Every One of Them Words Rang True

Every One of Them Words Rang True: The Defiance of Time in Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up In Blue’.


Back in 2006, Bob Dylan was interviewed for yet another ‘Rolling Stone’ cover story. Looking back on the tumultuous decade in which he’d first made his name, Dylan reminded the interviewer, Jonathan Lethem, that he was “talking to someone who owns the Sixties”. Which is true. The flip side, though, is that for a long time, the Sixties seemed to pretty much own Bob Dylan. It was as though he had signed some kind of Faustian bargain with the spirit of that decade, guaranteeing him phenomenal artistic success and a quasi-religious following, but forbidding him ever to evolve beyond it. Had his infamous motorcycle crash in 1966 actually killed him, it might have been seen as a fitting end to Dylan’s story: it could have been his James Dean moment, the 500cc Triumph Tiger serving as a perfect metaphor for the breakneck speed and unpredictable trajectory of his Sixties career. Like some sort of countercultural Icarus, they’d have said, he flew too high, too fast, and was thrown back to the ground. Tragic, but inevitable.

Instead, after an ominous hiatus during which all sorts of rumours about the crash circulated, Dylan returned; but the Dylan who returned seemed even more of an enigma than the one who’d momentarily vanished. If Dylan’s audience had trouble relating to the new Dylan who emerged, Dylan himself had problems relating to his own art, and even his own sense of self:

“Well, it wasn’t that the crash was so bad. I couldn’t handle the fall. I was just too spaced out. So it took me a while to get my senses back. And once I got them back I couldn’t remember too much. It was almost as if I had amnesia. I just couldn’t connect for a long, long time.”

A lot of Dylan fans soon began to share that sense of disconnection. To many, Dylan’s post-crash career proved a letdown. If the stripped-back countrified arrangements and minimalist, biblically flavoured lyrics of ‘John Wesley Harding’ were bad enough, then subsequent albums such as ‘Nashville Skyline’ and ‘New Morning’ seemed ten times worse. By the mid 1970s, Dylan was seen as an anachronism, an artist whose only contemporary appeal was retrospective. The hugely successful 1974 ‘comeback’ tour with The Band, which had filled stadiums and set records for ticket sales, was viewed as an exercise in nostalgia, a chance for aging hippies and well-fed baby boomers to fondly recall the high tides of the Sixties from the calmer, more contented shores of the Seventies.

The 74 tour had coincided with the release of Dylan’s 14th studio album, ‘Planet Waves’, which received a fairly muted response: it did hit Number 1 on the US album chart, but only because of pre-sales; business dropped off sharply, and overall it was far from a spectacular success, particularly when compared with the record-breaking popularity of the tour. This served to reinforce the impression that Dylan was very much an artist of the Sixties. He had dominated that decade, but now that decade was becoming an albatross around his neck, threatening to drag him under. As the Sixties receded into the past, so the cultural phenomenon known as ‘Bob Dylan’, once such a powerful force, appeared to be ebbing slowly away.

Put simply, ‘Blood On The Tracks’ reversed that process. His most pivotal album since (at least) ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, it was simultaneously a return (stylistically and conceptually) to his earlier, acoustically driven work, and also a determined, irreversible leap forwards. If ‘Blood On The Tracks’ as a whole exploded the gathering consensus that Dylan’s best work was behind him, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, being the opening track, was the song that lit the fuse. Leaping out of the speakers with an unrivalled sense of assurance and subtle aggression, this was an unambiguous and incontrovertible announcement that the game had forever changed. By the time a contemporary listener to ‘Blood On The Tracks’ had watched the needle traverse that crucial first inch or so of black vinyl, winding its way around the first set of grooves to the end of track one, and had heard the last verse of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ go ringing by, there could have been no doubting that Dylan was officially ‘back’.

