Bob Dylan “Talkin Devil” but finds he doesn’t have too much new to say.

Apologies if you found this site off line for a couple of days.  The fault occurred on Xmas Eve, and hence I didn’t have anyone with technical know how to hand to sort it out.


We’ve covered five Bob Dylan talking blues thus far…

  1. Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues.
  2. Talkin Hava Negeilah blues
  3. Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues (Paranoid Blues)
  4. Talkin New York 
  5. Talkin’ World War III Blues

and here’s one more – one that is more obscure than the others, largely because it seems to be disowned even by the official Bob Dylan site.

Yet Dylan did write Talkin Devil as Blind Boy Grunt and some other BBG titles are listed by the official site.  Not too sure why this one is missing, but it should be placed somewhere between Bob Dylan’s Dream and Only a Hobo.

As such it was one of the Broadside ballads, and here are the lyrics, before which there is a little spoken intro reflecting on the fact that some people think there is no devil…

Well, sometimes you can’t see him so good,
When he hides his head ‘neath a snow white hood,
And rides to kill with his face well hid,
And then goes home to his wife and kids.
Wonder if his kids know who he is?

Well, he wants you to hate and he wants you to fear,
Wants you to fear something that’s not even there.
He’ll give you your hate, and he’ll give you his lies,
He’ll give you the weapons to run out and die.
And you give him your soul.

And then there is a spoken footnote saying ,”That’s just two verses to it,” which could mean “it’s not much of a song is it” or “well, that’s all I’ve done so far,” or “the concept is so simple you don’t really need much more than that”.

Whatever that final line meant (if anything) is essence we have a fairly simple depiction of the Devil, which non-believers could in part reverse and suggest is the meaning of Christianity,

Yes, the Devil “Wants you to fear something that’s not even there,” because if the Devil is real, then his world of torment and eternal damnation is to be feared.  But if the whole God/Devil thing is just a story, then all of it is there to frighten us.

The sadness of this talking blues is that Bob could do so much better with this God and the Devil subject – one only has to listen to Whatcha Gonna Do?  to realise he can deliver on this as on any topic he wants to have a go at.

The verses from that song are also very simple, but if you want to put across what is ultimately a simple view of good v evil then this piece shows us all how it can be done

Tell me what you’re gonna do
When you can’t play God no more
Tell me what you’re gonna do
When you can’t play God no more
Tell me what you’re gonna do
When you can’t play God no more
O Lord, O Lord
What shall you do?

If you don’t know that piece, do follow the link above and play the song, and then compare with the one version we have of this song.  Maybe like me you’ll feel there’s not much comparison.

 

But these songs (even this talkin blues) are particularly interesting when we consider Dylan’s Christian period, for therein he often seemed to hang on to the simple vision of Good v Evil, and the need to be saved.  Although the songs in the “religious period” are often more complex, the message is still pretty much the same.

There are other allusions too, of course, such as the KKK reference

“Well, sometimes you can’t see him so good, When he hides his head ‘neath a snow white hood…”

But it doesn’t really add anything to my understanding of the world.

The song of course is on Spotify and it also turns up on Deezer

http://www.deezer.com/us/track/4329000

————–

What else is on the site

1: Over 460 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 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 produced 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 our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

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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6 Responses to Bob Dylan “Talkin Devil” but finds he doesn’t have too much new to say.

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    ‘Talkin’ Devil’ is released in 1972 on the Trade Mark of Quality vinyl bootleg, entitled ‘Blind Boy Grunt’.

    The two-songed track is labelled “Only A Hobo/Talkin’ Devil”.

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    Dylan consistently holds to a Gnostic Christian view that, due to man’s ignorance of the mysterious God of Goodness, an ‘evil spirit’ dominates the material world, is trapped there. But what ya goin’ do when the devil comes knockin’ at your door?

    Everybody works for the devil, including Dylan himself. The best one can do is endeavour, in his own way, to resist evil personified – deceive oneself that s/he is, anyway.

    Jesus struggled with the devil and, in the end, paid with his life.

    There is really no escape because God just sits up there on His throne above, and watches the circus.

    Merry Christmas.

  3. Rajan Mahadevan says:

    Talkin’ Devil as precursor to Masters of War !? Allusions to mischiefmongers / warmongers that dominate, disturb or destroy the Good, then as of now ?

  4. Larry Fyffe says:

    I would agree:

    You that hide behind walls
    You that hide behind masks
    I just want you to know
    I can see through you masks

    You have to hit Tony with a two-by-four just to wake him up….as far as lyrics go (lol)

    Doesn’t add anything, indeed…the ‘devil’ is an image, a metaphor, a symbol of the ‘evil’ things that man do – one needn’t be religious in any orthodox sense to understand the message.

  5. Larry Fyffe says:

    *your masks

  6. Hello there Tony, Thank you for posting this analysis of a song from Bob Dylan’s Music Box: http://thebobdylanproject.com/Song/id/612/Talkin-Devil Come and join us inside and listen to every song composed, recorded or performed by Bob Dylan, plus all the great covers streaming on YouTube, Spotify, Deezer and SoundCloud plus so much more… including this link.

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