You want a masterpiece from the old boy – here it is. Unexpected, it seems to have come out of nowhere after seven years. The opening seconds present a growl of uncertainty, before the guitar clicks in, and we have no idea what is going on. And yet within seconds of the start of that opening verse, we know exactly where we are…
I’m walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping
… we are at the end. The very end. After this there is nothing. The understated vocal, the perfect backing, the accurate singing, this is the farewell performance.
“I’m sick of love but I’m in the thick of it”
It is perhaps the strangest way ever to start an album – starting with what appears to be the end. And this 1997 desolation row is far more personal than Desolation Row itself. There is no one else to blame, no Eliot and Pound fighting in the captain’s tower, because everyone else is leading an ordinary life, everyone else has a life, while the singer is just hanging on to a shadow.
So the chords of E minor and D rock back and forth, and the verse ends with a descent of E minor, D major, B minor, A major – and the descent is a descent in every respect.
It feels like the end, with the utter perfection of the accompaniment having its own understated say in the instrumental verse.
It continues, and when you think it can’t get any more painful it hits those final heart wrenching closing lines that everyone has felt. You only have to listen to Dylan’s voice on those last few notes to know the sorrow and pain.
Just don’t know what to do
I’d give anything to
Be with you
You only have to listen to the accompaniment that unexpectedly breaks up over the final B minor A major chord, before falling into the E minor to know this is the end of the end.
And yet amazingly this is not as low as it goes, because this album keeps taking us down, down and down, track after track until finally we hit Not Dark Yet, and the return journey begins into the fantasy world which ends up in
This is the Vision of Johanna of the old man watching the shadows. At least in the original Visions there is the feeling that there are friends out there, and the young man singing will ultimately “get over it”. Here, there is no chance. It is downhill all the way.