by Paul Robert Thomas
Line 1; Sea breeze blowin’, there’s a hell-hound loose. If the Caribbean Wind symbolizes the breath of God then the sea breeze of this verse is different and denotes inner conflict within Dylan’s soul. This hell hound is a hound from hell, from the Devil or Satan, and conforms with the medieval Christian tradition of hell being, ‘The place of the Devil’, although traditional Hebraic belief has hell as being ‘the place of the dead’. Dylan’s line is drawn from Revelation 13:1; ‘And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea’. ‘By this ‘beast which rises up out of the sea’, almost all interpreters understand it as being Antichrist who comes out of the ‘sea of life’, that is in the midst of the human race which is agitated like a sea’(17).
A hound was/is of course traditionally used for tracking persons; Even the bloodhounds of London couldn’t find you today (Something’s Burning Baby from Empire Burlesque), and this same song mentions Mexico, the chorus of Caribbean Wind also mentions Mexico and has Dylan had good or bad experiences in Mexico? Certainly whilst staying in Durango for the filming of Pat Garratt & Billy The Kid it was reported that he had some major arguments with his wife Sara there and that she left him and returned home with the children because of this friction between them. In this line does Dylan feel the Devil starting to come after him again after these few years of Christian sin-free living? Does he begin to feel temptation and sin creeping through his walls? Yonder Comes Sin he was to write around the same time!
Line 2; Redeemed men who have escaped from the noose. (Redeemed is wrongly transcribed as Arabian in The Lyrics 1962-1985 book(6)). Redeem means ‘to save from damnation or from the consequences of sin’(10). Again this line is directly drawn from Scripture; ‘Christ has redeemed us for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree’ (Galatians 3:13). Wasn’t Dylan surely redeemed by finding Jesus? He told us quite vehemently that I’ve been saved (Saved).
Line 3; Preaching faith and salvation, waiting for the night to arrive. Does this refer to those false messiahs/false prophets, perhaps to the false doctrine of the Vineyard Fellowship, perhaps even to Dylan himself?
Is Dylan referring to his own preaching and sermonizing from the stage in 1979 and 1980? The night in Scripture, ‘is a time of ignorance and affliction’(2). Or perhaps he’s referring to those times, particularly in 1965 & 1966, when he was held by some to be some kind of Messiah? Is he saying that he was wrong in allowing himself to be played as a pawn? Did the night ever rise for him?
Certainly by the time of writing The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar; The curtain was rising on a New Age, and that New Age saw Dylan produce albums which were certainly less overtly Christian. Did he learn his lesson and stop preaching ‘The Word’? There is no doubt that Dylan does to this very day harbour Christian beliefs, (certainly, inasmuch as the message of the Book of the Revelation is concerned) and he continually performs ‘Christian’ songs in his setlists, although actually they are not so much ‘Christian’ songs as specific songs about his hero, Jesus Christ!
Line 4; He was well connected but her heart was a snare. Cause my line’s been connected and I can ring it again and again (Bob Dylan(17)). If the He is Jesus Christ, then of course He was well connected to God. Dylan also could be said to have been well connected, as perhaps the above song lines reveal he certainly felt he was, but who is the female whose heart was a snare? Is it the woman, or one of the women, who introduced him to The Way, to Jesus Christ? Maybe Helena Springs with whom it appears he had a falling out with in the winter of 1980?
The word heart in Scripture is used ‘as the seat of life or strength, hence it means mind, soul, spirit, or ones entire emotional nature and understanding. It is also used as the centre or inner party of a thing’(2), or is this she the same she as appears in Seven Days viz. the Christian Church, which refers to that Christian dogma (incorrectly) fed to Dylan by the Christian Vineyard Fellowship? The heart of Israel, the daughter of Zion, is Jerusalem. Is Dylan referring to his Jewish ex-wife, Sara, who he also apparently criticized in Precious Angel for; Telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed in the same breath. You never one time mentioned the Man who came and died a criminals death?
Line 5; And she had left him to die in there. Farida Mcfree describes the effect that the battle with Sara had on Dylan; “He was very down. Don’t forget, he was suffering when I met him. He was in a bad way. I brought him back to life. He was practically dead….this guy was shot emotionally….”(5) Dylan was certainly in an emotional crisis as a result of the divorce battle and with the battle(s) over the custody of the children. And it was Sara who had left Dylan and not the other way around!
Line 6; He was going down slow, just barely staying alive. I was going down for the last time, but by His mercy I’ve been saved (Saved). ‘Save me oh God, for the waters are come into my soul, I sink in deep mire, I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflowed me’ (Psalms 69:1 & 2). In Scripture, alive, also means being ‘spiritually alive’(2). Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole (The Wedding Song, Planet Waves). ‘Going down into the pit’ (Job 33:24). ‘Freed me from the pit, full of emptiness and wrath and the fire that burns in it. From the depths do I invoke them, O Eternal, Our Lord, Hearken to my cry’ (Psalms 1:30).
Line 1; The cry of the Peacock, flies buzz my head. A Peacock is also a synonym for a vain man, and flies are attracted to decaying flesh, perhaps to his decaying head, or brain?
A pelican is used as a symbol for the Messiah, as it pecks at its flesh to feed its young. Gonna build a bird’s nest in your hair (Dead Man, Dead Man. Shot of Love). Why use a bird symbol? In fact it is a sign of the coming of the Messiah. ‘The Jewish mystics talked of song. They talked of the Messiah’s home being ‘from that place called ‘The Bird’s Nest’ (this bird is the ‘Shekhinah’). ‘The time of His Coming would be the time of light shining from the west unto the east. The star would wage war against the children of darkness with the weapon of illumination’(19); Bird fly high by the light of the moon (Jokerman, Infidels). ‘When the Messiah weeps for the world, the Holy One, blessed be He, beckons to the Bird, which then enters its nest and comes to The Messiah, and flirts about, uttering strange cries.
