Bob Dylan And The Tombstone Blues (Part III)

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By Larry Fyffe

The Untold Office received a call back from Bob Dylan in which he apologizes for not telling the whole truth about his time-travel journey back to the Titantic right before the steamer slams into the iceberg. “Scotty never beamed me up”, he says.

“I didn’t want anyone to know that I had violated ‘the Prime Directive’ not to interfere in past history when coming from future times”, he explains. And the songster adds that what really went down is encoded in the lyrics of “Romance In Durango”:

Sold my guitar to the baker's son
For a few crumbs of bread, and a place to hide
But I can get another one
And I'll play for Magdalena as we ride

(Bob Dylan: Romance In Durango ~ Dylan/Levy)

Tells ‘Untold’ that Luigi Gatti is the manager of a high class restaurant on the Titanic, and that the restaurateur wants to buy a gift for his son Victor back in England, and so the singer/songwriter sells ‘the baker’ his guitar. Says Dylan, “He hides me on a lifeboat in which, purely by coincidence, ‘Jack’ Astor is able to get his pregnant wife Madeleine a seat before the New York businessman drowns in the deep dark ocean”.

Anyway, Luigi doesn’t make it either; ends up buried in Halifax. To make a long story short,  the rescue ship ‘Carpathia’ picks up Dylan and Madeleine, and drops them off in New York, and they eventually wind their way to Durango, Colorado.

Turns out that ‘Jack’ Astor and Madeleine Force hightail it to Egypt after the wealthy businessman divorces his wife, and marries Miss Force who’s 29 years younger than he is. They are returning to New York City aboard the Titanic when the disaster happens to her husband Astor, from which she escapes.

Apparently, the singer/songwriter calls her ‘Mary’, and she moans “Oh, Jesus” a lot. Madeleine tells everyone she wants to be alone, gets “Jakey” looked after in New York once he’s born, and no one is  the wiser. Widow Madeleine will lose her money from her drowned husband if she remarries. Time-traveller Dylan just shrugs it off, and muses that he can’t help it if he’s lucky.

Meanwhile, of course, the time-line of the unfolding Universe has been broken all to threads. Things start to go terribly wrong for our wandering troubadour. It turns out that Ramona with the ‘cracked country lips’ is a man, and the singer shoots the ‘floater’ down like a dog:

Then I see the bloody face of Ramon
Was it me that shot him down in the cantina
Was it my hand that held the gun?
Come let us fly, my Magdalena
The dogs are barking, and what's done is done

(Bob Dylan: Romance In Durango ~ Dylan/Levy)

Suddenly, the ‘future’ doesn’t look so bright for Bob:

Was that the thunder that I heard?
My head's vibrating, and I feel a sharp pain
Come sit by me, don't say a word
Oh, can it be that I am slain?

(Bob Dylan: Romance In Durango ~ Dylan/Levy)

In another song our roving gambler encodes the message that he deals the “Zeus card” from the bottom of the deck, and saves himself from certain death:

Just then a bolt of lightning
Struck the courthouse out of shape
And while everybody knelt to pray
The drifter did escape
(Bob Dylan: Drifter's Escape)

In any event, the Captain of the Titanic gets most of the blame for the seafaring disaster:

Captain Smith must have been drinking
Not knowing that he done wrong
By trying to win the record
He let the Titanic go on
The band was loud a-playing
It playing far out on the sea
They spied the Titanic was sinking
Played 'Nearer My God To Thee'

(Carter Family: Titanic ~ Maybelle/Sara/A.P. Carter)

But I can’t think for you, you have to decide: should Bob Dylan, when he was aboard the Titanic, have gotten Zeus on the passengers’ side?

And saved everybody on the ship before it went down.

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  1. Apparently, the Titanic’s hull was damaged and a quanity it’s coal on fire before it even left port.

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