Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

“It is like Beowulf and it ‘takes me out to the meadow’. This song can make you leave home, work on the railroad or marry a Gypsy. I think of a drifter around a fire with a tin cup under a bridge remembering a woman’s hair. The song is a dream, a riddle and a prayer.” – Tom Waits

Bob Dylan needs no introduction and defies interpretation. (That’s the literal definition of “Bob Dylan”) I’ve certainly got no special qualifications to add to the oceans of commentary already out there. I don’t really want to read any more of it, either. If anyone should have their commentary noted, why not Tom Waits? He’s more qualified than anyone.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

This. Either you get it or you don’t. There’s no particular cosmic secret to it or anything. It’s a just a joke. You’re either in the spirit of it or you’re not. Bob Dylan is divisive like that, and this one of his most intensely love-it-or-hate-it moments. I can definitely understand that if you don’t happen to be a fan of incomprehensible lyrics or people who sing like drunk frogs, Dylan can be excruciatingly annoying. Which also happens to make him appealing to people who enjoy the knowledge that the things they’re into are annoying to others. That may be part of the reason why, in his heyday, his followers dubbed him the voice of his generation. Because the young generation really made it a point to confuse and irritate their elders; it feels so revolutionary and radical when the things you enjoy are closed off to outsiders who just don’t get it, man. But that’s just a common trait of being young and eager to break the apron strings. That’s why there’s been so many annoying subcultures based on annoying things. Bob Dylan, for his part, found the phenomenon of being the voice of anyone but himself extremely annoying, and spent a great deal of time and energy trying to alienate his own fanbase. He didn’t mean for his funny joke song to represent the enmity of generational groups and the cultural disjointment caused by radically changing values. It just happened to.

Pledging My Time

Here is an only moderately crappy video of late 90’s Bob Dylan performance. What’s interesting about it is this; has this always been a blues song and I just didn’t notice? Either way it works really well, although most blues songs don’t have quite as many words. It does show that too often, the persona of “Bob Dylan” has overshadowed the musicianship of Bob Dylan. Because the experience of hearing Blonde on Blonde as an album is all about the psychedelic intellectual journey, not the drier exercise of picking apart the musical structure of the songs. Of course, I’m coming at it as a non-musician, and for professional listeners I’m sure the experience is much more complex. But it is odd that on an album as familiar as this, I never actually noticed the musical styles and influences of the individual songs. It’s different to think of it as ‘Bob Dylan playing a blues song’ rather than a ‘Bob Dylan song that sounds like the blues.’ It’s a fine distinction.

One of Us Must Know

Sooner or later, baby, one of us must know. Even Bob Dylan sometimes apologizes for being an ass. Given Dylan’s famously biting tongue, this is downright sweet. I always thought it had an almost pensive spirit, a sense of real emotion. Sometimes Dylan uses his wordplay and wit to make a sneak attack of something really affecting. Makes you think what, if anything, you would say to an old lover or a distant friend to smooth over old slights.

Obviously 5 Believers

With Bob Dylan, nothing is ever obvious. Dylan embodied the legend of the cryptic poet; some saw him as more like a soothsayer than a rock singer. Meanwhile he always maintained that there was no sooth to his sayings, and everyone should just chill the eff out. Sometimes the soothsayer just wanted to rock out. This song was more of a throwaway than most, and less verbose. It makes not much more or much less sense than the average blues song. Though sometimes Dylan’s singing sounds like an ornery experiment (can one vocalize and hork phlegm at the same time? Yes, apparently ) he’s actually not much worse at it than the average bluesman. An uptempo R’n’B number is well within his reach, and it’s a good fit. And really, it’s fun when the gnomic one just cuts loose; Dylan always seems to be having too much fun with his own cleverness, but he doesn’t always seem to relish musicality itself. Though he doesn’t entirely step away from the persona, here the music doesn’t feel like just a vehicle for delivering the bon mots.

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)

You can almost dance to this, which is generally not what Bob Dylan is for. He’s worn a lot of hats in his day, but he’s yet to conquer the club scene. For an artist of such fame and influence, Dylan really is not very accessible. He’s an artist nearly everyone has at least heard of, but not that many people actually enjoy. That’s by design, it seems, judging by his habit of doing bizarre things whenever the acclaim gets too intense. For some fans, though, that’s part of the appeal. For the less dedicated, it’s necessary to shrug off the weirdness and hold on to the good bits. This is about as bibbity-bobbity as it gets with him, and as lyrically straightforward too, and for that reason, not one of the most legendary tracks in the oeuvre.