which he titled after the song. When he founded the magazine with Jann Wenner in 1967, they decided to name it after his story. Wenner muddied the waters a bit when he wrote in the debut issue: “Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy’s song. ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was the title of Bob Dylan’s first rock and roll record.”

In the November 2004 issue, Rolling Stone Magazine named this #1 on their list of the greatest songs of all time. >>

Greil Marcus wrote a book of almost 300 pages about this song. The book was released in 2005 and is titled Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads.

Al Kooper, who was primarily a guitarist and went on to be a very successful music producer, played this organ on this song. If you listen very closely at the beginning of this song, you will notice that the organ is an 1/8th note behind everyone else. Kooper wasn’t an expert on the organ, but Dylan loved what he played and made sure it was turned up in the mix.

When we asked Kooper what stands out as his finest musical accomplishment, he told us: “By the amount of emails I receive and the press that I get it is undoubtedly the organ part on ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’ I kinda like the way Martin Scorcese edited my telling of that story in the documentary No Direction Home. For me, no one moment or event sticks out. I think reading my resumé every ten years or so, is my finest moment – certainly my most incredulous. I cannot believe I did all the stuff I did in one lifetime. One is forced to believe in luck and God.” (Check out our interview with Al Kooper.)

A line from this song provided the title of the 2005 Martin Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan called No Direction Home.

Jimi Hendrix’s performance of this song at Monterey is a classic. Hendrix had made a name for himself in Europe, but didn’t manage to make a dent in the US market until the fabled Summer of Love. It happened at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. All of a sudden, an artist who had struggled unsuccessfully for recognition in his own country became one of its future music legends.

Rolling Stone asked a panel of musicians, writers and academics to vote for Dylan’s greatest song in a poll to mark Dylan’s 70th birthday on May 24, 2011. This song came out on top, beating “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Tangled Up In Blue” into second and third places respectively.

 

Dylan’s original draft of the song’s lyrics were written on four sheets of headed note paper from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington, DC. The quartet of handwritten pages fetched over $2 million at Sothebys New York in June 2014, setting a new price record for a popular music manuscript. The previous record was John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for the 1967 Beatles track “A Day In The Life,” which cost $1.2 million.

The Rolling Stones recorded this for their 1995 album Stripped. Stones guitarist Keith Richards explained: “We got over the built-in reticence. If he [Bob Dylan] had written ‘Like a Beatles,’ we probably would have done it straight away. We’ve been playing that song ever since Bob brought it out; it was like a dressing room favorite, a tuning room favorite. We know it really well. It was just a matter of screwing up the courage, really, to get over the feeling like we were riding on its back. We also realized that, hey, we took our name from a Muddy Waters album, a Muddy Waters song. Suddenly it didn’t feel awkward to play it.” 

An early manuscript of this song in the Dylan archives at the Center for American Research in Tulsa reveals some lyrics that were later changed or removed. Instead of “You used to laugh about,” it was “You used to make fun about.” Some lines that were excised:

You’ve studied all these great theories on life
And now you find out they don’t mean a thing
You’ve been blessed by counts these old friends claimed to love
Now they’re all ashamed of you

John Mellencamp performed this with Al Kooper at a Bob Dylan tribute concert held in Madison Square Garden on October 16, 1992.

Like A Rolling Stone

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you
People call say beware doll, you’re bound to fall
You thought they were all kidding you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

You’ve gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody’s ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you’re gonna have to get used to it
You say you never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

You never turned around to see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discovered that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

Princess on a steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinking, thinking that they’ve got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

 

 

 

Tom Petty – Jammin’ Me

I remember I had the album this was on…Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) and I was disappointed. I always liked this song though. The album did not live up to Southern Accents the previous album.

Although this is a 1980s song…Steve Jobs, Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, and Vanessa Redgrave are singled out…as well as events in the world…the idea behind it is more relevant today than 1987.

I’ve always thought this song was about information overload on our senses…being overwhelmed in the disinformation age…and this was 1987! How about now?

Mike Campbell, the guitarist for The Heartbreakers, wrote the music for this and gave Petty the demo. Tom held it for a while and didn’t do anything with it until one day when he was working with Bob Dylan. They came up with some lyrics by picking words out of a newspaper and off the television. Tom pulled out Mike’s demo, and they inserted those words over the track. The song is about the deluge of information and marketing messages that can prove overwhelming.

