Silent Weekend: Bob Dylan confuses the publishers as he tackles narcissism and psychological projection

By Tony Attwood

In once sense “Silent Weekend” is quite remarkable, for it is just about the only rock song that I know which deals with narcissism and emotional abuse.

The “silent treatment” that the song refers to is usually delivered by a wholly self-absorbed individual, and it has the aim of putting the abusive person in control while avoiding any attempt at resolving whatever caused the difficulty.  It is in fact a form of punishment  which generally relates to tiny or even imagined slights, as for example, when one person in the relationship turns up, or comes home, slightly late.

Quite often the trauma that the silent treatment gives is exactly what the narcissistic person wants to get: a sense of control.  The damage that can be suffered by a person in receipt of such behaviour over a period of time can be enormous, sometimes even ending in a total mental breakdown.

Narcissistic people who engage in this form of activity generally choose people who have high levels of emotional intelligence, who have conflict resolution skills, and are willing to compromise at all levels to overcome the trauma.  Unfortunately each attempt at resolution just gives the narcissist more power.  The efforts are met with disdain and contempt.  If you have ever heard the phrase, “If you really loved me you would understand,” (without any further explanation or any variation on that), you may well have witnessed this.

The fact is the person with the huge psychological problems is the narcissist, but the person who gets hurt is the decent, open, reasonable other party who wants to solve the problem.

So not a normal topic for a rock song, but Dylan has a good bash.  It’s a 12 bar blues format and a middle 8 with a modulation in the standard pop mode.  So nothing particularly special from the music – but the lyrics really do take us on an unusual journey.  In essence it is, “You were five minutes late so I am going to give you a weekend of hell so I can establish control.”

Given that the lyrics are not completely clear in their meaning, especially towards the end, it is possible Dylan is also talking about psychological projection which occurs when people deny that they possess certain unconscious impulses or qualities and instead attribute them to others – most commonly the person they are with.

In a typical example, one person (in my example the woman) in a relationship might spend many hours a week speaking on the phone to her friends or relations, but when her partner has a single half hour phone call with a friend or relation, she blames him for being unreasonable and forgetting she is here.

The opening verse sets out fairly and squarely where we are

Silent weekend
My baby she gave it to me
Silent weekend
My baby she gave it to me
She’s actin’ tough and hardy
She says it ain’t my party
And she’s leavin’ me in misery

But then come the odd lyrics.  On the official Dylan site we don’t get the lyrics that turn up on the recording – at least not the lyrics on Bootleg Vol 11.   The website gives us

Silent weekend
My baby she took me by surprise
Silent weekend
My baby she took me by surprise
She’s rockin’ and a-reelin’
Head up to ceiling
An’ swinging with some other guys

This really takes us away from the main thread of the song – the psychological issues that it deals with, but the actual verse 2 on the album does seem to keep the sense of the song moving along.  It is something like this

Silent weekend
My baby she took me by the heart
Silent weekend
My baby she took me by the heart
She’s thinkin’ about disposin’
But I know I know she’s dozin’
And she’s tearin’ it all apart

So the singer is stuck, because short of a very solid period of psychological support and help people either with narcissism or who engage in psychological projection (or both) they will just keep on and on doing it.  Indeed they normally genuinely think it is the other person who is causing all the problems, and will spend forever claiming they are the injured party and how he/she has made life so awful.  If they change partners they do it again, and then bemoan the fact that they always meet the wrong sort of guy, whereas of course it is the narcissist who is the cause of all the problems.

Dylan moves on…

Silent weekend
Oh Lord, I wish Monday would come
Silent weekend
Oh Lord, I sure wish Monday would come
She’s uppity, she’s rollin’
She’s in the groove, she’s strolling
Over to the jukebox playin’ deaf and dumb

The Middle 8 with modulation deals with the man’s attempts to resolve the situation

Well, I done a whole lotta thinkin’ ’bout a whole lot of cheatin’
And I, maybe I did some just to please
But I just walloped a lotta pizza after makin’ our peace
Puts ya down on bended knees

But of course bended knees never work, because with people with these psychological problems, the drive to cause the problems is their prime motivation.

Silent weekend
Man alive, I’m burnin’ up on my brain
Silent weekend
Man alive, I’m burnin’ up on my brain
She knows when I’m just teasin’
But it’s not likely in the season
To open up a passenger train

There’s some fun lines in this song such as

She’s uppity, she’s rollin’
She’s in the groove, she’s strolling
Over to the jukebox playin’ deaf and dumb

and later…

I just walloped a lotta pizza after makin’ our peace
Puts ya down on bended knees

I’m not sure I get the passenger train reference though but Bob’s creative spirit was on a high.  I guess the song was never fully worked through or finished though, and if it had been, it could have been a cracker.

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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