You ain’t going nowhere

Why? What’s the point?

Well we can speculate, but they were just songs that came out from Dylan during a very fruitful period of songwriting, and not everything can be Desolation Row.

The lyrics change from version to version.  Dylan has a knock at Roger McGuin for getting the lyrics confused.  But the point is it doesn’t matter because nothing much means anything.

Cloud so swift the rain fallin’ in, Gonna see a movie called Gunga Din

Just from that opening you know its nonsense.  But then so is Mighty Quinn.  And it is a perfectly reasonable question to say, “Does it have to make it sense?”

The answer is no, its just a sweet melody built over three chords and lines like “Genghis Khan and his brother Don Couldn’t keep on keepin’ on”  Indeed, why not.

In fact if this was the major output of Dylan this site wouldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t keep on turning up year after year at his concerts.  It’s just a guy having a bit of fun.

As I said, why not?

This site reviews the music of Bob Dylan, taking into account both the music and the lyrics in each review that is given.

The site is developing its own theoretical approach to the music of Bob Dylan.  You can read about that approach as it evolves here.   There are details of the author, and the context of these reviews here.

The Index is at www.bob-dylan.org.uk

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7 Responses to You ain’t going nowhere

  1. Dan says:

    My favorite line in the song is, We’ll climb that bridge after it’s gone, after we’re way past it.
    Sure it’s a bit of nonsense, but it’s also like a Zen koan. It arrests the mind because it makes no sense, yet you struggle with it, and the mind is led to an experience beyond words. He is playing with us and yet you can find meaning in the impossibility of it. This is like a Picasso doodle – seems like it was dashed off in a few seconds and wouldn’t fit in one of the songs labeled as a masterpieces yet the lightness, philosophical wit and fun of it has a special place in the body of his work just by being so carefree and different.
    It’s one of my favorite Dylan songs for that reason.

  2. Thelonious says:

    While you point out that the lyrics change from version to version, you only address one version.

    The 1967 version (take 2 with “real” lyrics in the verses, the one sent out as a demo and covered by The Byrds, Joan Baez, etc.) is arguably more than just a bit of nonsense. With images of freezing and immobility countered by anticipation of future joy and comfort, I see this song as speaking to some of the transitions Dylan was going through at the time – both in terms of potential creative impasses and in the shift to marriage and domesticity.

    Nonsense is a big part of many Basement Tapes-era songs, but given the nature of Dylan’s art, to forgo analysis simply because there is some nonsense in the lyrics seems like a mistake to me. One could argue that many of Dylan’s great songs have nonsensical (or seemingly nonsensical) passages – that doesn’t make them less profound.

  3. taz says:

    “The 1967 version (take 2 with “real” lyrics in the verses, the one sent out as a demo and covered by The Byrds, Joan Baez, etc.) is arguably more than just a bit of nonsense. With images of freezing and immobility countered by anticipation of future joy and comfort, I see this song as speaking to some of the transitions Dylan was going through at the time – both in terms of potential creative impasses and in the shift to marriage and domesticity.”

    I agree I think he’s talking about getting married and having kids (and possibly suggesting other areas of life losing momentum, for lack of better words).
    frozen cold in the first verse, stopping him.
    his bride’s coming, they’re not going anywhere, just gonna have fun sitting in the easy chair.
    “morning came and morning went” might be a reference to the beginning aka “honeymoon period” of a relationship coming and going fast, “pick up your money” (because you’re getting married and settling down) “pack up your tent”… (getting a house/no more adventures)
    3rd verse “buy me a flute and a gun that shoots, tailgates and substitutes” ..buying everything for his new wife and kids on the way
    “strap yourself to the tree with roots” references both immobility (going nowhere) in his life and immersing himself in his family (family tree is “the tree with roots”)
    4th verse all I can think of is that it’s just a nonsensical reference to having kids and it being hard to get them to sleep. Genghis Khan’s kings symbolize offspring, babies who won’t sleep. He’s dreading the horror stories you hear of babies not sleeping, but they’ll climb that hill and the other difficulties of starting a family, no matter how steep, when they get there.
    “Genghis Khan
    He could not keep
    All his kings
    Supplied with sleep
    We’ll climb that hill no matter how steep
    When we get up to it”

    (lyrics from https://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/you-aint-goin-nowhere)
    Clouds so swift
    Rain won’t lift
    Gate won’t close
    Railings froze
    Get your mind off wintertime
    You ain’t goin’ nowhere
    Whoo-ee! Ride me high
    Tomorrow’s the day
    My bride’s gonna come
    Oh, oh, are we gonna fly
    Down in the easy chair!

    I don’t care
    How many letters they sent
    Morning came and morning went
    Pick up your money
    And pack up your tent
    You ain’t goin’ nowhere
    Whoo-ee! Ride me high
    Tomorrow’s the day
    My bride’s gonna come
    Oh, oh, are we gonna fly
    Down in the easy chair!

    Buy me a flute
    And a gun that shoots
    Tailgates and substitutes
    Strap yourself
    To the tree with roots
    You ain’t goin’ nowhere
    Whoo-ee! Ride me high
    Tomorrow’s the day
    My bride’s gonna come
    Oh, oh, are we gonna fly
    Down in the easy chair!

    Genghis Khan
    He could not keep
    All his kings
    Supplied with sleep
    We’ll climb that hill no matter how steep
    When we get up to it
    Whoo-ee! Ride me high
    Tomorrow’s the day
    My bride’s gonna come
    Oh, oh, are we gonna fly
    Down in the easy chair!

  4. Thank you for a great piece of interesting and informative writing. This link is included in The Bob Dylan Project at: http://thebobdylanproject.com/Song/id/771/You-Ain't-Goin'-Nowhere (Additional Information)

  5. Oliver says:

    Love what you wrote, would just add that perhaps the 4th verse is juxtaposing settling down with the mode of conquest that might have preceded it, and an allusion to the need to put ones conquering kings to rest, (although i do also see the reference to kids), either way, a commitment is a commitment, I feel the whole thing is like a love song to his fiancée, tomorrow his bride.

  6. Fred Hipley says:

    I thot it was great to hear Roseanne and friends sing that during Bob Fest. Such a noble fellow. PS Why is this website so difficult?

  7. TonyAttwood says:

    Fred, I don’t know. What difficulty are you referring to? Drop me a line at Tony@schools.co.uk and tell me.

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