This song peaked at #18 in the Billboard 100, #41 in Canada, and #38 in New Zealand in 1987. It was written by Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Mike Campbell.

From Songfacts

Many of Petty’s songs start as demos written by Campbell. Mike also wrote the tracks for Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and “The Heart Of The Matter,” and helped Petty produce this album. 

In 1986, the band toured with Bob Dylan in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, which led to Dylan’s contribution on this song. In 1988, Petty and Dylan played together in The Traveling Wilburys, a band whose other members were Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison.

In the lyrics, Petty mentions various places and events that were in the news and getting constant media exposure. Actors Vanessa Redgrave, Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy also show up.

Jammin’ Me

You got me in a corner
You got me against the wall
I got nowhere to go
I got nowhere to fall

Take back your insurance
Baby nothin’s guaranteed
Take back your acid rain
Baby let your T.V. bleed

You’re jammin’ me, you’re jammin’ me,
Quit jammin’ me
Baby you can keep me painted in a corner
You can look away, but it’s not over

Take back your angry slander
Take back your pension plan
Take back your ups and downs of your life
In raisin-land

Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ’em all some place to go

You’re jammin’ me, you’re jammin’ me
Quit jammin’ me
Baby you can keep me painted in a corner
You can walk away but it’s not over

Take back your Iranian torture
And the apple in young Steve’s eye
Yeah take back your losing streak
Check your front wheel drive

Take back Pasadena
Take back El Salvador
Take back that country club
They’re tr yin’ to build outside my door

Bob Dylan – A Simple Twist Of Fate

This song was on Blood On The Tracks, a brilliant album by Bob released in 1975. This wasn’t a hit but it was a great song. The album though was a hit…peaking at #1.

As with other Dylan songs, the words keep me in this one. I also like the way he sings it…he sings it like he has lived it. People tell me it’s a sin, To know and feel too much within, I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring, She was born in spring, but I was born too late, Blame it on a simple twist of fate.

This album was made when he was having trouble with his wife Sara. Dylan denies the album is about the two of them.

In Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of all time in the early 2000s, Blood on the Tracks came in at Number 16.

Jacob Dylan about Blood on the Tracks: ‘When I’m listening to ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues,’ I’m grooving along just like you. But when I’m listening to Blood on the Tracks, that’s about my parents.’ 

From Songfacts

This song is from Blood on the Tracks, the 15th studio album by Bob Dylan, which made the album charts at #1 in the US and #4 in the UK. Blood on the Tracks is also legendary amongst Bob Dylan fans and critics, regarded as one of the high points of his career and standard against which future Bob Dylan albums were compared.

Dylan’s son Jakob Dylan has stated that the songs from Blood on the Tracks are “his parents talking.” Although Dylan denies that the album content is autobiographical, most of the lyrics have a confessional nature.

Covers of “Simple Twist of Fate” include Joan Baez (1975), The Jerry Garcia Band (1991), Concrete Blonde (1994), Sean Costello (2005), The Format (2005), Bryan Ferry (2007), Jeff Tweedy (2007), and Stephen Fretwell (2007). The Jeff Tweedy cover was also used on the soundtrack for the film I’m Not There .

A Simple Twist Of Fate

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark
Tingle to his bones
‘Twas then he felt alone
And wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel
With a neon burnin’ bright
He felt the heat of the night
Hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate

A saxophone someplace far-off played
As she was walkin’ on by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat-up shade
Where he was waking up
She dropped a coin into the cup
Of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care
Pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside
To which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks
Where the sailors all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again
How long must he wait?
One more time, for a simple twist of fate

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin
But I lost the ring
She was born in spring
But I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate

Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 And 35

I would say this is a little out of character for Bob. A very commercial song with laughter and what sounds like a drunken Salvation Army band.  With the popular sing-along chorus of “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” many people thought it was a drug song at the time. Dylan has denied it saying “I never have and never will write a drug song. I don’t know how to. It’s not a drug song, it’s just vulgar. I like all my songs. It’s just that things change all the time.”

