Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Album: Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Mobile is a town in Alabama that is known for folk music, while Memphis, Tennessee is known for blues and rock.

A few different characters show up in the narrative, starting with “the ragman.” Dylan did offer a rare song interpretation when he told Robert Shelton, author of No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, that the ragman is Satan. Many of Dylan’s lyrics are filled with biblical images, but shrouded in inscrutable stories.

It is often said that Dylan “found God” in the ’80s, but the Bible and God have been running through his work in a very serious way ever since the very beginning. Dylan later said that if he had to “do it all again,” he’d teach theology or ancient Roman history.

Dylan session artist Al Kooper’s memoir, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards , tells many fun anecdotes of the time around the recording of Blonde on Blonde. Anecdote the first: He was delayed on his way to Nashville for the first day of recording with Dylan, due to a night with some lady fans. So he delayed the plane the next morning while he came riding up beside it in a jeep. He boarded literally minutes before the plane’s wheels would have left the runway, only to turn around and discover that this flight had originated in New York and was half-full of people who knew him.

Kooper Anecdote the second: He was on foot in the city when a gang of thugs started chasing him with the idea of beating him up. He ducked into a bookstore and called to Dylan’s manager, Al Grossman, from a phone booth (remember this was in the day before mobile phones). Al Grossman dispatched Lamar Fike, a bodygaurd who had also worked for Elvis, to the scene in a Cadillac to retrieve Kooper from his imminent curb-stomping, thoroughly freaking out the thugs in the process.

Kooper Anecdote the third: one of the session players for Blonde on Blonde was a keyboard player named “Pig,” who happened to be blind. On a night when the band was drinking and blowing off steam, winding around the streets of Tennessee, they decided to let Pig drive. Pig was doing quite well, supplemented by directions from the passengers, until the Highway Patrol pulled them over.

Some notable uses of this song include the opening credits of I’m Not There, both the film and book version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas play it and mention it, respectively, and the various Grateful Dead covers throughout the ’60s and ’70s.

One of the lines in the song was inspired by “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Lumsford, who was known as the “minstrel of the Appalachians,” wrote:

‘Cause a railroad man they’ll kill you when he can
And drink up your blood like wine


Which compares closely with Dylan’s:

Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine

Mona tried to tell me/To stay away from the train line/She said that all the railroad men/Just drink up your blood like wine/And I said, “Oh I didn’t know that/But then again there’s only one I’ve met/And he just smoked my eyelids/And punched my cigarette

Attempting to ascribe specific meanings to Bob Dylan lyrics is most often a fool’s errand. As with abstract paintings or films like 2001: A Space Odyssey or TV shows such as Twin Peaks, everyone who experiences a Dylan song comes away with his or her own unique understanding of what was being communicated and to what it all might (or might not) add up. 

As part of the 1966 landmark Blonde on Blonde, speculation over “Stuck Inside of Mobile” often suggests the sprawling words and Ferris Wheel structure of the song relate to Dylan’s revolutionary “going electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

The idea, it’s been said, is that Mobile, Alabama could represent old-style, acoustic music, while Memphis had forever been transformed by the plugged into rock of Elvis Presley. 

All that comes close to being likely is that Dylan makes reference to an age-old mountain ballad titled “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” that contains the words, “I don’t like a railroad man/A railroad man, he’ll kill you when he can/And he’ll drink up your blood like wine.”

As for the smoking of an eyelid and punching of cigarettes: that’s just Bob Dylan for you.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Bob Dylan, Times They Are A Changin. Album: The Times They Are A – Changin’ (1964)

In the 1960s, several now-influential artists appealed to the disaffected counterculture’s emphasis on peace and love, especially with the sliding approval rates of the Vietnam War. As public approval of the Vietnam War dwindled in the latter half of the 1960s, popular music artists began to record songs that reflected this disapproval and ultimately became a new method of protest.

To begin, the highly-influential folk musician Bob Dylan recorded the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Written in 1963, just before the public began to disapprove of America’s involvement in Vietnam, the song features a simple melody played by Dylan’s acoustic guitar and harmonica. The lines “There’s a battle outside/and it’s ragin’/it’ll soon shake your windows/rattle your walls” are an obvious reference to the Vietnam War.

Dylan goes further and sings the lines, “Come mothers and fathers/throughout the land/and don’t criticize/what you can’t understand/your sons and daughters are beyond your command.” While at first glance Dylan could be pleading with the public to stop trying to understand the war, Dylan is in fact trying to tell us something else. In poetic terms, he shows the mass confusion, frustration, and anger at how many parents’ sons and daughters were sent off to war.

Moreover, a 1966 anti-war music poster advertised the popular rock groups Jefferson Airplane and Mystery Trend. The event, a benefit dance held at the University of California at Berkeley on March 25, 1966, features a large war scene drawing at the center. The war scene, colored in red, white and black, features combatants wearing helmets and holding machine guns, while avoiding explosions triggered by bombers flying overhead. At the top of the scene, the words “Vietnam” can be seen in the same font that the military uses. Below “Vietnam,” the word “Peace” can be seen scrawled in white lettering.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues. Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

This song skips from one cultural reference to the next. It touches on social discontent (“20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift”), drug busts (“The phone’s tapped anyway/Maggie says that many say/They must bust in early May/Orders from the D.A.”), violent policing witnessed at civil rights protests (“Better stay away from those/That carry around a fire hose”) and the fight against authority (“Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parkin’ meters”).

