Saturday, May 4, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Bob Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks", Part 2: Blowing In The "Idiot Wind"

English: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C...
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, 1963 (Wikipedia)
by Garrett Sawyer

Like a modern-day Dante, Dylan chronicled the inferno of his disintegrating marriage with Sara Lownds.

Even the title itself carried the poetic device of a double meaning. There isn't a train in sight on this album.

So when he titles it "Blood on the Tracks" is he referring to railroad tracks?

Or does he mean musical tracks, in which case he's implying that the songs have lyrical "blood" all over them? You be the judge.

On with the songs:

Simple Twist of Fate

Here the narrator sounds like he's describing a chance encounter (the twist of fate of the title) that happened to someone else. The pairing falls apart after a night of passion although the man hopes that perhaps he'll get lucky twice.

Yet he eventually ends up revealing his own feelings about it when he sings, "People tell me it's a sin to know and feel too much within" as if to admit that he's been talking about himself the whole time but found it too painful to acknowledge.

You're a Big Girl Now

If this isn't a painfully candid assessment of his failing marriage with Sara then there's never been one. Think of an update version of "Just like a Woman" and you've got the essentials.

The song is replete with sad observations as to the state of their relationship ("I'm back in the rain and you're on dry land"), pleas to be understood ("I hope that you can hear, hear me singing through these tears"), promises to change, confessions of ignorance and inferiority and, finally, a wistful request not to "change horses in midstream" even as they've apparently already broken up.

Idiot Wind

This is the song he should have written right after "Like a Rolling Stone" (I don't know about all of you but I can practically hear him singing, "How does it feel ... to be as clueless as you are?"). The sarcasm, anger and outright hostility quite literally drip from the speakers. The only question left is, who's really the target of this poisonous musical dart?

The first verse sounds like it was written for the paparazzi, the second verse for all of their oblivious friends. But most of what follows sounds like he's telling Sara off (sample lyric: "You're an idiot babe. It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe").

One of Dylan's performances would seem to confirm this. Dylan sang "Idiot Wind" during a performance in Fort Collins, Colorado at Hughes Stadium. You can hear this performance yourself because it was included on "Hard Rain", Dylan's live album.

Does he sound even angrier than the recording? If he does, there's a possible explanation: it seems Sara was supposedly sitting in the front row.

What a canon of songs! Just in these three songs alone Dylan careens from hope to sorrow to dripping sarcasm and back again. And if the lyrics don't capture you the inventive, ingenious melodies will.

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