Bob’s story was that while he was recording the song, two females happened to come into the studio to get out of heavy rain that was falling. As the story goes, Dylan correctly guessed their ages to be 12 and 35. I t was recorded in Nashville.

Whatever is true…it didn’t hurt it’s climbing up the charts. it peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #3 in Canada, #13 in New Zealand and #7 in the UK in 1966. It was banned on some radio stations but that probably only made it more popular.

 

 

From Songfacts

With the line, “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” this song is often associated with smoking marijuana, although Dylan insists it isn’t, stating, “I have never and never will write a ‘drug song.'” It is more likely about trials of relationships with women, and Dylan has hinted that it could have a Biblical meaning. Answering a question about people interpreting this song to be about getting high, Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2012: “These are people that aren’t familiar with the Book of Acts.”

The Book of Acts is from the Gospel of Luke, and contains an account of a stoning: “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God… And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

In this story, Stephen received his sentence after giving a speech to authorities who were going to kill him no matter what he said. This relates to how Dylan felt about his critics, who were going to figuratively “stone” him no matter what he did. (More on the meaning of “stoned” in popular songs.)

A less official explanation: The song is about two women who came into the studio on a rainy day. Dylan apparently read an article about punishment for women in Islamic states – hence “Everybody must get stoned” because relationships are a trial and error thing. 

If you multiply 12 by 35, you get 420, a number commonly associated with smoking marijuana. 420 came about because five high school students in California could only smoke at 4:20 in the afternoon. This time was after school and before their parents came home, so it was a good time for them to get high. 

This was one of the few songs Dylan released that was a traditional hit record, reaching the Top 10 in both the US and UK, and spending a week at #2 in America behind “Monday Monday” by The Mamas & The Papas. Perhaps relishing the opportunity to turn a song that repeats “everybody must get stoned” into a radio hit, Dylan cut the song down to 2:26 for the single release. On the Blonde On Blonde album, where it is the first track, the song runs 4:33. The single cuts out two verses and some instrumental passages.

Many radio stations received a publication called the Gavin Report that discussed new songs, and this one was described as a “drug song.” Many stations refused to play it, but Dylan was so influential at the time that the song had no trouble getting plenty of airplay.

You can hear Dylan burst out laughing in this song. According to Down the Highway: the Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes, the musicians were having a lot of fun in the studio, passing around joints and swapping instruments as they kept the mood light and jovial.

This song was covered by The Black Crowes for the 1995 album Hempilation, a collection of songs about marijuana. 

Guitarist and bassist Charlie McCoy played the trumpet on this. He recalled to Uncut magazine March 2014: “(Producer, Bob) Johnston said,’Tonight he wants to do a song with a Salvation Army sound – we need a trumpet and trombone.’ I said, ‘Does the trumpet need to be good?’ He’s said, ‘no!’ I kept track: It took 40 hours to cut Blonde on Blonde.”

This was included on the soundtrack to the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good,
They’ll stone ya just like they said they would.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home.
Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ ‘long the street.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ on the floor.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ to the door.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table.
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck.
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck.”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end.
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again.
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car.
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone.
They’ll stone you when you are walking home.
They’ll stone you and then say you are brave.
They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Bob Dylan – Must Be Santa

I would never bet against Bob doing anything. When one of my friends told me at the time that Dylan released a Christmas album…I thought he was kidding. Nope…and I liked it when I heard it.

Must Be Santa” was written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks. The song was first released in 1960 by Mitch Miller. In 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo’s arrangement as part of his holiday album, Christmas in the Heart.

All of the profits from this album went towards Feeding America, Crisis and the World Food Program. In 2009, Dylan told Bill Flanagan that he had intended to make a Christmas record for sometime: “Yeah, every so often it has crossed my mind. The idea was first brought to me by Walter Yetnikoff, back when he was President of Columbia Records.”

Bob Dylan: “This version comes from a band called Brave Combo. Somebody sent their record to us for our radio show [Theme Time Radio Hour]. They’re a regional band out of Texas that takes regular songs and changes the way you think about them. You oughta hear their version of ‘Hey Jude.'”