Despite the plethora of Dylan biographies and critical studies, mystery still surrounds the source of Dylan’s inspiration for many of his most remarkable creations. Biographers and critics have illumined a certain amount (a lot, in fact) about Dylan the man, Dylan the artist, and the complex relationship(s) between the two; but none of this has done anything to erode the idea that Dylan is utterly sui generis, or to alleviate the sense of awe which inevitably attends any serious contemplation of Dylan’s songwriting. Where does an album like ‘Blonde on Blonde’, or a song such as ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ come from? How does someone go about constructing something like that? We can’t even begin to speculate because thinking of such works in those terms feels like a category error.

In the case of ‘Blood On The Tracks’, however, the specific circumstances surrounding Dylan’s inspiration are actually quite well documented. Obviously, the subject matter is assumed to be highly autobiographical, whatever the vehemence of Dylan’s denials, or his sly, coquettish claims, in ‘Chronicles, Volume One’, that the whole album was based on “a book of Chekhov stories”. Musically, Dylan was influenced in open guitar tunings by Joni Mitchell’s album ‘Blue’, an album that’s also occasionally cited as having inspired Dylan to call the song ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, although that explanation has never felt right. But what was really different about the songwriting on ‘Blood On The Tracks’ was the very particular set of methods Dylan employed in the construction of the narratives, methods which were closely related to abstract and cubist concepts in the field of painting, an art form in which Dylan had long been keenly interested. It was these methods which allowed Dylan to break out of the artistic impasse he found himself in.

Dylan has repeatedly discussed, in interviews, the crippling sense of ‘amnesia’ and confusion that plagued him at the time, the uncertainty regarding how to progress, and how techniques borrowed from painting allowed him to transcend those problems. “Blood On The Tracks did consciously what I used to do unconsciously”, he said. “I knew how to do it because it was a technique I learned, I actually had a teacher for it.”

The ‘teacher’ in question was a man named Norman Raeben who was, at the time Dylan met him, an octogenarian art teacher, working in a studio on an upper floor of Carnegie Hall in New York. Dylan had been prompted to seek out Raeben when he overheard some friends discussing artistic ideas of ‘love’ and ‘beauty’ and seeming to have very concrete, confidently held definitions for these words:

“They were talking about truth and love and beauty and all these words I had heard for years, and they had ‘em all defined. I couldn’t believe it… I asked them, ‘Where do you come up with all those definitions?’, and they told me about this teacher.”

By all accounts, Raeben was a classic non-sufferer of fools, who would routinely lambast his pupils with loud cries of ‘Idiot!’, reputedly leading to Dylan’s use of this pithy epithet in the song ‘Idiot Wind’. In any case, Dylan, who had long had an amateur interest in painting, met with Raeben and was immediately impressed with the extent to which Raeben was not at all impressed by, and even seemed to be totally unaware of, Dylan’s fame. (The story goes that Raeben, sizing up Dylan’s dishevelled appearance, took him for a vagrant and offered him food and board in return for Dylan cleaning up his studio).

Discussing the aspects which set ‘Blood On The Tracks’ apart, Dylan said, “Everybody agrees that that was pretty different, and what’s different about it is that there’s a code in the lyrics and also there’s no sense of time.” What can we say about the ‘code’ in the lyrics? More than any other artist in the history of popular music, Dylan has been the subject of analysis, interpretation, and theorising. That his lyrics might contain some sort of ‘code’ is a dangerous line of enquiry to pursue, and Dylan has often railed against people who do so. Nevertheless, in the case of this album particularly, there are some intriguing possibilities. In ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, for example, Dylan mentions Delacroix, a Louisianan town near the Gulf of Mexico (where a roadside billboard once reportedly informed visitors, “You have reached the end of the world” – meaning anyone aboard a fishing boat “outside of Delacroix” might find themselves in some quite dubious waters). But Delacroix was also the name of a 19th Century painter who influenced the French Symbolist poets, notably Arthur Rimbaud, himself a crucial literary influence on Dylan. Rimbaud is explicitly mentioned elsewhere on the album, and could perhaps have provided the model for the character in ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ who “started in to dealing with slaves”, as Rimbaud was said to have done in his later years in Africa. If so, Delacroix’s influence on Rimbaud would be a resonant analogy for the way Raeben inspired Dylan.

