And so, Isis. So revered that the longest running Dylan magazine is named after the song.
But why – what is it in
Certainly it is a hard song to pin down. Those funny people at Wikipedia have it as being in B flat in ¾ time – actually you only have to sit at a piano to find it is in B, and you only have to be a musician to know it is in 6/8. Try conducting it in ¾ – with half a minute your hand is ready to drop off. But the real clue is hitting you in the ears in every verse. Put it in 6/8 and the piano is hitting 3 equal notes for each half a bar – exactly as 6/8 requires.
So, a strophic song in 6/8 – unusual for Dylan. And the melody wanders – there is a basis but the song doesn’t quite stay where the melody is laid down.
Is it a song about his wife Sara? Well, maybe, perhaps, but it is a strain to make the story work. Again I would refer you to the Wiki article which simply takes a stream of events, without asking the rather relevant question – what the hell is going on in this SEQUENCE.
Sequence is the key issue here.
The Egyptian link is clear because there is the line about coming to the pyramids (albeit covered in ice, with snow and the like circling about – somewhat unusual just down the road from
And where are we now – nowhere but in a B movie about raiding the pyramids and stealing the treasure. All the usual stuff about getting stuck in the sandstorm – except it is an icestorm.
In the end it seems more like the science fiction stores of the 1950s in which Mars with its deserts is recast as the Wild West – the new frontier with bars and bandits and searches for treasures. And in the end I am more comfortable with that – another world. The Empress from the tarot features heavily on the sleeve – maybe that’s it – Isis, the Empress.
That’s the beauty of the song – each time you grab its simple structure is just gets up and walks away.