From Songfacts

This song is reportedly based on a German drinking game, with the lyrics taking on a ‘call and answer’ structure: “Who’s got a beard/That’s long and white?/Santa’s got a beard/That’s long and white.” Dylan’s version intersperses the names of former US presidents into the list of Santa’s reindeers: “Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen/Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon/Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen/Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.”

The official video for this was directed by Nash Edgerto and features Dylan singing in a gray wig in the midst of a rather raucous Christmas house party.

Even though Dylan is Jewish, he told Flanagan he never felt left out at Christmastime: “…it’s so worldwide and everybody can relate to it in their own kind of way.” Dylan added his ideal Christmas dinner would consist of “Mashed potatoes and gravy, roast turkey and collard greens, turnip greens, biscuit dressing, corn bread and cranberry sauce.”

Bob Dylan – Must Be Santa

Who’s got a beard that’s long and white?
Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white
Who comes around on a special night?
Santa comes around on a special night

Special Night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who wears boots and a suit of red?
Santa wears boots and a suit of red

Who wears a long cap on his head?
Santa wears a long cap on his head

Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who’s got a big red cherry nose?
Santa’s got a big red cherry nose

Who laughs this way: “HO HO HO”?
Santa laughs this way: “HO HO HO”

HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who very soon will come our way?
Santa very soon will come our way

Eight little reindeer pull his sleigh?
Santa’s little reindeer pull his sleigh

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus
Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

My Top 10 Favorite Live Albums

I’m more of a studio guy when it comes to listening to bands but there are a few live albums I really like. This is my top 10 and a few honorable mentions at the bottom. Very few artists can improve on the studio version but sometimes some manage to pull it off.

10. Led Zeppelin –  How the West Was Won – After the disappointing live album The Song Remains The Same, this album released in 2003 contained Led Zeppelin live in 1972 from two shows in top form.

How the West Was Won (Live) (3-CD)

9: Simon And Garfunkel – The Concert In Central Park – This was big for me when it was released. I had by this time worn a groove out in their greatest hits. The band was great and their harmonies were as good as ever.

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8: George Harrison – The Concert For Bangladesh – Fun to listen to George freed from the Beatles and he sounds great with Dylan, Billy Preston, Ringo, and other friends.

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7: The Band: The Last Waltz – One of the best live albums ever. The Band’s last concert with Robbie with a host of talented famous friends. I still don’t get the Neil Diamond selection…nothing against Neil…he didn’t fit in with this atmosphere.

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6: The Allman Brothers Band “At Fillmore East” – This album floats up and down this list depending on my mood. It was at number 2 when I first made this list a couple of weeks ago. This band was probably one of the most talented bands in the seventies. I didn’t start heavily listening to them until around 5-10 years ago. They are better live than in the studio. There was not a weak link in this 6 piece band…especially in the Duane version but later incarnations were almost as strong.

At The Fillmore East (2LPs - 180GV)

5: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, ‘Live/1975-85’ – I listened to this so much in the 80s that I knew the stories Bruce would tell by heart. Later when listening to the studio version of a song I would expect the story that went with it.

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4: Paul McCartney  Wings Over America – This triple album set was a live greatest hits. The songs had some edge to them thanks to Jimmy McCulloch the young prodigy guitar player.  Paul even broke his silence on the Beatles and included five Beatle songs. Blackbird, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Yesterday, The Long and Winding Road, and Lady Madonna. Unlike the other 3 albums ahead of this on in the list, Paul didn’t mess with the songs too much from the original studio recordings.

Wings over America

3: The Rolling Stones – ‘”Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” – This tour and the 1972  tour were the Stones at their live peak.

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2: Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert – I have seen Dylan 8 times but if I could pick a tour to see him on…I would go back and this would be the one. With The Band backing him up…minus Levon Helm but Mickey Jones on drums is very powerful.

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1: The Who – ‘Live at Leeds’ This album highlights The Who at their best. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a rock band so tight. The power of the performance is huge. Pete Townshend told his soundman Bob Pridden to erase all other shows on this tour at the time…Bob did… much to Pete’s regret later on.

The Who - Live at Leeds By The Who

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Beatles Live At The Star-Club in Hamburg Germany – The quality of the recording is pretty bad but it’s exciting to hear the punkish Beatles before Beatlemania hit.

