Why “Murder Most Foul”? Teasing meanings from Dylan’s song

Here are the lyrics provided by Denise Konkal – a massive improvement on my stumbling approach earlier today. 

Below the lyrics we have a commentary on what it all means.
1:
It was a dark day in Dallas November 63
The day of haunted infamy
President Kennedy was riding high
Good day for living and a good day to die
Being led to to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said “wait a minute boys you know who I am?”
“Course we do we know who you are,”
Then they blew off his head why they were still in the car
2:
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight
Was a matter of time and the time it was right
You’ve got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect
We’re going to kill you with hatred without any respect
We’ll mock you and shun you and put it in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
3:
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching no one saw a thing
It happened so quick so quick by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed skillfully done
Wolf-man oh wolf-man oh wolf man howl
Rub a dub dub its a murder most foul
4:
Hush little children you’re gonna stand
The Beatles are coming they’re going to hold your hand
Slide down the Bannister go get your coat
Ferry cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums coming all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and order the flags
I’m going to Woodstock its the Aquarian age
Then I’ll go to ? and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window let to good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the grassy knoll
5:
Stack up the bricks pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you Mr President
Put your foot in the tank and let’s step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Black faced singer white faced smile
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down
6/7:
I bet the red light district make a cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on elm street
When your down on deep elm put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you
Cash on the barrel head , money to burn
? Plaza make a left hand turn
I’m going down to the crossroads gonna flag a ride
The place where faith hope and charity died
Shoot em while they runs boy shoot em while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye Charlie goodbye uncle Sam
?Frankly Miss Scarlet I don’t give a damn
What is the truth and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby they oughta know
Shut your mouth say the wise old owl
Business is business and its a murder most foul
…………………………………………………………………………..
8:
Tommy can you hear me I’m the answering queen
I’m riding in a long black Lincoln limousine
Riding in a back seat next to my wife
Heading straight on into the afterlife
i’m leaning to the left, got my head on her lap
Oh Lord I’ve been led into some kind of trap
We’re ask no quarter and no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more can they do, they piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searching for that
Freedom oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you mister but only dead men are free
Said ? tell me no lies
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up little Susie let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River and keep hope alive
Turn the radio on don’t touch the dial
(Hartland) hospital only six more miles
You got the dizzy Miss Lizzy you filled him with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from the front or behind
I’ve blood in my eye got blood in my ear
I’m never going to make it to the new frontier
9:
(Scarface?)film I’ve seen that before
Seen it 33 times, maybe more
It’s vile and deceitful, it cruel and its mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day they killed him, someone said to me son
The age of the Anti-Christ has just only begun
Airforce 1 coming in through the gate
Johnston is sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is was it is and its murder most foul.
10:
What’s new pussy cat what’d I say?
I say the soul of a nation has been torn away
And its beginning to go into a slow decay
And then its 36 hours passed judgement day
Wolfman Jack he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song Mr Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the good die young”
Take me to that place Tom Dooley was hung
Play St James Infirmary in the court of King James
If you want to remember you’d better write down the names
Play the ? too play the ?
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John lee Hooker, play Scratch my back
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Goodtime Slim ? Going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe
11:
Play it please “Don’t let me be misunderstood”
Play it for the first lady she ain’t feeling too good.
Play Don Henley Play ?
Take it to the limit and let it go wide
Play it for Carl Wilson too
Looking far far away down Garwin? Avenue
Play Tragedy play Twilight time
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and another one bites the dust
Play The Old rugged Cross and in God we trust
Ride the pink horse down that Long Lonesome Road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play Mystery Train for Mr Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the river Play it for the master
Play it for the dog that ain’t got no master
Play Oscar Peterson play Sam Gantz
Play Blue Skies play Diggy Vance
Play Art Pepper Thelonius Monk
Charlie Parker, and all that junk
All that junk and all that jazz
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton play Harry (Henry)?Lloyd
Play …… Seagull pay Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers play the odds
Play Cry me a river for the (Lawn or Lord?) of the Gods
Play number 9 play number 6
Play it for DMC and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole play Nature Boy
Play Down in the Boondocks for Terry Malloy
Play It happened one night and One night of sin
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play Merchants of Venice play Merchants of death
Play Stella by starlight for Lady McBeth
Don’t worry Mr President helps on the way
Your brothers are coming they’ll be hell to pay
Brothers what brothers? What’s this about hell
Tell them ……. and keep coming we’ll get them as well
Love field is where his plane has touched down
But it never get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow second to none
They killed him on the alter of the rising sun
Play “Misty” for me and that old that old ,,,,, (devil?) moon
Play Anything Goes and Memphis June
Play Lonely at the top and “Lonely are the brave”
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton play Lucille
Play Deep in a dream and ……… rhyming wheel(song ref)
Play Moonlight Sonata in F sharp
And the keys to the highway for the king of the harp
Play Marching through Georgia and ….. … strut
Play Darkness and Death will come where it comes
Play Love me or Leave Me by the great (composer)
Play the Blood Stained Banner play Murder most Foul