When Raeben decided to allow Dylan to enrol in his art class, he set a vase down on a table in front of him, left it there only a few seconds, then snatched it away and demanded Dylan draw it. It was a potent demonstration of the importance, and impermanence, of perception – the first of many revelatory lessons which Dylan would take away from Raeben’s art studio and transpose to his own field of artistic endeavour. Raeben, Dylan said, “taught me how to see. He put my mind and my hand and my eye together in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt.”

‘Tangled Up In Blue’ plays a number of subtle games with our ability to make sense of what is being said and by whom, deftly juggling aspects of narrative which we normally expect to remain static. Most obviously, there’s the lack of linearity – the ambiguity over how (or even whether) each verse connects with the others. Is the character who begins the song “layin’ in bed” the same one we meet at the end, “still on the road, headin’ for another joint”? And, if so, how does that opening scene relate, chronologically, to the closing verse? Is it later? Or earlier? Or maybe the same scene? We have no way of knowing.

Throughout the song, we are given literally nothing we can use to pin down the narrative. The words are a coherence-defying mix of detailed and vague. The internal logic of the song’s narrative is mercurial and kaleidoscopically diffuse; it is impossible to say whether one, two, or several relationships are being dissected during its verses. Is the ‘I’ who meets the ‘she’ who is working in “a topless place” the same ‘I’ who lived with ‘them’ on “Montague Street”? Is the ‘she’ who hands him the “book of poems” from the “thirteenth century” part of that ‘them’ and, if so, who is the third party? We can make suppositions and educated guesses, but we cannot make definitive statements.

A further, self-referential twist is added by that knowing line in the final verse, “we just saw it from a different point of view”, which could be taken as referring to Bob and Sara Dylan’s relationship (assuming we stick to the most obviously autobiographical interpretation); alternatively, that ‘we’ could just as easily mean all of ‘us’: the audience, the song’s characters, and Dylan himself, all experiencing the narrative from our various points of view. The net effect represents a paradoxical combination of communality and alienation.

That last verse also contains an important shift in tenses. Throughout the preceding verses, the past tense has been used exclusively – “I stopped in for a beer”, “I became withdrawn”, etc. Of course, each instance may be looking back from any given point in time to any other time which precedes it; nonetheless, there’s a prevailing sense of retrospection. Suddenly, in the final verse, the tense shifts: “now I’m goin’ back again, I got to get to her somehow”.

Dylan described these techniques in terms of “the break-up of time, where there is no time, trying to make the focus as strong as a magnifying glass under the sun, you know.” The song’s subversion of conventional treatments of narrative time amounts to an attempt to “defy” time: “there’s no respect for it: you’ve got yesterday, today, and tomorrow all in the same room, and there’s very little that you can’t imagine not happening.” Thus, even within the final verse’s swing from the past to the present, there is a subtle sense of vacillating tenses – we are now in the present, but the words refer to “goin’ back”:

“So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now”

As usual with Dylan, what he’s saying is not nearly so important as how he’s saying it. What’s really striking is not the plain fact that Dylan is switching back and forth between tenses, but the sheer artistry in the way he weaves these modulations into the fabric of the song. The listener could very easily be excused for not consciously noticing them; instead, they filter through subconsciously to form part of your overall sense of the song on a less tangible level. Dylan’s extraordinary vocal performance – lithe, nuanced, utterly mesmerising – distracts us from the fact that we are being pulled through a rapid succession of alternating senses of past and present: now he’s going back again, the people he used to know, they’re an illusion to him now.

Despite the title, which suggest stasis, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is all about movement. Pretty much everything in the song involves, implies, or relates to some sort of motion: spatial, temporal, metaphorical, or even metaphysical. At the most literal level, the song is full of action; the lyrics are jam-packed with verbs, and the protagonist is almost invariably portrayed as on the move, from one place (and/or state) to another: “standing on the side of the road”, “heading for another joint”, “drifted down to New Orleans”, “I became withdrawn”, etc.