The Kinks – One For The Road

Neil Young & Crazy Horse –  Live Rust

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

The Band – Rock of Ages

Cheap Trick – At Budokan

Elvis (68 Comeback Special)

 

Traveling Wilburys – Congratulations

This will be it for this Wilbury Weekend…one more tomorrow.

Congratulations for breaking my heart, Congratulations for tearing it all apart
Congratulations, you finally did succeed, Congratulations for leaving me in need

This appeared on their first Album Vol 1. This was the B side of the single End of the Line. Dylan sings this song of despair.

There is not a song on either of their two original album that I don’t know by heart. This one was played a lot in my car…which I seemed to livein… going in between a girlfriend and friends.

 

Congratulations

Congratulations for breaking my heart
Congratulations for tearing it all apart
Congratulations, you finally did succeed
Congratulations for leaving me in need

This morning I looked out my window and found
A bluebird singing but there was no one around
At night I lay alone in my bed
With an image of you goin’ around in my head

Congratulations for bringing me down
Congratulations, now I’m sorrow bound
Congratulations, you got a good deal
Congratulations, how good you must feel

I guess I must have loved you more than I ever knew
My world is empty now ’cause it don’t have you
And if I had just one more chance to win your heart again
I would do things differently, but what’s the use to pretend?

Congratulations for making me wait
Congratulations, now it’s too late
Congratulations, you came out on top
Congratulations, you never did know when to stop

Congratulations
Congratulations
Congratulations
Congratulations

Traveling Wilburys – Handle With Care

This was the hit that kicked the Wilburys project off the ground. George Harrsison and Jeff Lynne started the ball rolling… Initially an informal grouping with Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, they got together at Bob Dylan’s Santa Monica, California studio to quickly record an additional track as a B-side for the single release of Harrison’s song This Is Love. This was the song they came up with, which the record company immediately realized was too good to be released as a single B side. They also recorded “You Got It” at the session, which helped convince them to record an album together.

The song made it to #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs Chart in 1988.

The title Handle With Care came when George Harrison saw the phrase on the side of a cardboard box in the studio.

Tom Petty on Bob Dylan: “There’s nobody I’ve ever met who knows more about the craft of how to put a song together than he does. I learned so much from just watching him work. He has an artist’s mind and can find in a line the keyword and think how to embellish it to bring the line out. I had never written more words than I needed, but he tended to write lots and lots of verses, then he’ll say, this verse is better than that, or this line. Slowly this great picture emerges. He was very good in The Traveling Wilbury’s: when somebody had a line, he could make it a lot better in big ways.”

Handle With Care

Been beat up and battered ’round
Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down
You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found
Handle me with care

Reputations changeable
Situations tolerable
Baby, you’re adorable
Handle me with care

I’m so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won’t you show me that you really care?

Everybody’s got somebody to lean on
Put your body next to mine, and dream on

I’ve been fobbed off, and I’ve been fooled
I’ve been robbed and ridiculed
In daycare centers and night schools
Handle me with care

Been stuck in airports, terrorized
Sent to meetings, hypnotized
Overexposed, commercialized
Handle me with care

I’m so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won’t you show me that you really care?

Everybody’s got somebody to lean on
Put your body next to mine, and dream on

I’ve been uptight and made a mess
But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess
Oh, the sweet smell of success
Handle me with care

Byrds – You Ain’t Going Nowhere

A great song by The Byrds that was written by Bob Dylan. The Byrds released this song in 1968 and it was on their classic album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Their version was released 3 years before Dylan commercially released a version of the song on his Greatest Hits Vol 2 album in 1971.

You Ain’t Going Nowhere peaked at #74 on the Billboard 100 in 1968. This country-rock song has been covered many times by different artists.

Dylan’s original Basement Tapes demo of this song contained the lyric “Pick up your money, pack up your tent”, which was mistakenly altered by McGuinn in the Byrds’ version to “Pack up your money, pick up your tent.” Dylan took note of this lyric change in his 1971 recording of the song, singing “Pack up your money, put up your tent McGuinn. You ain’t goin’ nowhere.” McGuinn said: “It was an honor to be in a Bob Dylan song! I got the words wrong and he changed all the words for his version of it. He and I have always been kind of like that. He likes to poke fun at me.”