So to the meanings (this part of the article contributed by Tony)

The title is a quotation from Hamlet (I.v.27-28), where the Ghost talks about his own death:

Murder most foul as in the best it is
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

And if you want to search for a more obscure source of the quote, there is a fairly well-known movie of the name, a “Miss Marple” film made by MGM based on Agatha Christie’s novel “Mrs McGrinty’s Dead”.  It had quite a cast: Margaret Rutherford, Charles Tingwell, Terry Scott, Windsor Davies… UK readers will know these names.

The song seems to be going its own way until we get to “Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul,” which immediately sends me off in a different direction of looking for connections through the references – for this is a song stuffed full of references.

I don’t know about Rub-a-dub-dub in the USA, but in England most people will know this as a children’s rhyme.  In fact it dates back to the 14th century and runs

“Rub a dub dub three maids in a tub”

and is an admonition of the fairground attraction in which supposedly respectable men ogled naked ladies.  By the 18th century the sexual content was removed by making them “three men in a tub”, and it was the men in the tub who were the butcher etc rather than the butcher and friends looking at the naked women.

Hey! rub-a-dub, ho! rub-a-dub, three maids in a tub,
And who do you think were there?
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,
And all of them gone to the fair.

although at the time of the rhyme’s popularity many would still have understood that the working men of the village would have gone to see the naked ladies.

Dylan seems to be referencing the link to childhood by continuing with the reference to “little children”, but which then mutates through recent musical history into a more contemporary version of “rub a dub dub” with reference to Woodstock etc.

The contrast is then complete, “There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll,” and then “nightmare on Elm Street” – the children’s poem has mutated into a horror movie, and the mutations continue for next we are in Deep Ellum, the arts quarter of Dallas, wherein we find, “Elm Street” with of course its film connotations.

What Bob is doing, or so it seems to me on the first day of thinking about the song, is jumping through cultural references that part-connect to each other.  So we get “Don’t ask what your country can do for you” a re-write of “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You” from J F Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961 coming into his mind.

“Cash on the ballot” is possibly a reference to “Care not cash” an attempt to solve the homelessness problem in San Fransisco, but then we are back to Dealey Plaza where the President was shot, “The place where faith, hope, and charity died,” – a counter line to “the day the music died” relating to the deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens.

And then we jump again, “Frankly, my Scarlett, I don’t give a damn,” being Gable’s last words to Leigh (played by Scarlett O’Hara) reply to the question, “Where shall I go? What shall I do?”

Then back to the President with

What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby; they oughta know

Jack Leon Ruby was the Dallas nightclub owner who shot . He fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24.

Then we jump again, this time to the Who, with their most famous album

Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen

At this point, with the stanza that starts,

I’m riding in a long, black limousine
Riding in the backseat next to my wife

… I’m unsure and have several scenarios swirling around (including “Things have changed” until suddenly we are back to references with the Everly Brothers…

Wake up, little Suzie; let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River; let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on; don’t touch the dials
Parkland hospital, only six more miles

Suzie was the character created in the Everly Brothers song, Parkland Memorial Hospital was where the dying Kennedy was taken. Then we are back to Little Richard with “You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy” (not an exact quote I think).

Then there is Patsy Cline who died in a plane crash aged just 30, and the Zapruder film, the home movie by Abraham Zapruder of Kennedy’s motorcade passing by, which filmed the President’s assassination.

