About the reviews

About the reviews

The reviews on this site cover every song that Dylan has written or co-written of which we can find a recording.

The analyses are based on the theory that in order to understand Dylan’s work fully it can often be helpful to consider both the music, and the lyrics.  This is not always the case, of course, because when considering Dylan’s talking blues, and his 12 bar blues, one is in essence dealing with the same musical form, re-used in different ways to different effect.

But my view is that while an analysis of the lyrics can be immensely insightful on many occasions, on others it does not give a full picture concerning the insight each song might give us.

Additionally it is often argued that the context is helpful – so one needs to look at Dylan’s previous broader approach to compositions from throughout his life, to understand the song in question.

This theory has evolved during the writing of the reviews, and there is no doubt both that some of the earlier reviews don’t express this view coherently and that in later reviews the theory is being developed.  That’s why some of the earlier reviews are being revised as time goes by and why we also include reviews of the lyrics alone on occasion.

The development of the site is however a hobby – which is why twice since it started it has been put on hold for long periods.  But also that explains why the ideas and insights (such as they are) are evolving and changing as the site progresses.

When I come to write the book, or even books, based on the site, I shall be trying to present a more coherent whole reflecting where my thoughts and theories are at that time.




17 Responses to About the reviews

  1. http://www.keesdegraaf.com/index.php/98/bob-dylan
    Here you may find a lot of Dylan lyric analyses. Shortly I will come up with an extensive lyric analysis of ‘Highlands”

  2. Julie says:

    How come no comment re: Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts?

  3. Phil says:

    Nice theory, but how does it square with the fact that Dylan himself will change both the lyrics and the music just about each and every time he sings any of his songs?

  4. Sam Chianello says:

    “I shall be released” Please offer your understanding on these pages.

  5. TonyAttwood says:

    I have “I Shall be released” on my list of songs to do in the near future.

  6. mel kinder says:

    I hope in the near future to tell of my insights into the lyrics and music of Bob Dylan. I am 77 years old and grew up experiencing Dylan’s time: the history and music of the 50’s and 60’s..
    Much has been said about “It’s Alright Ma (I’m only Bleeding). Even Dylan, himself recently said that he has no idea where he got these opening lines. “Darkness at the break of noon . . . ” Well I have a pretty good idea where they came from.

    The title gives it away. James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” has his character approaching the Griffith Park Observatory at 12:00 noon. His high school class is in total darkness as the “star show” begins.
    After the show, he gets into a knife fight and is slightly wounded. He goes home and meets his father-mother (dressed in an apron ) and makes the ironic statement.
    The title, “Darkness at Noon” has little on nothing to do with the book of the same title; But is in accord with Huxley’s “Eyeless in Gaza”
    where Huxley quotes Milton’s “Samson Agonists ” reference to Samson being blinded at noon.
    James Deans character in “Rebel Without a Cause” is in accordance with the spirit of the Song.
    Dylan mentions Dean in his liner notes. Dylan’s liner notes offer many little cues (Villon’s relationship to the Duke of Burgandy? ? ? ?)
    Thats another Song . . . .

  7. TonyAttwood says:

    Mel, thank you so much for that. If you ever want to write any reviews of a Dylan song here – either an alternative to one we’ve already published or indeed a song we’ve missed, please do get in touch. Tony.Attwood@aisa.org

  8. mel kinder says:

    I have read many “reviews” of Dylan’s “Memphis Blues”. Most focus on
    Memphis, Tenn. and its musical tradition. Most are unclear about the
    place of Mobile, Al. in the structure of the song. It has always been obvious to me that when one listens to the original recording, that Dylan most often says “Stuck inside a Mobile” as opposed to just Mobile. If you
    use your imagination and dismiss Memphis, Tenn. and insert Memphis, Egypt, the fated capital of the Old Kingdom, than you get that the song is about “History” and “Blues” about having to go through all things twice.

  9. Kimberly says:

    Stumbled upon this site while researching a bit.. gotta say I love it man! I’m planning on spending some time here in the coming days!

  10. Siddharth Singh says:

    I hears “I shall be released” yesterday and found it a very underrated piece. I headed straight to this blog to see your take on it. I was astonished as to how you could’ve missed reviewing such a beautiful song.

  11. TonyAttwood says:

    I shall be released has been reviewed on the site: http://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/1010 – it is listed on the home page at number 133 at the moment.


  12. Larry Fyffe says:

    The problem with Degraaf is that he takes the concept of Heaven as a literal place that exists and that Highlands is just a metaphor for that actual place; he twists and turns this way and that the lyrics of the song so he can reach the conclusion he has already come to in his mind regardless of what the lyrics are or what they may or may not mean.
    Heaven itself can be conceived as a metaphor for peace of mind, for instance. What Dylan means by Heaven he himself does not make clear.

  13. Mitchell braniff says:

    Just stumbled across this site whilst doing research for a 4000 word English literature dissertation. My hypothesis is “How Bob Dylan has changed the value of literature”, I have found this site incredibly helpful; depending on the result of the final grade, I would like to donate my written extended essay to your website.

  14. TonyAttwood says:

    It would be interesting to read it no matter what the grade Mitchell. If you feel like having it published here just send it as an attached file to Tony@schools.co.uk

  15. Have you spotted the forthcoming Bob Dylan biography by the acclaimed UK authority on popular music author and broadcaster Spencer Leigh? I am sure he would enjoy debating Bob Dylan lyrics!

  16. TonyAttwood says:

    No, but I’ll look into it.

  17. Mel Kinder says:

    Hey, Tony! Still celebrating my “Tom Thumb” discovery. I was musing over the’ Jealous Monk’ in “Desolation Row”. I always associated it to be Mendel, the father of genetics. To me this song is Dylan’s ‘sign-off’ from “political” and “social” comment.
    I was returning from Nepal in the late spring of ’64 with many of my Peace Corps friends, one of whom commented on the hawking of ‘Crucifixion Post Cards’ at the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. Brown Passports, at that time were used by diplomats avoiding customs. (there were many, many lynchings in the U.S.) Dylan was traveling in southern Europe in the Summer of “64 and ‘may have’ crossed the Med.
    ” Nero’s Neptune” is a Greek statue (it was owned by Nero) and was on display in the Vatican Pavillon at the New York’s World in 1964. I was at that Fair in Flushing Meadow and I bet Dylan visited it, too. To really “get” Desolation Row” you have to see this statue and its story. Oh, the last stanza is “GOD” telling Dylan not to write Him more “letters” (songs?) unless he sends them from Desolation Row…….

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