From Songfacts

The likely influence on this song was Dylan’s 1967 motorcycle accident, which severely limited his mobility. The song was recorded in the basement of a house where members of The Band lived, and played with Dylan while he experimented with new sounds. The Basement Tapes album was not officially released until 1975, but the songs were circulated and this one drew the attention of The Byrds, who released it on their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds released “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” as the first single off the album peaking at #45 in the US and #74 in the UK. Guitarist and singer Roger McGuinn recalled to Uncut that their record label, Columbia Records (which was also Dylan’s record label), sent their producer Gary Usher some demos from Dylan’s Woodstock sessions. Among them were “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Nothing Was Delivered” (which the Byrds also recorded), 

Roger McGuinn said “I thought they sounded really good,” he said. “You didn’t know what Bob was up to; and far as I knew, he was just laid up from a motorcycle accident. But I think it was probably a reaction to the psychedelic thing. It just got to be too much and everybody wanted to back off.”

You Ain’t Going Nowhere

Clouds so swift
Rain won’t lift
Gate won’t close
Railings froze
Get your mind off wintertime
You ain’t goin nowhere
Whoo-ee ride me high
Tomorrow’s the day
My bride’s gonna come
Oh, Oh are we gonna fly
Down in the easy chairI don’t care
How many letters they send
Morning came and morning went
Pack up your money
Pick up your tent
You ain’t goin nowhere
Whoo-ee ride me high
Tomorrow’s the day
My bride’s gonna come
Oh, Oh are we gonna fly
Down in the easy chairBuy me a flute
And a gun that shoots
Tailgates and substitutes
Strap yourself
To a tree with roots
You ain’t goin nowhere
Whoo-ee ride me high
Tomorrow’s the day
My bride’s gonna come
Oh, Oh are we gonna fly
Down in the easy chair

Now Genghis Kahn
He could not keep
All his kings
Supplied with sleep
We’ll climb that hill no matter how steep
When we get up to it
Whoo-ee ride me high
Tomorrow’s the day
My bride’s gonna come
Oh, Oh are we gonna fly
Down in the easy chair

 

Favorite Lines from Songs Part 2

I did Part 1 over a year ago and it was a fun post. I’ve been meaning to do this again. I remembered some of the lyrics suggested by my friends hanspostcard and allthingsthriller on the last post…I have added those to list. Thanks to both of you.

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back, And started walkin toward a coffee colored Cadillac… Chuck Berry

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free Janis Joplin/Kris Kristofferson

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And I need you more than want you, And I want you for all time Jimmy Webb

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Doesn’t have a point of view / Knows not where he’s going to / Isn’t he a bit like you and me…The Beatles

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Met myself a coming county welfare line, I was feeling strung out, Hung out on the line…Creedence Clearwater Revival

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And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above…Bruce Springsteen

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He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week / All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek…Kinks

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Well it’s too late, tonight, To drag the past out into the light, We’re one, but we’re not the same, We get to carry each other, Carry each other…U2

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You can blow out a candle but you can’t blow out a firePeter Gabriel

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Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see…The Beatles

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Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola, C-O-L-A Cola…Kinks

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It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart…Bob Dylan
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A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see oneThe Band

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And the sign said, The words of the prophets, are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls… Simon and Garfunkel

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I lit up from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds, Didn’t get to sleep that night
Till the morning came around…Grateful Dead

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When I said that I was lying, I might have been lyingElvis Costello
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Though nothing will keep us together/We can be heroes/Just for one day…David Bowie
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Lose your dreams and you. Will lose your mind…Rolling Stones

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It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win…Bruce Springsteen

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The motor cooled down, the heat went down, and that’s when I heard that highway sound…Chuck Berry

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We were the first band to vomit at the bar, and find the distance to the stage too far…The Who

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Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man

And you know something’s happening but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

There is a lot of power in just that one line and the song. Not only the lyrics but the intensity that Bob sings it. When it was released everyone wanted to know who Mr. Jones was and people still wonder. Bob Dylan set it straight like only Dylan does with this statement…“I could tell you who Mr. Jones is in my life, but, like, everybody has got their Mr. Jones.” 

