Bob Dylan And The Guitar-Picking Carl Perkins

by Larry Fyffe

Though I no longer have any cents, here’s my two pennies’ worth for the river that whispers and complains, “I’ve hardly a penny to my name” (Tell Old Bill).

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan has always had a sense of humour – often black and bleak – that pokes fun at the optimism of the Romantic Transcendentalist poets of yore, like the semi-realist Walt Whitman.

Seems you can take the country boy out of the country, but not the country out of the country boy.

Or maybe you can – as expressed in the rockabilly song lyrics below:

You can take the boy out of the country
But you'll never take the country from me
I keep my feet in the sand
And give me wide open land
That's where I need to be
(Carl Perkins: You Can Take The Boy Out Of The Country)

Getting the little doggie along to the fast-moving city just might not be such a bad idea:

Oh baby, I'm sitting here wondering
Will a matchbox hold my clothes
I ain't got no matches
I got a long way to go
(Carl Perkins: Matchbox)

Below a Dylan version thereof (he also does a rendition with Johnny Cash):

Well I'm sitting here wondering
Will a matchbox hold my clothes
I ain't got so many matches
But I got so far to go
(Bob Dylan: Matchbox)

With similar hyperbolic imagery popping up in the following lyrics about a lady supposedly from the rural lowlands:

With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims
And your match-book songs, and your gypsy hymns
Who among them would try to impress you
(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

Along with the following Baroque poetic imagery:

You want spectacles: your eyes are dim
Turn inside out, and turn your eyes within
Your sins like motes in the sun do swim ....
(Edward Taylor: The Accusation Of The Inward Man)

In the lyrics below, Dylan does not throw Romantic Transcendental sentiment from the mix altogether:

If not for you
Baby, I'd lay awake all night
Wait for the morning light
To shine in through
But it would not be new
If not for you
(Bob Dylan: If Not For You)

Just maybe – or not – the country boy should have stayed down on the farm:

Well, I've been to  London, and I been to gay Paree
I followed the river, and got to the sea
I've been to the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain't looking for nothing in anyone's eyes
(Bob Dylan: Not Dark Yet)

The humour of it all is that both Perkins and Dylan borrow bits and pieces from the song lyrics quoted below:

How far to the river, walk down by the sea
I got those tadpoles and minnows all in over me ....
I sitting here wondering will a matchbox hold my clothes
I ain't got so many matches, but I got so far to go
(Blind Lemon Jefferson: Matchbox Blue)

12 years of Untold Dylan

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  1. With Harrison accompanying above, Dylan sings:

    If not for you
    The night would see me wide awake
    But the day would surely have to break
    But it would not be new
    If not for you

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