The artwork on Bob Dylan’s Infidels; what’s in a name?

This article is part of a series “Album Artwork”

Articles published so far in this series written by Patrick Roefflaer can be found at the end of the article.

Here we deal with the art work of Infidels


  • Released                                October 27,1983
  • Photographer                       Sara Dylan
  • Drawing                                Bob Dylan
  • Art-director                          Lane/Donald


About five months after the release of Infidels, Bob gives an interview to Rolling Stone. Kurt Lodger closes the conversation with a question about the cover: “I think a lot of people take you for a pretty gloomy character these days, just judging by your photos. Why reinforce that image by calling this latest album Infidels?”

The answer is very Dylanesk: “Well, there were other titles for it. I wanted to call it Surviving in a Ruthless World. But someone pointed out to me that the last bunch of albums I’d made all started with the letter s. So I said, “Well, I don’t wanna get bogged down in the letters.” And then Infidels came into my head one day. I don’t know what it means, or anything.

Lodger insists: “Don’t you think when people see that title, with that sort of dour picture on the front, they’ll wonder, “Does he mean us?”

“I don’t know. I could’ve called the album Animals, and people would’ve said the same thing. I mean, what would be a term that people would like to hear about themselves? […] I mean, I don’t know any more about it than anybody else really. I did it. I did the album, and I call it that, but what it means is for other people to interpret, you know, if it means something to them. Infidels is a word that’s in the dictionary and whoever it applies to… to everybody on the album, every character. Maybe it’s all about infidels.”

Tony Lane and Nancy Donald, who took care of the design of the cover, further reinforced the gloomy feeling by writing the name of the singer in large black letters, finished with a red shadow line at the bottom. The only decoration on the entire design is a thin grey (!) border.

The photo itself is a close up of Dylan’s head. He does not pose, but looks straight ahead. In his dark sunglasses we see the reflection of the white centre line on the black asphalt. It looks like the work of a paparazzi, who photographed a famous person, waiting in a stationary car.

There is no photographer mentioned on the cover, but Rod MacBeath suspects it is Sara Dylan who pressed the button. She also took the photo that adorns the inner cover. There Dylan is pictured, squatting on the Mount Olive, with Jerusalem in the background.

The reason for their presence there, is explained by Dylan to Mick Brown, during an interviews him for the Sunday Times: Dylan and his ex-wife went to Israel in September 1983 for the bar mitzvah of their eldest son, Jesse. “An idea from his     grandmother,” he added with a smile.

According to Jewish tradition, this transitional ritual should have taken place shortly after the boy’s thirteenth birthday on January 6, 1979, but then Dad was too busy with an intensive three-month Bible study course at the School of Discipleship.

On the back of the cover is a self-made drawing of a man kissing a woman.

When Bob Coburn (on June 17, 1985 during a radio interview for Rockline KLOS-FM Los Angeles) asks him who is presenting the couple, Dylan answers vaguely: “‘Hmm, well, the woman is someone I knew. [Laughs] The man I think I was wishing to be me, I guess.”

Some say the drawing was originally planned for the front of the sleeve.


Other articles in this series

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You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

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  1. The picture on Infidels is not taken from the Mount of Olives , but rather from the south on a slope of a hill in Abu Tor , a Jerusalem neighborhood…

  2. Isn’t the name of the interviewer from Rolling Stone magazine Kurt Loder and not
    Kurt Lodger ?

  3. Yes I think you are right Martin. I should have picked that up in proofing the article, but I tend to get so interested in what is written, I sometimes miss such things. Thanks for pointing it out.

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