Like showers of soil kicked up by the hooves of a galloping horse, all sorts of post-modern questions about identity, perception, and the purpose of storytelling are scattered across the listener’s consciousness. The song presents a complex blend of themes, each of which on their own would make for a fascinating piece of work: the portrayal of constant change; the queasily cubist feeling of simultaneity; and the correspondingly discordant sense of physical and sensory orientation:

“She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder,
We’ll meet again someday on the avenue,
Tangled Up In Blue.”

She is walking away from the narrator, but turns to look back at him. He is walking away from her, moving in the opposite direction, yet her view is towards him. On top of that, his sense of her, hearing her “over my shoulder”, points in the opposite direction to the one he’s moving in. They are physically moving away from one another, but their senses (of sight and sound) are focused towards each other. It’s a microcosm for the whole song, and – at least in Dylan’s case – could serve as an analogy for the way in which Bob and Sara Dylan’s marriage would continue to inspire over-the-shoulder glances for decades to come.

Dylan spent several months working on the lyrics for ‘Blood On The Tracks’, writing and editing the songs in a little red notebook, which was eventually donated to the Morgan Library in New York, where it is held in trust and restricted from view until after Dylan’s death. Having spent so long working on the songs, Dylan recorded them quickly, not even stopping to correct mistakes such as the very audible rattling of his cuff buttons on the face of his acoustic guitar. Dylan re-recorded several of the album’s songs over Christmas in Minnesota, with the help of a bunch of session musicians rounded up by Dylan’s brother David. These later sessions produced the take of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ which eventually appeared on the finished album.

The original, New York, recordings of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ actually featured an even more elusive sense of narratory identity, with the protagonist being described in the third person from the first verse – “he was layin’ in bed” – all the way through to the fourth verse, when it suddenly changed to the first person: “I stopped in for a beer.” One of the New York takes, recorded on September 16th, 1974, was eventually released on the ‘Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased)’ box set, in 1991. It’s a beautiful, reflective performance, but is itself an inferior alternative to another New York take, one which was originally slated for inclusion on the album, and has yet to be officially released.

It’s fitting, perhaps, that not only is the released version of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ an alternative to the original version, but there is also more than one version of the original version itself. This complicated set of song versions suggests itself as a parallel for the song’s fragmented narrative, and its deliberate blurring of first, second, and third persons – what Dylan called the “the he and the she and the I and the you, and the we and the us”. When you refer to ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, you are making reference to a very specific recording: the Minnesota take which was released on the ‘Blood On The Tracks’ album and which has been played millions of times by music fans all over the world; but you are also (intentionally or otherwise) alluding to a sort of Venn diagram of song versions, making it hard to say which is the ‘definitive’ one. All of this gels nicely with the questions of conflicted and indistinct identity relating to Dylan himself – we don’t know who ‘the real Bob Dylan’ is, and – as he has often said himself – neither does he.

Again, this works on a similar level to a cubist painting, and, just as the shuffling of tenses may not be immediately apparent when hearing the song for the first time, listening to one of the New York takes, you may not notice, first time round, that the pronoun switches from ‘he’ to ‘I’. As Dylan himself said, he was trying to make the song work like a painting, “where you can see the different parts but then you also see the whole of it”, and the first-time listener usually hears only the “whole of it”, rather than zeroing in on “the way the characters change from the first person to the third person, and you’re never quite sure if the third person is talking or the first person is talking.” The crucial point, though, is that “as you look at the whole thing, it really doesn’t matter.”