The lyrics resemble a stream of consciousness, a writing technique championed by beat poets such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, both of whom were a major influence on Dylan. Musically, Dylan told the LA Timesthe song was inspired by Chuck Berry: “It’s from Chuck Berry, a bit of ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ and some of the scat songs of the forties.”John Lennon was apparently so captivated by this song, he worried he would never be able to write anything that could compete with it. Lennon quoted it in his 1980 Playboy interview, which was one of his last. He said, “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with following examples. We can have figure heads and people we admire, but we don’t need leaders. ‘Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.'”

Musicians have alluded to this song for decades. Jet named their 2003 breakthrough album Get Born after the song’s lyric “Ah get born, keep warm.” Radiohead alluded to the track on the album, OK Computer, which features a song titled “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” The Gaslight Anthem’s song, “Angry Johnny and the Radio” includes the lines “I’m still here singin’ thinking about the government” and “Are you hidin’ in a basement mixin’ up the medicine?” both of which are referring to the opening lyrics to “Subterranean Homesick Blues”: “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement thinkin’ about the Government.” Artists to have covered this song, meanwhile, include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Harry Nilsson and Glenn Campbell.

The American radical (some would say terrorist) group, the Weathermen, got their name from the lyric, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” (the lyric was also the title of their manifesto). The group, also known as the Weather Underground, had a left-wing agenda, opposing the Vietnam War and other American military actions with militant actions of their own

The title may have been a nod to Jack Kerouac’s novel The Subterraneans.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Bob Dylan poses for a portrait with his Gibson acoustic guitar in September 1961 in New York City

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin, a call to action, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” became an anthem for frustrated youth. It summed up the anti-establishment feelings of people who would later be known as hippies. Many of the lyrics are based on the Civil Rights movement in the US.

In the liner notes of this album Biograph, Dylan wrote: “I wanted to write a big song, some kind of theme song, with short, concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. This is definitely a song with a purpose. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to.”

Dylan recorded this song in October 1963. He first performed the song at a Carnegie Hall concert on October 26 that year, using it as his opening number.

On November 22, 1963, United States president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, which made this song even more poignant. This also presented a quandary for Dylan, who had to decide if he would keep playing the song; he found it odd when audiences would erupt in applause after hearing it, and wondered exactly what they were clapping for.

Dylan kept the song in his sets. It was issued on the album of the same name on January 13, 1964.

Dylan covered the Carter Family Song “Wayworn Traveler,” writing his own words to the melody and named it “Paths Of Victory”. This recording is featured on “Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3”. After writing that song, he re-wrote the words again, changed the time signature to 3/4, and created this, one of his most famous songs ever.

This was released as a single in England in 1965 before Dylan went there to tour. When this hit in England, Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, went to #1 on the UK charts. It was the first time in two years that an album by a group other that The Beatles or Rolling Stones was #1.

Dylan allowed this to be used in commercials for accounting firm Coopers and Lybrand in the ’90s. In 1996, he also licensed it for commercial use by the Bank of Montreal.

Handwritten lyrics to four verses of this song jotted on a scrap of paper by Dylan were sold for $422,500 at a December 10, 2010 sale. Hedge fund manager and contemporary art collector Adam Sender placed the winning bid by phone to Sothebys in New York.

This song appears on the official soundtrack of the 2009 movie Watchmen. A cover of Dylan’s “Desolation Row” by My Chemical Romance also appears on the soundtrack.

Simon & Garfunkel covered this on their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., in 1964. They were produced at the time by Tom Wilson, who also produced Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ album.

Psychedelic Lunch

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Bob Dylan: Time Out Of Mind

Time Out Of Mind (1997) began Bob Dylan’s golden “old age” period. Sporting excellent production from Daniel Lanois and including a host of great session players, Dylan found his muse again and reminded the world why he is considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Time Out Of Mind won a trio of Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year in 1998.

There are no weak songs on this one, but I particularly enjoy Not Dark Yet, Make You Feel My Love, Highlands, Love Sick, Cold Irons Bound, and Tryin’ To Get To Heaven.

Dylan and Johnny Cash both proved beyond a doubt that talent and passion can produce greatness well into the twilight of an artist’s career.

https://youtu.be/RZgBhyU4IvQ

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Choosing a Bob Dylan album was difficult, but Blood On The Tracks won the battle; his 1975 masterpiece was too good to deny. For one thing, it kicks off with one of my all time favorite songs of his, Tangled Up In Blue. After that, it just cascades through all of these emotional peaks and valleys, a study of love and relationships going bad, but absolutely compelling. Dylan is of course widely recognized as one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era, and this project was full of treasures, like Idiot Wind, Buckets Of Rain, Simple Twist Of Fate, and the sublime You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind