Bob Dylan: Neither Over The Hill Or Far Away

by Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan pays tribute to folk, country, gospel, and blues songs as well as nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and higher forms of literary output:

The party's over, there's less and less to say
I got new eyes, everything looks far away
Well, my heart's in the Highland at the break of day
Over the hills, and far away
(Bob Dylan: Highland)

Above, the singer/songwriter/musician references a nursery rhyme, a Scottish poet, and pays tribute to a satirical musical play from yesteryear; there’s the Dylanesque “rhyme twist” ~ ‘say’/’away’/’day’; ~ ‘play’/’stray’/ ‘away’/’day’:

And I would love you all the day
Every night would kiss and play
If with me you'd fondly stray
Over the hills, and far away
(John Gay: Over The Hills And Far Away/Beggar's Opera)

A long rendition of nursery rhyme ‘Tom The Piper’s Son’ goes thusly:

Tom with his pipe did play
"Over The Hill And Far Away"
Tom with his pipe made such a noise
That he pleased both the girls and boys
(Tom The Piper's Son ~ traditional)

Dylan does a well worn end-rhyme ~ ‘door’/’before’ ~ to express that life, especially as it moves along to its latter days, can feel at times rather monotonous:

Every day it's the same thing out the door
Feel further away than ever before
(Bob Dylan: Highland)

Saved Bobby be by his one true love – popular music accompanied by lyrics that refer, directly or obliquely, to ‘low’ and to ‘high’ works of art – including humourous and satirical ones like Gay’s “Beggar’s Opera” that’s cited above.

There’s another Tom, too; perhaps Freud’s great great grandfather  – Tom Thumb’s tiny, but he’s a little rascal; always poking his head into things, and getting himself into all kinds of trouble, like falling into pudding batter, getting cooked, and then saved because of a fart:

Let the wind blow low, let the wind blow high
One day the little boy and girl were baked in a pie
(Bob Dylan: Under Red Sky)

Troubles trouble Tom; Tom’s always getting into trouble:

They got some hungry women there
And they really make a mess outta you
(Bob Dylan: Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues)

John Gay’s work evoles into the “Ten Penny Opera”:

Look out, Miss Lotte Lenya, and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that's Macky's back in town
(Bobby Darin: Mack The Knife ~ Weill/Brecht/Blitzstein)


And Tom’s still operating too – under a different name:

Now, every boy and girl's gonna get their bang
'Cause Tiny Montgomery's gonna shake that thing
Tell everybody down in old 'Frisco
That Tiny Montgomery's coming down to say hello
(Bob Dylan: Tiny Montgomery)

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