Then from the Holy Throne, the Bird’s Nest and The Messiah are summoned three times, and both ascend into the heavenly places. And the Holy One, blessed be He, swears to them to destroy the wicked kingdom by the hand of The Messiah, to avenge Israel, and to give her all the good things which He has promised her. Then the bird returns to her place. The Messiah, however, is hidden again in the same place as before’(20). The following is an early example of Dylan’s understanding of Kabbalah as demonstrated in his use of the above references in Sign on the Cross; The bird is here and you might want to enter it, but, of course, the door might be closed.
Line 2; Ceiling fan broken, there’s heat in my bed. There is nothing to cool him from above, That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain, (Tombstone Blues, Highway 61 Revisited). Nothing to cool him down from the heat of the flames of the furnace of the coming fire; It won’t be water but by fire next time (God Knows, Under The Red Sky), and his dreams are of the fire of destruction of annihilation of Armageddon; The soles of my feet, I swear they’re burning (The Wicked Messenger, JWH). ‘If I make my bed in hell’ (Psalms 139:8).
Line 3; Street band playing ‘Nearer my God to thee’. One presumes that this band is playing outside of Dylan’s window, or his conscious mind. Could he also be vaguely referring to Bruce Springsteen’s band, The E Street Band? ‘Springsteen had delayed his first major European tour in Spring 1981 and ended up leaving England less than 3 weeks before the Dylan shows, thus making his much-hyped 1981 tour a fresh experience to contrast with Dylan’s considerably more demanding show; ‘No one else does this show, not Bruce Springsteen or anyone’ (Dylan, 1981(5)).
Two members of the E Street Band would appear later on Dylan’s album, Empire Burlesque. Springsteen was held by many to be ‘The New Dylan’ and Dylan makes his apparent contempt for Springsteen known during the introductory rap on the video Hard To Handle when he belches into the microphone after mentioning Springsteen’s name as being a possible hero for those in the audience, and then Dylan tells us that he doesn’t feel anything for none of those people and he informs us that his ‘hero is Jesus Christ who rose from the dead’, then Dylan’s band start the intro. to the song In the Garden, a song, incidentally, that Dylan still performs to this day in concert, perhaps as much to show man’s inability to realize and recognize those that are sent to us by God to help lead us to salvation?! The hymn Nearer my God to thee was recorded by Dylan in Nashville on 18/2/69(21) and is an Anglican hymn written by J.H. Dykes (1823-76):-
Nearer my God to thee Though, like a wanderer
Nearer to thee The Sun gone down
E’en though it be a cross Darkness be over me
that reuseth me My rest astone
Still my soul would sing Yet in my dreams I’d be
Nearer to thee. Nearer my God to thee
Let’s refer to one of his ‘Gospel’ raps from on stage at Akron, 18/5/80, where he seemingly alludes to this, or to a similar song; “Alright, we’ll do another song for you. I know a lot of Country and Western people do that. They sing very often, ‘You can put your shoes under my bed anytime’, and then they turn around and sing, ‘Oh Lord, just a Closer Walk With Thee’. Well, I can’t do that. That’s right, you cannot serve two masters. You gotta hate one and love the other one. You can not drink out of two cups”(9).
Line 4; We met at the station where the mission bells ring. Is he referring to Sara? I can still hear the sound of those Methodist bells (Sara, Desire), or are the mission bells a reference to the Christian Vineyard Fellowship where he perhaps met the protagonist of this song, the mysterious she, who told him about Jesus and led him to the Vineyard Fellowship? Did the Rose of Sharon, viz. the Jewish woman (perhaps Sara), have to meet him at his new place of worship to talk to him on his level? While the mission bells did toll (Frankie Lee and Judas Priest, JWH).
The last mention of station by Dylan is on his first Christian song, Seven Days, recorded in 1976; Seven days, seven days I’ll be waiting at the station for her to arrive, all I have to do is survive(22). Station also brings to mind the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem’s Via Delarosa (translated as The Way of the Cross), which supposedly mark the stops along the route that Jesus took whilst carrying his cross to the top of the hill to be crucified (earlier in the 31/3/81 version Dylan sings; Where the stop in the rain).
Lines 5 & 6; She said, “I know what you’re thinking, but there ain’t a thing you can do about it, so let us just agree to agree”. This appears to indicate a woman dictating terms to Dylan, and it could be Sara laying down her terms for the divorce settlement/custody settlement.
Sara had petitioned for divorce in L.A. on 1/3/77 through her lawyer, Marvin Mitchelson (who would later gain much notoriety for securing huge alimony settlements for the stars and/or their spouses and he would become known as the Father of Palimony), and eventually ‘She reached agreement with Bob on a huge settlement estimated at around $12 million’ (Bob retained their $3 million refurbished Malibu home in the divorce settlement which geologists then reported was slipping into the ocean).
‘The bitter custody battle was finally settled when the custody of the children was given to Sara in late December 1977’(5). And once Dylan had lost the court custody battle there really wasn’t much that he could do about it, perhaps for the sake of their children, they should not continue to fight, but just agree to agree. (In his 31/3/81 studio version of Caribbean Wind he sings, We might as well let it be, and during his 12/11/80 Fox Warfield live version he sang Dave Mason’s, We Just Disagree).
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