Dirty World: The meaning and the music of Dylan’s song with the Wilburys

by Tony Attwood

Does mucking around in a studio generate good music?  Well sometimes it does.   And as George Harrsison is reported as saying, “If you know Bob and his songs, he’s such a joker really.”   

So maybe taking odd moments out of the music from “Stuck inside of Mobile” where we get to “Oh mama can this really be the end” and mix it with some of Robert Johnson’s most unappealing lyrics such as

I’m goin’ heist your hood, mama
I’m bound to check your oil
I’m goin’ heist your hood, mama
I’m bound to check your oil
I got a woman that I’m lovin’
Way down in Arkansas

and we get something like,

He loves your sexy body, he loves your dirty mind
He loves when you hold him, grab him from behind
Oh baby, you’re such a pretty thing
I can’t wait to introduce you to the other members of my gang

Whether that is very amusing or not depends on your point of view.  

Musically it is a simple variation around the normal chords of a song played in the key of C.  The one thing that makes it stand out (musically) is that it has a coda – a long tailpiece that uses a different chord sequence. (Bb, F, C) over

He loves your electric dumplings

etc etc

Much of the album seems to be related to the members of the band throwing lines into the mix as they aim to write and record a song a day before Bob goes on tour again.   Ask anyone who works in the creative arts and she or he will tell you, yes it can happen, but most of the time when you are anxious for it to happen it certainly does not happen.  What you get is maybe amusing, maybe interesting, but not great art.

For me, there are some Wilbury songs that do work, and quite a few more that don’t.   And what we know about Bob is that quite often he throws out songs (often very good songs) as he works on an album.   But this whole notion of one song a day before Bob went on tour meant that there was precious little spare to pick and choose the best bits, and so we get it all – including songs which in another world might have been buried forever.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the song to my mind, it is just there isn’t much right to it.

You don’t need no wax job, you’re smooth enough for me
If you need you oil changed I’ll do it for you free
Oh baby, the pleasure would be all mine
If you let me drive your pickup truck and park it where the sun don’t shine

OK maybe you chuckled, maybe not, but that’s not really the point: the point is would you want to hear it again, and again and again…  And I guess that yes there are some people out there who have played this track and indeed the whole album over and over and would happily play it again today and tomorrow.  It’s just that it doesn’t do anything for me.   

And that is the problem with lines like

Oh baby, turn around and say goodbye
You go to the airport now and I’m going home to cry

It comes as a surprise first time around, but then….

He loves your Trembling Wilbury

actually doesn’t.

Going back and listening to this piece for the first time in many years I found I had much more time for Robert Johnson

Now, you know the coils ain’t even buzzin’
Little generator won’t get the spark
Motor’s in a bad condition
You gotta have these batteries charged
But I’m cryin’, please, please don’t do me wrong
Who been drivin’ my Terraplane
Now for you since I been gone
Mr. Highway Man, please don’t block the road
Please, please don’t block the road

It’s very non-contemporary, but maybe that is what makes it work.

Does mucking around in a studio generate good music?  

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  1. Surely the reason the lyrics work is that they are a list of sexual innuendos. As the fade out lyrics have it, “dirty world, a dirty world. it’s a ‘kin dirty world”. And it doesn’t matter that it all seems a throwaway.

  2. I love it! ….and can’t help believing that an iconic artist of the caliber of Dylan, this song express the love he has for prized sports car.

  3. This song holds many similarities to a song off of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti; Tramped Underfoot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vamReLUOlrA While Dylan’s version is much more tongue-and-cheek, in both songs we see the sexualization of inanimate objects, specifically car related things.

  4. It’s weird you wrote this essay cause it seems you don’t actually like Traveling Wilburys or any of their artists lol, this song has to be my favorite of the group! Bob Dylan’s voice is perfect along with these lyrics which almost read out like poetry.

  5. Well not too sure how that idea came across Joe, unless perhaps you are commenting without having read the rest of the reviews of their songs. But even if so, perhaps you’ve missed the point that this site aims to review every song that Bob Dylan wrote or part wrote and yest there are some songs inevitably that I am not so keen on. But to see a positive side of the Wilbury’s try the review of “Where were you last night”

  6. Yes, your comments – which some believe to be unduly harsh – are tempered by such passages as “… depends on your point of view “, “For me, there are …”, “…to my mind…”, “..yes there are some people…”, and “.. it doesn’t do anything for me”.

    You make it very clear that this is no more than your personal opinion. And, like some body parts, everybody has one. You can therefore write anything you want to, just as readers can therefore feel whatever they wish to. You’ve diluted the weight of your words, and done it in public. Not enough to be milquetoast, yes, but is dilution a good thing? Like them or not, don’t most of us prefer opinions to be tougher than that?

  7. Of course you can argue that. You could also argue that with my having reviewed over 500 different Dylan compositions, there are bound to be some that I can’t find evidence to support one point of view against another and so say what is written is just my point of view. But in others there is evidence to support the viewpoint, and there most people will seek to argue against the argument.

  8. I love all of the TWilburys music, I have loved Dylan for over 50 yrs & this is one of my favs. I’d like to think they’re talkin’ dirty (without talkin’ dirty) It’s catchy, its fun & it always makes me smile! I come to your site quite a bit, mainly b’c the question I pose to google always takes me here. I guess I ask the right questions! haha.I like your page, I don’t always have to agree with you, you have your favorites as we all do & just b’c you don’t care too much for a certain song doesn’t mean you don’t like the artist (ie.Joe) Keep up the writing & have a great day, week, year!

  9. I think the song is about Prince. He did have album “Dirty Mind.” The lyrics: “introduce you to the members of embers of my gang” etc. The bragging about his abilities, telling a women how sexy she is. Give it a listen with Prince in mind back in ’88.

  10. Strangely, this song describes exactly how I feel about my wife. This will be played, or sung, at her funeral. A perfect requiem for a beautiful woman, whom I loved very much.

  11. At Mike Cox, thats true. Dylan started this saying: lets do one like Prince! Then they did it on the spot! Great song again…..

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