“Ballad Of A Thin Man” was recorded on August 2, 1965, at the same session as “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” “Queen Jane Approximately” and “Highway 61 Revisited,” when you get those songs out of a session…you are doing alright.

The song was on the great album Highway 61 Revisited. The album peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100 and #4 in the UK in 1965.

From Songfacts

While speculations remain rampant as to who “Mr. Jones” is and what exactly this song is supposed to mean, there is no definitive answer at this time. The closest thing we’ve seen to an answer from Dylan himself appears in an interview given in Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, where Dylan asserts that the “Mr. Jones” in question is a real person not known by this name, who is a pinboy, wears suspenders, and “puts his eyes in his pocket” which might mean that he wears glasses.

Before launching into this song in Japan, 1986, Dylan said, “This is a song I wrote in response to people who ask questions all the time. You just get tired of that every once in a while.”

Of the many references to “Ballad of a Thin Man” found throughout media, are the lines “feel so suicidal, just like Dylan’s Mr. Jones” from the Beatles’ “Yer Blues,” “Mr. Jones is a man who doesn’t know who Mr. Jones is” from Momus’ “Who Is Mr. Jones?,” “I wanna be Bob Dylan, Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky.” from Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones,” and “Mr. Jones won’t lend me a hand” from Country Joe and the Fish’ “Flying High.” While we cannot speculate on the true identity of Mr. Jones, it can be said that the name “Mr. Jones” has come to symbolize for the music world the kind of old-guard “square” who “doesn’t get it,” similar to our modern usage of the mythical “Joe Sixpack.”

This is the song which Bob Dylan and his band played at the Forest Hills concert of 1965 in an attempt to soothe the unruly crowd. As Al Kooper recounts in Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, “It had a quiet intro, and the kids persisted in yelling and booing all the way through it. Dylan shouted to us to ‘keep playing the intro over and over again until they shut up!’ We played it for a good five minutes – doo do da da, do da de da – over and over until they did, in fact, chill. A great piece of theater. When they were finally quiet, Dylan sang the lyrics to them.”

A 1966 cover of this song (titled “Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)”) was the first single for The Grass Roots. At the time, the group was led by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. Sloan credits Bob Dylan for sticking by him when many other musicians and industry insiders dissociated themselves from him. Sloan was an up-and-coming songwriter/producer when he wrote the incendiary hit “Eve Of Destruction,” which went to #1 in 1965, but caused a great deal of controversy and made it very difficult for him to find work.

According to Al Kooper, Bob Dylan took from Ray Charles’s “I Believe to My Soul” for “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

In a September 22, 1966 interview in Austin, Texas, a reporter asked Dylan if “Ballad of a Thin Man” was about “a newspaper reporter or something.” Dylan, who spent the entire interview mocking and evading the questions, responded with a single line: “No, it’s just about a fella that came into a truck stop once.”

The opening line, “You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand,” was at one point, “You walk into the room with a hatchet in your hand.” This was revealed in a lyric sheet that is part of Dylan’s archives in Tulsa.

Before and after their speeches, Black Panther founder Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale regularly played this song over the PA system. Insiders reported they listened to it almost obsessively. The two men felt it was speaking about the black struggle in America.

Ballad of a Thin Man

You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked and you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard but you don’t understand
Just what you will say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

You raise up your head and you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says, “It’s his”
And you say, “What’s mine?” and somebody else says, “Well, what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God, am I here all alone?”
But something is happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

You hand in your ticket and you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you when he hears you speak
And says, “How does it feel to be such a freak?”
And you say, “Impossible!” as he hands you a bone
And something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

You have many contacts among the lumberjacks
To get you facts when someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect, anyway they already expect you to all give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

Ah, you’ve been with the professors and they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well-read, it’s well-known
But something is happening here and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to you and then he kneels
He crosses himself and then he clicks his high heels
And without further notice, he asks you how it feels
And he says, “Here is your throat back, thanks for the loan”
And you know something is happening but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

Now, you see this one-eyed midget shouting the word “Now”
And you say, “For what reason?” and he says, “How”
And you say, “What does this mean?” and he screams back, “You’re a cow”
“Give me some milk or else go home”
And you know something’s happening but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

Well, you walk into the room like a camel, and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket and your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law against you comin’ around
You should be made to wear earphones
‘Cause something is happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

Bob Dylan – Duquesne Whistle

This song was off the 2012 album Temptest. Bob wrote this song with Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead lyricist. The album peaked at #3 in the Billboard Album Charts. My son is who called my attention to this one. Unlike some other older performers, Bob somehow stays relevant to the times.