And then Dylan references a song he’s sung…

I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier

And the references go on and on.   “What’s new, pussycat?” (Tom Jones) and “What’d I say?” (Ray Charles)…   Wolfman Jack appears and then Billy Joel’s  “Only the Good Die Young.”

Tom Dooley was hung for the 1866 murder of Laura Foste (remembered in the song “Hang down your head Tom Dooley”), and no one is quite sure who wrote the utterly famous “St. James Infirmary”  but the reference to the Port of King James has me for a moment.

After this, it gets more obvious, but in essence, what we have is Dylan moving from the thoughts of the assassination across to the thoughts of the music that means so much to him.   It is a set of memory connections starting with the killing and moving on to all the songs that Dylan loves and that bring him comfort.  Songs to take his mind away from the downward spiral of mankind.

Indeed towards the end it is more and more the names of people and songs.  Unless it turned up in a film I don’t know that there is a specific “man with the telepathic mind” – but clearly we are swimming in the world of sounds and images.

Maybe Dylan has a jukebox at home and does sometimes shout out “Play Number 9, play Number 6“, but mostly he is telling us who he wants to remember – all the people whose music, lyrics and films have meant something to his life, to contrast with the awfulness of Kennedy being shot.

And so we end with play “The Blood-stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul!”

The Blood stained banner was the third national flag of the Confederate States of America and was adopted March 4, 1865 containing “as little as possible of the Yankee blue”, and then the song title “Murder Most Foul.”

And there we are.

If I have missed some obviously important references points or failed to make connections, sincere apologies.  I heard the song for the first time about six hours ago, and spent much of the time trying to get the words sorted before Denise came along and sorted out my mess, and then wrote this immediately.

The point of doing this is hopefully to start unravelling the ideas and suggestions and hints contained through all these references.  It can of course be seen as just the thoughts that flow through Bob’s mind as he thinks again of the death of the president.  It might be something more as it leads in its final part back to the flag of the Confederacy.

Of course I have missed a lot – my knowledge is far from complete, I was working against the clock, and above all, I am an Englishman, not an American.

But I hope something in here helps you get a firmer grasp on Dylan’s song.

What else is on the site?

We have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 3400 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

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

The index to all the 597 [the song above makes it 598] Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, or indeed have an idea for a series of articles that the regular writers might want to have a go at, please do drop a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article to Tony@schools.co.uk

And please do note our friends at  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, plus links back to our reviews (which we do appreciate).

 

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29 Responses to Why “Murder Most Foul”? Teasing meanings from Dylan’s song

  1. Rupert Cocking says:

    I’m going to Woodstock its the Aquarian age
    Then I’ll go to ALTAMONT and sit near the stage

  2. Joost Nillissen says:

    Amazing work, Tony.
    I believe it is “Cash on the barrelhead” a song by the Louvain brothers.

    And then there is a lovely review in The Guardian by Alexis Petridis who explains where the line with “Gower Avenue” comes from.
    It would seem the song was written in 2012 or thereabouts and that would explain the “last fifty years searching for that”(his soul).

    Mr Dylan has eased my lock up.

  3. Denise Konkal says:

    Dear Tony,

    I am astounded by how quickly and how thoroughly you have reviewed this song! To my mind I think you brought out every one of the most important things! Amazing work Tony! There is really no way to comprehensively cover everything and most especially now. In fact, I think more things will come to light in years to come. Also there will be some straggling references and more obscure nuances that can wait till later with a revisit or perhaps a Part 2 after the dust settles and the smoke clears!

    This after all is a complete surprise which I am sure Bob feels quite happy about! I mean it was an explosion that is still reverberating and has generated quite a noticeable buzz. I can’t count how many times I find myself holding my breath and staring pensively at well, nothing because it has brought me inside myself to process! The way Bob has transported everyone back in time that lived through those days even as very young children. It takes you back to the impact of the shock and total riveting horror that was unbearable for so many for so long! It has no doubt, lessened overtime but this takes you right back to it all and even to the accounts you were told by your elders. It is presented to the audience like an old radio show before the advent of television and internet. This history has kept alive so much mystery surrounding it. It has been extensively covered by books and film such as the movie JFK.
    But none of these have captured the moment by moment terror like this song has and in such a compact manner which makes it far more accessible. It is has been brought to latter generations making highly contemporary.

