April 27, 2010

35 years of "Blood on the Tracks."

Do you remember waking up in that tenement apartment that morning in 1975 and listening to the new Dylan album on the FM radio? "'Twas in another lifetime... one of toil and blood..."
Shelter from the Storm begins with four seconds of unaccompanied acoustic guitar strumming, lively, purposeful, and then it is joined by the voice. “’Twas in another lifetime,” Dylan begins, “one of toil and blood,” immediately establishing this song as one cut from the same musical cloth as the traditional folk tales, gospel songs, and murder ballads Robert Zimmerman was learning before he “came in from the wilderness,” only not as “a creature void of form” but as “Bob Dylan”. It is a song that, thirty-five years after its original release, remains both contemporary and as timeless as one of the most basic archetypes of human experience: the hunter.

History and myth reveal three basic types of hunter: first, the hunter/gatherer who operates strictly to sustain life on either a personal or group level; second, a warrior whose primary motivation is destruction; third, a seeker whose interest lies in finding Holy Grails or a heart of gold.

The hunter in Shelter is ... a seeker with no interest in destruction but reconnection.  Despite being “burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail, hunted like a crocodile (the hunter becomes the hunted), ravaged in the corn”, this quest will continue until she is found or the hunter is dead.  “Nothing really matters much,” the narrator in Shelter states, “it’s doom (destiny, fate) alone that counts.”
I made fun of the mixed metaphor — I had the ridiculous image of somebody raping a crocodile in a cornfield — and you defended Bob. That was in another lifetime, it seems.

22 comments:

Pete said...

Today's theme: corn!

TMink said...

One of my favorite Dylan albums. If you look for it and have the playback hardware, you can get the album on sacd. It sounds wonderful.

Trey

shoutingthomas said...

I've been worn out with Dylan worship for 30 years.

Give it a break.

SteveR said...

I was a senior in high school when that came out and I've always really enjoyed the album. Dylan's lyrics sometimes just go for the rhyme ("bent down to tie the lace of my shoe tangled up in blue").

So if I really like the "Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus" does that mean I am Randy California worshipping?

AJ Lynch said...

May have asked this before- do your Dylan posts tend to get very few comments?

Does blogger enable you to figure that out?


wv = bosynabl = everybody is doing the bosynabl

EDH said...

History and myth reveal three basic types of hunter: first, the hunter/gatherer who operates strictly to sustain life on either a personal or group level; second, a warrior whose primary motivation is destruction; third, a seeker whose interest lies in finding Holy Grails or a heart of gold.

A two-day theme!

Whilst observing Meade in yesterday's posts to be a hunter/gatherer of the first type, overall I'd put him squarely in the third.

I mean, how can you have a crusty conservative coating, with a creamy hippy love chick center without a...

Heart of Gold?

I want to live,
I want to give
I've been a miner
for a heart of gold.
It's these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.
Keeps me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.

I've been to Hollywood
I've been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean
for a heart of gold
I've been in my mind,
it's such a fine line
That keeps me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.
Keeps me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.

Keep me searching
for a heart of gold
You keep me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.
I've been a miner
for a heart of gold.


(Watch the first 1:45 of the video if you want to see Young at his confused best. There really should be a Dylan-Young "Confuse-Off" contest.)

Ann Althouse said...

"I must admit I felt a little uneasy/When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe"

I always saw that as a reference to Mary Magdalene. Bob was uneasy to be getting the Jesus treatment.

paul a'barge said...

thanks.

Right to iTunes, bought the album. Again.

paul a'barge said...

You know Dylan is a Christian, correct?

paul a'barge said...

You do know Dylan is a Christian, correct?

edutcher said...

Mr. Zimmerman lost me after "Rainy Day Women 5 and 13".

Every time I heard him say, "Ev'rybody mus' get stoned", I promised myself I'd never go near the stuff - after all, look what it had done to him.

Publius the Clown said...

paul a'barge: Dylan wasn't Christian when he wrote Tangled Up in Blue (his Christian phase began several years later), and I don't think he considers himself a Christian now (although he's quiet about the precise nature of his religious beliefs).

To answer Prof. Althouse's question, I'm only 29, so I don't remember waking up and hearing the album on the radio in '75. But I'm a huge Dylan fan, and I remember first hearing it--on compact disc, the heresy! but at least it was pre-iTunes...--in high school. Phenomenal stuff.

El Pollo Real said...

"If You See Her, Say Hello" has been favorite of mine lately from "Blood On The Tracks".

paul a'barge wrote: You do know Dylan is a Christian, correct?

Here's a link to an awesome Cat Power cover version of Dylan's song I Believe In You.

SteveR said...

Ann, perhaps your right about the Mary Magdalene reference (well Mary anyway) but I've always been inclined to explain these as poetic license rather than anything meaningful. Simple Twist of Fate has a lot to go over without having to think too hard about what "He hears the ticking of the clocks And walks along with a parrot that talks" means. I do admit to not having the artistic depth to tie these things up.

El Pollo Real said...

"I must admit I felt a little uneasy/When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe"

I always thought he was referring there to Sara Lownds as having worked as a Playboy bunny prior to their meeting.

TMink said...

Well, he was actually baptized in Pat Boone's pool, so that has to account for something.

Trey

Rich B said...

I think the Theme Time Radio Hour is the best thing he's done since New Morning.

Pete said...

I always thought he was a uneasy about a topless dancer tying his shoes, as most men who frequent those joints would likely be. Sure, it's later on, when the crowed thinned out, and she's probably dressed to go home but the narrative is unclear. His uneasiness gives a hint.

phx said...

"Bent down to tie the laces of my shoes..."

A euphemism for a certain sex act.

bagoh20 said...

"raping a crocodile in a cornfield"

That should be useful as in: "Drawing Mohamed is like raping a crocodile in a cornfield."

Ira said...

This was the best Dylan album of all time. I spend much "studying" time in college listening to this record.

Sarah A said...

It's a great album - college professors are even using it to teach the mechanics of poetry. check it out: http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/education/2010/april/Bob-Dylan-Album--Has-Classroom-Significance--35-Years-Later.html