Meet Me in the Morning: the most perfect traditional blues song

By Tony Attwood

Meet Me in the Morning” is Dylan producing the most perfect traditional blues song.  It appears as the opening of side two of Blood on the Tracks (1975), and it is not only the only 12 bar blues on the album, is in total contrast to everything else on the LP.

We also have a second version avaialable:

On the album version makes his voice sound like that of one of the old time blues singers who uses the traditional format of the blues but adds a perfect melody about the three chord arrangement.

Even the lyrics are traditional blues.  Take for example the verse

Little rooster crowin’, there must be something on his mind
Well, I feel just like that rooster
Honey, ya treat me so unkind

That is a real “My baby done gone” type of blues – the woman just walks out, it ain’t my fault – women are like that.

And yet the accompaniment itself does not really take us into blues territory – the way the guitars are played is almost skittish, a sort of country and western feel added to a blues format.  It doesn’t start out like this in the instrumental introduction, but just listen to the instrumental break, which perversely is at the end of the recording, rather than being the penultimate verse.  It is all  far from the traditional blues in its performance.

It is also interesting to note that it is the only 12 bar blues on the album.  But it has an important position at the start of side 2.

Wiki tells us that the song is also featured in the 2009 movie “Away We Go” and on  September 19, 2007, “Dylan played this song live in concert for the first time ever during a show in Nashville.  He was joined onstage for the performance by Jack White.”

Jack White certainly knows more about the blues than most contemporary performers, and the event in Nashville must have been quite something.  C&W meets the blues – the definitive statement.

As for the opening gives a fair insight into Wabasha, Minnesota, and we know  Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota (except when I mistakenly say Mississippi by mistake).  The distance between Wabasha and Duluth is, by car, about 165 miles.  There is also the fact there is a Wabasha Street in St. Paul through which Highway 61 runs.  But no one has found a 56th street intersecting with Wabasha.

So we get to verse 1, which seems to be a dead end in terms of strict meaning…

Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Honey, we could be in Kansas
By time the snow begins to thaw

Verse 2 plays an interesting trick, starting with a line that is really not at all interesting, and not really very “blues” since it is a line of hope.   But then Dylan adds a remarkable twist.

They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn
They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn
But you wouldn’t know it by me
Every day’s been darkness since you been gone

By verse four Dylan really is taking off with the lyrics, for here we get a set of lyrics that no one would ever expect to find on a blues song.  The matches are a trivial point, but significant enough if you want to light a cigarette or burn the place down.  The birds flying low presumably indicate something symbolic, although I don’t know what low flying birds symbolise (although there is a band around called Low Flying Birds!)

The birds are flyin’ low babe, honey I feel so exposed
Well, the birds are flyin’ low babe, honey I feel so exposed
Well now, I ain’t got any matches
And the station doors are closed

But the point with the low flying birds is that the image feels like a symbol of doom.  Maybe just because it is in a blues song, he feels exposed, and the line comes twice.  You just know this is not good.

The next verse really tells you that this is true – this is not a good place to have come from, but the singer went through everything to get the woman – and now she’s gone.

Well, I struggled through barbed wire, felt the hail fall from above
Well, I struggled through barbed wire, felt the hail fall from above
Well, you know I even outran the hound dogs
Honey, you know I’ve earned your love

And then what an image to end with.

Look at the sun sinkin’ like a ship
Look at the sun sinkin’ like a ship
Ain’t that just like my heart, babe
When you kissed my lips?

Maybe there is no consistent meaning, maybe it is just an abstract of words in blues form.  But it is none the less a masterpiece of the blues for all that.

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  1. The verse that starts, “The birds are flyin’ low babe”, isn’t on the album recording, but from I think you’re getting a lot of your lyrics from there, instead of only taking them from the album. I think that lyric pages contain a lot of differences to the album versions, and some of them are definitely inferior, and some of them are unnecessary. I’ve yet to come across any which are better. Sometimes it reads like an intern had listened to the album and been sloppy in either listening to the song, or else in how they transcribed the lyrics. This happens most egregiously on the lyrics of Highlands, where the hard-boiled egg episode is stripped of all humour on

    Of course, in this case, it’s an added verse, though I don’t see that this verse adds much to the song. It sounds more to me like a verse that would be more at home in its source-song, Call Letter Blues (which, by the way, transcribes as a merely 4 verse song)…

  2. St. Paul Mn, Concord street was identified as highway 56 historically, and Wabasha runs right onto it.

  3. I think it is a very funny and ironic story.

    Tell me who would voluntarily compare himself to a rooster?
    Read about the behavior of a rooster and you will find out, why I find it so funny.

    He also exaggerates his problem BIG TIME – and he knows it, when he writes:
    “Well now, I ain’t got any matches
    And the station doors are closed”

    Does it fit in in a love poem?
    I dont think so!!!
    But it is certainly realistic and the most painful part of the story.

    He forgot to tell her some beautifull words, or else she wont come and help him.
    Here it comes:
    Look at the sun sinkin’ like a ship
    Look at the sun sinkin’ like a ship
    Ain’t that just like my heart, babe
    When you kissed my lips?

    UPS UPS again: It is morning and the sun is not sinking. Meaning: The verse is constructed to make her feel good, – – – and he is lying – that was not, what was on his mind. He makes fun of himself as the big love poet – and he knows it (I hope). Anyway I think that verse is terrible.

    AT last: I maybe wrong – maybe the difference between pragmatic love and the great love is not so big. What do I know.
    In that case: Sorry for interrupting.

  4. That’s an interesting observation Dan I always wondered about it I was born in St Paul MN still live right by the Mississippi just up river a piece

  5. Tree Steve’s comment is pertinent, imo. When I first heard this track, it immediately put me in mind of The Rolling Stones’ version of Little Red Rooster. By the time it reached verse three, I could only grin, as it just confirmed my association.

    While I’m here, may I just add a big Thank You, Tony, for this site and all your posts. I may not always agree with you but you are honest, not parroting other people’s views, and I enjoy reading what you write.

  6. Very kind of you Ken – I am not looking for agreement – just opening up possibilities and ideas. And maybe the occasional insight if I am having a good day. Tony

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