    I do not doubt that Bob has been ruminating about this for decades and perhaps even penning some of it over time. To me this is a masterpiece and who better than Dylan to do it!

    Thank you for your lightening yet amazingly thorough treatment of this meteorite of literature that hit the globe only hours ago!

    <3 denise

  4. Larry Shapiro says:

    This great. Thanks.

    “? Plaza” in 6/7 is Dealey Plaza, the location in Dallas where President Kennedy was shot.

  5. Larry fyffe says:

    FDR made the famous quote “A date that will live in infamy” refearing to the attack on Pearl Harbor –

    “A day that will live on in history” (Murder Most Foul)

    “Then I’ll go to Altamont (California ) ..,” refers to the infamous Rolling Stone concert

  6. Larry fyffe says:

    Rather, “A day that will line on in infamy”(Murder Most Foul)

  7. Larry fyffe says:

    *live on

  8. Larry fyffe says:

    “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” (Gone With The Wind)

  9. Larry Fyffe says:

    (referring to – that should be )

    I hear ” lept to the slaughter”, “the timing was right”, and ” behind the blessed knoll”

    Brave be those who warriored onward into other verses- ‘a good day to die” is a native American expression

  10. Larry fyffe says:

    “and shock you”

  11. Larry fyffe says:

    “Hush little children, you’ll understand”

  12. nissi says:

    I sent the completed lyrics

  13. daver says:

    Play Don Henley Play ?

    ? = “Glenn Frey”…?

  14. Larry fyffe says:

    Yes, these two Eagles among many other musicians are mentioned

  15. Ted Feigenbaum says:

    Elm Street is the main road that leads to Dealy Plaza in addition to the movie title

    Parkland hospital

    Zapruder film captured the moment of assasination

  16. Steve Taylor says:

    I feel the structure of the song is along the lines of Ginsberg’s “Howl”. Dylan starts almost every line in the second half wit the word “play”. Ginsberg did the same in Howl with the word “Molloch”. We know that Ginsberg and Dylan were great friends. Their filmed visit to the grave of Kerouac during the Rolling Thunder tour is particularly memorable. Perhaps this is Dylan tipping his cap to Ginsberg?

  17. Steve Taylor says:

    Update to my previous post. I should have said that throughout Howl Ginsberg starts each line with the same word. “Who” in Part 1, “Moloch” in Part 2 “I’m” in Part 3 and “Holy” in the footnote. Dylan does the same with the word “Play”. I was a bit too quick to post the first note and should have made my point clearer. Apologies!

  18. jastour 2010 says:

    Thank you Denise and Tony! Thank very much for lyrics and meanings!!!

  19. The song is “Old Devil Moon” from the show Finian’s Rainbow. The line from the song is, “It’s that old devil moon in your eyes…”

  20. Larry fyffe says:

    Anaphora is a literary technique favoured by William Blake.

  21. Nicolas Garcia says:

    Rub-a-dub-dub … It’s the famous lullaby for children . Dylan put here for JFK’s children but really he learned from his own son Pablo Dylan , but when he was 12-14 about cause he played a lot Eminem ” Mockinbird” that includes this old song lullaby . Pablo was an Eminem big fan .

  22. Nicolas Garcia Gonzalez says:

    I have searching all about (songs , quotes , places , films , characters) and posted on a playlist on YouTube with my own name and Dylan’s title song . I’ve founded a lot info , but I need some help to ending … I cannot sleep about that . E.G. Who is ”the man with the telephatic mind” (where Etta James I’d Rather go Blind) Maybe Chess from Chess Records (Cadillac Records film , Beyoncé versión)??? or another character ?? Who or what is the Lord of the Gods ? A film?? …

  23. Tom Parker says:

    Bob Dylan often structures his songs fairly regularly, though not always keeping to a strict following of the structure. Since this takes off from Shakespeare, I re-cast each stanza in a sonnet structure, with three 4-line stanzas and a closing couplet (14 lines in each stanza).

    It seemed to work, but this idea comes up 4 lines short at the end. Maybe that’s okay as he brings the song to an end, or maybe it’s back to the drawing board, but the song is rhymed carefully, so it stands to reason it also has a regular organizing structure throughout. I find that recognizing the structure in a long poem or song can help clarify why certain things go together in a unit, and how associations gather throughout the song.

