Get your rocks off: the origins, the meanings and the future of Bob Dylan’s song

By Tony Attwood

When discussing “Times they are a changing” with a journalist from Melody Maker magazine Dylan is reported to have said that the song was “about the person who doesn’t take you seriously but expects you to take him seriously.”

Does Dylan demand that we take him seriously?   Much of the time he doesn’t really seem that bothered, although during the religious period of his writing he most certainly did want his message to be taken very seriously indeed.

This song thus is just about the antithesis of that area of thought, for it is hard to see anything within it that demands even concentration, let alone serious consideration.  By and large it is a good job that Dylan hasn’t demanded that we take this period of his work seriously.

The lines of the first verse tell you all you need to know.

You know, there’s two ol’ maids layin’ in the bed
One picked herself up an’ the other one, she said:
“Get your rocks off!
Get your rocks off! (Get ’em off!)
Get your rocks off! (Get ’em off!)
Get your rocks off-a me! (Get ’em off!)”

I can understand why a band sitting around just playing stuff, might decide to leave the tape running – providing of course they have got lots of tape.  And maybe they decide to keep the tape because by then Bob is incredibly famous and so all the sketches can be of use to historians who study such things.

But quite why anyone would bother to put this on an album – even an album of outtakes – is something I don’t get.   It’s not original, it is not interesting musically and it sure ain’t interesting lyrically.

Curiously though the phrase “Get your rocks off” was used again later…

“Rocks off” was also the opening track of the Rolling Stones album “Exile on Main Street”

But back to Dylan, You can of course leave the track playing to see what happens to verse two, but in case you really have had enough after verse one I’ll put the lyrics below.  (Forgive me if I omit the chorus, which is unchanging throughout.)

And to add a little more I’ll try and find other links from the song…

Well, you know, there late one night up on Blueberry Hill
One man turned to the other man and said, with a blood-curdlin’ chill, he said:
“Get your rocks off! (Get ’em off!)

Blueberry Hill is of course one of the all time classics from the period of the evolution of rock n roll, one of the points where the blues was introduced to public consciousness on a much broader scale than ever before.

It was actually first recorded by Gene Autry in 1940 and was part of the movie “The Singing Hill” (Gene Autry was incredibly famous as “the singing cowboy”) but the version most of us remember comes from Fats Domino in 1956.  Elvis Presley recorded it a year later.

You probably know it, but I thought I would throw it in, as a bit of relief from “Get your rocks off”.

But let us return to the theme of the article…  Verse 3

Well, you know, we was layin’ down around Mink Muscle Creek
One man said to the other man, he began to speak, he said:
“Get your rocks off! (Get ’em off!)

Now I have no idea if there is a Mink Muscle Creek – and in writing “muscle” I am following what is on the BobDylan web site.  But there was an Australian heavy metal band called Mink Mussel Creek and maybe Bob had heard them.  Who knows.

Well, you know, we was cruisin’ down the highway in a Greyhound bus
All kinds-a children in the side road, they was hollerin’ at us, sayin’:
“Get your rocks off! (Get ’em off!)

Yes well, even us Brits know about Greyhound busses.

But the best thing is to listen to it (if you must) on the bootleg album and then leave the CD playing, and thus listen to Sante Fe.

What is on the site

1: Over 400 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.

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