The New York and Minnesota recordings of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ are not, of course, the only versions. Dylan has performed the song hundreds of times in concert, and has made a number of attempts at reworking the lyrics, the most substantial alterations being made on his 1984 tour, documented on the ‘Real Live’ album. Some of these rewritten lyrics (and their enunciations) offer a wonderful, spine-tingling frisson:

“And he was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on his shoes
Heading out for the old East coast
Radio blasting the news
Straight on through,
Tangled Up In Blue”

The solo acoustic version he performed on the ‘Rolling Thunder’ tour, which can be heard on the album ‘Bob Dylan Live 1975 (The Bootleg Series Volume 5)’ is sprightly and powerful, and must have been electrifying to witness live. It’s also about a minute shorter than the released version, which was itself a full minute shorter than the original New York take. Also worth mentioning here is the long, slow, saxophone-heavy, ‘grand ballad’ version, performed on Dylan’s 1978 tour, which is more noteworthy for its unusual musical arrangement than for any significant lyrical reinventions.

What all of these later versions have in common is that they are hugely enjoyable riffs on an existing template, but they never threaten to overshadow the ‘official’, album version. Dylan claimed that the ‘Real Live’ version came closer to what he was originally trying to achieve, whereas many critics regard the New York takes are ‘superior’ to the Minnesota version. Yet the fact remains that the version we hear on the ‘Blood On The Tracks’ album remains the most important and – yes – the bestversion of the song. However much we enjoy the alternative versions – and we do enjoy them – we can never seriously suggest that, were we given the chance to compile a ‘definitive’ track-listing of ‘Blood On The Tracks’, we would opt to include any other version of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ in place of the one that was originally released. That version is so cohesive, so marvellously accordant, that it is now impossible to think of it being replaced by one of the New York takes, whatever their undoubted merits.

More importantly, given the song’s crucial album-opening position, the fact that this is the most propulsive take is in keeping with its role as the linchpin of ‘Blood On The Tracks’, the driving force for the album and, by extension, the next phase of Dylan’s career. It is, arguably, the single most astonishing achievement on the album. It is, undoubtedly, the most important song on ‘Blood On The Tracks’. So striking an opener is it, in fact, that it recalls another key song that opened a classic Dylan album, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. Its first line even resembles the fairy-tale wording of that first track on ‘Highway 61 Revisited’: ‘Once upon a time’ versus ‘Early one morning’.

‘Tangled Up In Blue’ doesn’t really tell a story, per se. Instead, it presents a series of ineffably evocative vignettes. Just as a movie consists of a series of still images, flashed onto the screen in sufficiently rapid succession to trick the eye into perceiving motion where none actually exists, the listener is seduced into filling in the blanks – becoming an active participant in the construction of the narrative. Ironically, in acquiring the techniques which allowed him to write ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, Dylan became such a passionate disciple of Raeben’s teachings that it alienated him from his wife, Sara:

“It changed me. I went home after that and my wife never did understand me ever since that day. That’s when our marriage started breaking up. She never knew what I was talking about, what I was thinking about. And I couldn’t possibly explain it.”

Raeben gave Dylan (or assisted him in finding) the techniques that would allow him to write the songs that would rejuvenate his career, songs which were overwhelmingly concerned with the breakup of his marriage to Sara. And the extent of Dylan’s involvement with Raeben became a further contributory factor to the problems which ultimately led to Dylan’s divorce from Sara. The final irony was that the ‘friends’ who Dylan recalled discussing their definitions of ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’, whose conversations led him to seek out Norman Raeben, weren’t really friends of his at all. They were actually friends of Sara’s.

In an interview he gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 1977, Dylan once again discussed themes of splintered identity, and the use of cubist techniques, in relation to his seldom-seen film, ‘Renaldo and Clara’, pointing out that when “you look at a painting by Cezanne, you get lost in that painting for that period of time. And you breathe – yet time is going by and you wouldn’t know it, you’re spell-bound.” That’s exactly the experience most people have of listening to ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ for the first time: you would be hard-pressed to accurately guess how long the track had lasted. You survey the canvas of the song, perhaps noting details, maybe just letting the whole thing wash over you. You breathe. Time passes. Yet you would never know it – you’re spell-bound.




Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared, in slightly different form, in ‘Popmatters’, May 2010.

7 comments to Every One of Them Words Rang True

  1. Paul Kirkman says:

    Good piece, well-crafted, though I’m not sure there was loads new in that beyond being very well structured and in imitation of the song to boot. Having said that, I learned something new with regard to the Delacroix-Rimbaud/Raeben-Dylan parallel; and that’s the kind of thing I like to see, including the Dylanesque ironies, hardly a speciality of expectingrain, such as the Raeben crowd being friends of Sara. With regard to:

    “Raeben gave (or assisted Dylan in finding) the techniques that would allow him to write the songs that would rejuvenate his career, songs which were overwhelmingly concerned with the breakup of his marriage to Sara.”

    Although Dylan cannot be trusted in interview, he has pointed out (Biograph, Cameron Crowe? Can’t waste too much time on this just now) that the songs were written before his marriage broke up, the implication being before it started to break up. In any case there is a further irony here, and its in your commentary: although the Dylan world loves to pay lip service to the mantra of Raeben influence little new is ever revealed if anything, the implicit assumption being that the Raeben influence, or the influence Dylan saw fit to attribute to him, was confined to Blood on the Tracks. This is clear from the absence of commentary on how Raeben influenced subsequent work – or even the suggestion thereof as far as I have seen. Obviously the next album was Desire, and Dylan has effectively conceded, even if only by not denying it, that Desire could pertain to the marital problems. The song Sara obviously. But where is the Raeben influence there? Or are we now into Conrad and others?

    In any case: in terms of shifting time frame, structured as it may be, Tangled was historically random in this regard. It has no REAL scheme – other than the messing with past, present and future as an end itself. But Tangled was only a dress rehearsal for Jokerman, where Dylan plays with past, present and future in a very structured way and in one that tells a real story – of past, present and future. Yet this has been entirely ignored. The closest Michael Gray comes to it is suddenly leaping from first-century Galilean water, where he is fossilized for the whole of his fifty-page chapter, to twentieth-century “paranoid America” simply on the basis of “Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks
    Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain” – yet entirely without explanation for the momentary lapse which fits nowhere into his scheme. No ref to shifting time frame yet he almost faints over its occurrence in Blind Willie McTell or Caribbean Wind.

    No, the closest I’ve seen is John Gibbens in the laconic statement:

    “all the Jokerman has ever been is simultaneously present in him now.”

    Indeed, Dylan commentators on Jokerman contain multitudes – and this is the biggest irony in (post-Weberman) Dylanology.

    Paul Kirkman

  2. John Carvill says:

    Thanks, Paul, for your detailed comment.

    As you say, what Dylan says in interviews, and how it relates to reality, is complex and slippery, and hard to pin down. But I think, on balance, that there can be little doubt that at least some of the album concerns and/or is driven by the breakup of Dylan’s relationship with Sara. When Dylan was writing the songs, he was seeing other women, and the subsequent period saw some attempted reconciliations, etc., culminating in a final split.

    You’re right about Raeben: his influence on Dylan is not much examined and there is scant detail.

    I suppose we could say that Tangled has, *so far as we can tell*, no immediately obvious scheme. But that seeming lack of a scheme could also be seen as *being* the scheme.

    It’s not for me to defend Michael Gray’s writings on Jokerman, but it must be said: nobody has come close to Gray in providing worthwhile, insightful, entertaining, and incisive criticism of real lasting value.

    Anyway, thanks for contributing. Comments are always welcome.


  3. cinda jones says:

    I think if you really look into it, the woman he’s always trying to
    get back to is Suze. If you read her memoir, I think it reveals that alot of the lyrics in those early songs are about the one that got away.
    The one that chose not to play for fame and fortune.

  4. John Carvill says:

    Suze? Yes, possibly. Or maybe even further back, to Echo, Bonnie…..

  5. Paul Kirkman says:

    Thanks John. Yes, Dylan is a liar basically – particularly when it comes to (denying) biography in the (supposedly) Timeless Painting of Blood on the Tracks.