  24. Sue Smith says:

    Below is a link to Dylan’s performance (vocals only, plus lyrics) of “Murder Most Foul” (Official Video) on YouTube.
    https://youtu.be/3NbQkyvbw18

  25. Denise Konkal says:

    Bob Dylan
    Pinned by BobDylanVEVO
    Bob Dylan
    1 week ago
    Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you. – Bob Dylan

    18K

    nissi k
    nissi k
    1 week ago (edited)
    Lyrics to Murder Most Foul by Bob Dylan

    Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
    A day that will live on in infamy
    President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
    Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
    Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
    He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?”
    “Of course we do. We know who you are.”
    Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
    Shot down like a dog in broad daylight
    Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
    You got unpaid debts; we’ve come to collect
    We’re gonna kill you with hatred; without any respect
    We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face
    We’ve already got someone here to take your place

    The day they blew out the brains of the king
    Thousands were watching; no one saw a thing
    It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
    Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
    Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
    Perfectly executed, skillfully done
    Wolfman, oh wolfman, oh wolfman howl
    Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul

    Hush, little children. You’ll understand
    The Beatles are comin’; they’re gonna hold your hand
    Slide down the banister, go get your coat
    Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
    There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
    Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
    I’m going to Woodstock; it’s the Aquarian Age
    Then I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage
    Put your head out the window; let the good times roll
    There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll

    Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
    Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President
    Put your foot in the tank and step on the gas
    Try to make it to the triple underpass
    Blackface singer, whiteface clown
    Better not show your faces after the sun goes down
    Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
    Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
    When you’re down in Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
    Don’t ask what your country can do for you
    Cash on the barrel head, money to burn
    Dealey Plaza, make left-hand turn

    I’m going down to the crossroads; gonna flag a ride
    The place where faith, hope, and charity died
    Shoot him while he runs, boy. Shoot him while you can
    See if you can shoot the invisible man
    Goodbye, Charlie. Goodbye, Uncle Sam
    Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
    What is the truth, and where did it go?
    Ask Oswald and Ruby; they oughta know
    “Shut your mouth,” said the wise old owl
    Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul

    Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen
    I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
    Riding in the backseat next to my wife
    Heading straight on in to the afterlife
    I’m leaning to the left; got my head in her lap
    Oh Lord, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
    Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
    We’re right down the street from the street where you live
    They mutilated his body, and they took out his brain
    What more could they do? They piled on the pain
    But his soul’s not there where it was supposed to be at
    For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that

    Freedom, oh freedom. Freedom over me
    I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
    Send me some lovin’; tell me no lies
    Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
    Wake up, little Susie; let’s go for a drive
    Cross the Trinity River; let’s keep hope alive
    Turn the radio on; don’t touch the dials
    Parkland hospital, only six more miles
    You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy. You filled me with lead
    That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
    I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
    Never shot anyone from in front or behind
    I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
    I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier

    Zapruder’s film I seen night before
    Seen it 33 times, maybe more
    It’s vile and deceitful. It’s cruel and it’s mean
    Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
    They killed him once and they killed him twice
    Killed him like a human sacrifice

    The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
    The age of the Antichrist has only begun.”
    Air Force One coming in through the gate
    Johnson sworn in at 2:38
    Let me know when you decide to thrown in the towel
    It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul
    What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
    I said the soul of a nation been torn away
    And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
    And that it’s 36 hours past Judgment Day

    Wolfman Jack, speaking in tongues
    He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
    Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
    Play it for me in my long Cadillac
    Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
    Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
    Play St. James Infirmary and the Court of King James
    If you want to remember, you better write down the names
    Play Etta James, too. Play “I’d Rather Go Blind”
    Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
    Play John Lee Hooker. Play “Scratch My Back.”
    Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
    Guitar Slim going down slow
    Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

    Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
    Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good
    Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
    Take it to the limit and let it go by
    Play it for Carl Wilson, too
    Looking far, far away at Down Gallow Avenue
    Play tragedy, play “Twilight Time”
    Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
    Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust”
    Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust”
    Ride the pink horse down the long, lonesome road
    Stand there and wait for his head to explode
    Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
    The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
    Play it for the Reverend; play it for the Pastor
    Play it for the dog that got no master
    Play Oscar Peterson. Play Stan Getz
    Play “Blue Sky”; play Dickey Betts
    Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
    Charlie Parker and all that junk
    All that junk and “All That Jazz”
    Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
    Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
    Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
    Play the numbers, play the odds
    Play “Cry Me A River” for the Lord of the gods
    Play Number 9, play Number 6
    Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
    Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy”
    Play “Down In The Boondocks” for Terry Malloy
    Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin”
    There’s 12 Million souls that are listening in
    Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death”
    Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth

    Don’t worry, Mr. President. Help’s on the way
    Your brothers are coming; there’ll be hell to pay
    Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
    Tell them, “We’re waiting. Keep coming.” We’ll get them as well

    Love Field is where his plane touched down
    But it never did get back up off the ground
    Was a hard act to follow, second to none
    They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
    Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon”
    Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June”
    Play “Lonely At the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave”
    Play it for Houdini spinning around his grave
    Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille”
    Play “Deep In a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel”
    Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp
    And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp
    Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums”
    Play darkness and death will come when it comes
    Play “Love Me Or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell
    Play “The Blood-stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul

  26. James Carter says:

    What a great song and what a great timing!

    Q will love it1

    Thank you Bob, you are a real hero.

    xxx

    James Carter@for_occupy
    #TheGreatAwakening #WWG1WGA

  27. David Thomson says:

    9 (Scarface?) I thought it was Zapruder, a reference to the infamous home movie, shot by Abraham Zapruder, who was a witness to the assasination.

  28. Steve McGlamery says:

    References “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead” from Hurricane.

  29. Mike Sloane says:

    “Nightmare on Elm Street” is a play both on the horror movie and the address of the Texas School Book Depository, at 411 Elm Street, from where Oswald allegedly shot the president.

    Trinity River would have been crossed over by Kennedy’s black Cadillac on the route to Parkland Hospital.

    I think the reference to “Patsy like Patsy Cline” is Dylan switching persona to Lee Harvey Oswald, as he jumps from the personae of the dying Kennedy en route to the hospital, the conspirators who may have arranged his death, attendants at the hospital, and others throughout the ballad.

    “The Blood Stained Banner” is a nickname for the Confederate battle flag, but is also a Christian spiritual hymn, composed by the Irish immigrant John R. Clements and published originally in 1916 which was popular in African-American churches, urging courage and steadfastness in the face of hardship: “We are soldiers in the army / We have to fight although we have to cry / We’ve got to hold up the blood-stained banner / We’ve got to hold it up until we die!” The “blood-stained banner” in the song is that of Jesus’, soaked with His blood from His execution. Dylan may have made this an intentional double-meaning, as he references at several points the conspiracy theory popular among many conspiracists that JFK was murdered in a plot concocted by southern Democrats and industrialists who wanted to install LBJ as the president – known as, I think, the Yankee-Dixie War Theory in conspiracy circles.

    Oswald and Jack Ruby are indicated to be part of this shadowy conspiracy:

    “What is the truth, and where did it go?
    Ask Oswald and Ruby; they oughta know
    “Shut your mouth,” said the wise old owl
    Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul”

    It’s suggested that it might be safer to remain silent about the conspiracy, at least from the persona of the conspirators, and Dylan references another old English nursery rhyme:

    “A wise old owl lived in an oak
    The more he saw the less he spoke
    The less he spoke the more he heard.
    Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”

    “Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
    The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree”

    The song Mystery Train was originally performed by Junior Parker, of course, but was a big hit for Elvis Presley, who might be Mr. Mystery. Some have said Presley adopted the style of black music without the soul, and became increasingly commercialized into the glitzy Las Vegas performer of his late years – perhaps Presley is the rootless tree who dropped dead too young.

    “The man with the telepathic mind” may be a reference to Criswell, the stage prophet and supposed psychic who purportedly predicted Kennedy’s death by saying he would not run for re-election “because something would happen to him in November 1963.” Dylan has referenced Criswell in the past on his radio show and is aware who he is. (Criswell, BTW, was also a friend of Ed Wood of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and appeared in that film as narrator.)

    Murder Most Foul is also the title of a 1967 JFK conspiracy book by Stanley Marks, which also contains the phrase “shot down like a dog”.

    Good post, Tony

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