Dylan’s Opening Lines: an index


Dylan’s Opening Lines: an index

The index has been updated and expanded: 11 May 2016

By Tony Attwood and Dearbhla Egan

Here’s a thought.  Maybe a significant part of Dylan’s genius is his amazing ability with opening lines.  I’m starting to think it is.

The Opening Lines first came up as a topic when I tried to create a list of my favourite top ten openers.   Lots of readers kindly indulged me by joining in, and quite a list built up.  Then Dearbhla came up with the idea of an index of all the Dylan opening lines – which since there are some 650 Dylan songs on the official site would take a while.   We’ve done nearly 100 – they are below.  If you have ideas for ones you want to add please do send them in.   We’re discussing this regularly on the Untold Dylan Facebook group (just search for Untold Dylan on Facebook or visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/254617038225146/

 Please do suggest more, and if you don’t mind, put the name of the song next to it, even if it is obvious.  Cutting and pasting these suggestions is easier for me than writing them out again each time.



Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?  (Visions of Johanna)

All the early Roman kings in their sharkskin suits bow ties and buttons high top boots (Early Roman Kings)

As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden, the wounded flowers were dangling from the vines (Ain’t Taking)

At the time of my confession, and the hour of my deepest need (Every grain of sand)


Been so long since a strange woman slept in my bed… (I and I)

Beyond the horizon, behind the sun, at the end of the rainbow, life has just begun.  (Beyond the horizon)


Come around you rovin’ gamblers, and a story I will tell. (Rambling, Gambling Willie)

Crimson flames tied through my ears, rollin’ high and mighty traps (My back pages)


Darkness at the break of noon (It’s all right Ma, I’m only bleeding)


Everything went from bad to worse, money never changed a thing (Up to Me)


Far between sundown’s finish and midnight’s broken toll  (Chimes of Freedom)

Fat man lookin’ in a blade of steel (Dignity)


Go away from my window, leave at your own chosen speed (It Ain’t Me Babe)

God said to Abraham “Kill me a son” (Highway 61 Revisited)

Gon’ walk down that dirt road, ’til someone lets me ride (Dirt Road Blues)


He sits in your room, his tomb, with a fist full of tacks (Can you please Crawl out Your Window)

Hollis Brown he lived on the outside of town (Ballad of Hollis Brown)

Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun  (Romance in Durango)

How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man? (Blowing in the wind)


I can hear the turning of the key (Abandoned Love)

I hate myself for lovin’ you and the weakness that it showed (Dirge)

I ain’t looking to compete with you (All I really want to do)

I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love (Wedding Song)

I love you pretty baby (Beyond here lies nothing)

I once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze (Balled in Plain D)

I woke in the mornin’, wand’rin’ wasted and worn out (Black crow blues)

If I had wings, like Noah’s dove  (Dink’s Song)

I’m walking through the summer nights, jukebox playing low (Standing in the Doorway)

I’m walkin’ through streets that are dead (Love Sick)

If today was not an endless highway (Tomorrow is a long time)

If you find it in Your heart, can I be forgiven?  Guess I owe You some kind of apology  (Saving Grace)

If you see her say hello (If You See Her Say Hello)

If your memory serves you well, we were going to meet again and wait (This wheel’s on fire)

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need (Every Grain of Sand)

I’ve just reached a place where the willow don’t bend (Going Going Gone)

I was riding on the Mayflower when I thought I spied some land (115th Dream)


Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine, I’m on the pavement talking ’bout the government. (Subterranean Homesick Blues)



Like a lion tears the flesh off of a man, so can a woman who passes herself off as a male. (Foot of Pride)


Man thinks, cuz he rules the world, he can do with it as he please (Licence to kill)

May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true (Forever Young)

My love she speaks like silence. (Love Minus zero / No Limit)


Nobody feels any pain (Just like a woman)

Now the ragman draws circles up and down the block, I’d ask him what the matter was but I know that he don’t talk. (Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again)


Of war and peace the truth just twists, it’s curfew gull it glides (Gates of Eden)

Oh I’m sailing away, my own true love. (Boots of Spanish Leather)

Oh, the benches were stained with tears and perspiration (Day of the Locusts)

Oh, the gentlemen are talking and the midnight moon is on the riverside (Dark Eyes)

Oh, help me in my weakness  (The Drifter’s Escape)

Oh the streets of Rome are filled with rubble, ancient footprints are everywhere. (When I Paint my Masterpiece)

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?  (Hard Rain)


Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night  (Hurricane)



Ring them bells ye heathen from the city that dreams (Ring them Bells)


Seen the arrow on the doorpost saying this land is condemned (Blind Willie McTell)

Shadows have fallen and I’ve been here all day, it’s too hot to sleep and time is running away.. (Not Dark Yet)

She’s got everything she needs she’s an artist she don’t look back (She Belongs to Me)

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press.  (Idiot Wind)

Some of us turn off the lights and we live in the moonlight shooting by (Red River Shore)

Something there is about you that strikes a match in me (Something there is About You)

Standing on the waters casting your bread while the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing? (Jokerman)

Stake my future on a hell of a past (Silvio)


The air is gettin’ hotter, there’s a rumblin’ in the sky, (Lucinda Williams Tryin’ to get to Heaven)

The pale moon rose in its glory out on the Western town (Tempest)

The pawnbroker roared also so did the landlord (She’s your lover now)

The river whispers in my ear, I’ve hardly a penny to my name (Tell Ol Bill)

There’s a long-distance train rolling through the rain, tears on the letter I write. (Where are you Tonight?  (Journey through Dark Heat))

They’re selling postcards of the hanging (Desolation Row)

They say everything can be replaced, yet every distance is not near (I Shall be Released)

Twas another lifetime, one of toil and blood (Shelter from the Storm)

Twilight on the frozen lake (Never say Goodbye)


Up on the white veranda, she wears a necktie and a Panama Hat  (Black Diamond Bay)



Well, it’s always been my nature to take chances (Angelina)

Well, the Lone Ranger and Tonto they are ridin’ down the line (Bob Dylan’s Blues)

Well, my nerves are exploding and my body’s tense (Til I fell in love with you)

Well, there was this movie I seen one time about a man riding ’cross the desert and it starred Gregory Peck. (Brownsville Girl)

Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can’t jump it (Absolutely Sweet Marie)

What’s the matter with me, I don’t have much to say (Watching the River Flow)

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime too (Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues)

While riding on a train goin’ west I fell asleep for to take my rest (Bob Dylan’s Dream)

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carrol with a cane that he twirled round his diamond ring finger (The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol)



You been down to the bottom with a bad man, babe  (Baby stop crying)

You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand, you see somebody naked and you say “who is that man?”  (Ballad of a Thin Man)

You got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend (Positively 4th Street)

All the songs reviewed on this site

The songs in chronological order