The memorable video is directed by Nash Edgerton. Bob looks just really cool in this video as he leads some kind of gang.

The song refers to the Duquesne train service that used to run between New York Penn and Pittsburgh Penn Stations, which was named after the 18th century Fort Duquesne in the latter city. That route is now served by the daily Amtrack Pennsylvanian service.

From Songfacts

The bluesy song  The lyrics show Dylan’s distaste at times a changing’. “Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing,” he demands. “Blowing like it’s gonna sweep my world away.”

The Nash Edgerton-directed music video is set on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Dylan appears briefly throughout the clip.

The line, “I’m gonna stop at Carbondale and keep on going” refers to Carbondale, Pennsylvania, in the northeast corner of the state. Like all of the region, it’s now a small rust belt town, but at the time when the Duquesne train line was running, Carbondale was fat off the anthracite coal industry.

Duquesne Whistle

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gonna sweep my world away
I’m gonna stop at Carbondale and keep on going
That Duquesne train gon’ rock me night and day

You say I’m a gambler, you say I’m a pimp
But I ain’t neither one

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Sound like it’s on a final run

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she never blowed before
Little light blinking, red light glowing
Blowing like she’s at my chamber door

You smiling through the fence at me
Just like you’ve always smiled before

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she ain’t gon’ blow no more

Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing like the sky’s gonna blow apart
You’re the only thing alive that keeps me going
You’re like a time bomb in my heart

I can hear a sweet voice steadily calling
Must be the mother of our Lord

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like my woman’s on board

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gon’ blow my blues away
You’re a rascal, I know exactly where you’re going
I’ll lead you there myself at the break of day

I wake up every morning with that woman in my bed
Everybody telling me she’s gone to my head

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gon’ kill me dead

Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing through another no good town

The lights on my native land are glowing
I wonder if they’ll know me next time ’round
I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she’s blowing right on time

Bob Dylan – Love Minus Zero/No Limit

I usually post single releases but this song is one of my favorites of Bob Dylan. I can just read the lyrics of this song and enjoy it. Bob Dylan is the king of song imagery. It was written about his future wife Sara Lownds. It was released in 1965 on the “Bringing It All Back Home” album.

The lyric that hooked me was She knows there’s no success like failure, And that failure’s no success at all. That line is hard to beat.

The song was included on the album Bringing It All Back Home released in 1965. The song was not released as a single but the album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts.

The title of the song is one of a kind. It’s fun to read people’s interpretations of Dylan’s songs. His songs mean so many different things to people and he is never too open about revealing what they are about.

I found this of someone attempting to mathematically break down the song.

 It’s a strange way to title a song, with a slash in the middle. Until you realize that this is not a normal title per se. It’s an equation, like 4/2=2. In mathematics, the forward slash represents “divided by. Four divided by two equals two.

So what’s Love minus zero divided by no limit? Well, no limit equals infinity. It is infinite. Ten divided by infinity would be an infinitely small number. In fact, any finite number divided by infinity would be an infinitely small number.

However, if one’s love is infinite, and you subtract zero from that, the equation now reads “Infinity divided by infinity.” Which equals One. If each human heart is an infinity, it is through love that the two become one.

 

Love Minus Zero/No Limit

My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire
People carry roses
Make promises by the hours
My love she laughs like the flowers
Valentines can’t buy her

In the dime stores and bus stations
People talk of situations
Read books, repeat quotations
Draw conclusions on the wall
Some speak of the future
My love she speaks softly
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all

The cloak and dagger dangles
Madams light the candles
In ceremonies of the horsemen
Even the pawn must hold a grudge
Statues made of matchsticks
Crumble into one another
My love winks, she does not bother
She knows too much to argue or to judge

The bridge at midnight trembles
The country doctor rambles
Bankers’ nieces seek perfection
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing