Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, September 06, 2004


On the radio today I heard “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” on the “quality rock” station, and Dylan’s brilliant pitch & timbre & phrasing sounded so fresh and alive, and it’s a great song. Several weeks ago I posted on how I especially love Dylan’s satires, of which “Memphis Blues Again” is one, except this and “115th Dream” come off as visionary songs-beyond-satire -- he not only sees the world, but processes underlying what Taoism calls “the 10,000 things.” And the strong feeling I get from both songs is that Dylan sees a world in which nothing could be anyway other than it is -- a fatalistic vision. (I have not read, but am curious to see, English professor Christopher Ricks's book on Dylan's lyrics.) The fatalisc sense comes at the end of both songs. The end of the 115th Dream:

But the funniest thing was
When I was leavin' the bay
I saw three ships a-sailin'
They were all heading my way
I asked the captain what his name was
And how come he didn't drive a truck
He said his name was Columbus
I just said, "Good luck."

In the song’s vision, all the crazy 1960s America packed into the song already happened before Columbus showed up. It’s exhilarating, and funny, and Bob’s good wishes even feel humane.

A year later, in Memphis Blues Again, the fatalism is bitterer.

An' here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.


So I don’t let it go to my head too much that after breakfast the other morning my son asked me turn off the CD of Chopin Ballades so he could sit in my lap while I played one-fingeredly through “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be.”

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