    Idiot Wind is “about” Sara. (Note I didn’t say it was about Sara) Indeed, Jakob contradicts his father on a number of points in a RS interview (and possibly elsewhere): “those are my parents talking” [Blood on the Tracks and Nashville]. I always knew that and never needed Jakob to tell me, but I’m glad he did. And Sounes came out with the staggering insight for him that “used a little too much force” could allude to Sara’s existing marriage to Lownds.

    I have seen not the slightest indication in print or on the web that, despite all the in-crowd hot air and formulaic mantra-mongering about “the mysterious Norman Raeben”, anybody (meaning the Dylan internet thought police) has ever thought about, let’s say mouthed off about to be on the safe side, a Raeben influence FOLLOWING Blood on the Tracks beyond what I indicated in my first comment. As far as I’m concerned, any critic who fails to do so fails to come close – to anything. And what interests me is Dylan’s work – in itself and for itself: not the limitations that others put on it. Jokerman analysis? Ricks contains multitudes.

    Tangled’s non-scheme is the scheme, indeed, which is why Jokerman is so much better even in just that respect: past, present and future are telescoped and very cleverly; and nobody has come closer to addressing this than John Gibbens in the quote I gave you. Dylan attributed Tangled’s shifting time frame, implicitly, to Raeben, who, I’m sure, didn’t have the foggiest idea either of this or how you would transfer such a concept from paint (or even into it), if in fact he ever even implied the possibility himself, to the (pretentious?) canvas of song lyrics. But it suits Dylan’s self-mythologization.

    As for “nobody has come close” as a classic quote, one person has: Mick Brown, who put these words into Dylan’s mouth for his write-up of his 1984 “exclusive” in a Madrid bar. He rehashed this for his 2011 regurgitation, as you’ll know, in which he reminds us that nobody got 1984 Dylan – except, implicitly, (unlike the “home theorists”) him. I’m still waiting, Mick. But we’ll still be waiting in 2084 when Mick is dead. How do we know Mick got it? Because:

    1) He kept going, “Hm, hm, hm” while Dylan wore his heart on his sleeve

    2) Mick doctored the exclusive by tidying up Dylan’s ramble with a “Nobody’s come close” that Dylan didn’t say – at least not in the part of the tape Mick put online around the summer of last year, which just happens to contain all the other bits Mick included in print both times. I transcribed the online recording immediately, not trusting it to stay there. And so Mick will be held accountable.

    When I read the woman’s Suze comment after mine, I thought “idiot!” Why? Because:

    1) It was obviously wrong and irrelevant, but on reflection where’s the logical flaw in that? Nowhere. Just doesn’t light my pipe about the burning coal of the Blood on the Tracks stove or deal with the artistic aspects. But there’s nothing actually wrong with the comment in logic or in fact

    2) I’m an artist – and artists, real artists, go round calling people who don’t get it idiots. How arrogant? But Norman Raeben did it, and show me one Dylan geek on the web saying Norman was out of order to do so. You see: it’s timeless art to call people who don’t get it idiots – and here the Raeben trumpeters are over a barrel. After all, that attitude gave birth to the Timeless Painting called Blood on the Tracks – whereby Dylan spoke, as you indeed point out, of “a code in the lyrics”. But woe betide anyone who even hints that such things, any things, have not yet been fully uncovered: s/he would be implying other people are idiots – that some secret code is only accessible to him/her. No: the code is not secret and it’s accessible to anyone – including idiots. Which is why I’m still waiting for someone, say Mick, to tell me about the several respects in which Blood on the Tracks spills over into Infidels under the Raeben influence. It’s not in the existing literature and it’s taking a hell of a long time.

    Maybe in 2084 I’ll still be around to read it. Just remember: it’s the highest form of art to go around calling other people idiots; and that was “hammered into art and baby it sold”.

    The Dylan world over a barrel

    Paul Kirkman

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