Stuck Inside Of Memphis With The Highland Blues Again

by Larry Fyffe

In his lyrics, singer/songwriter/musician oft expresses the trials and tribulations that a performer faces.

Once a work is waxed in the black plastic of a vinyl record (though more likely burned on a CD in these modern times), it’s fixed in concrete, so to speak.

Any message located therein, though open somewhat to interpretation, is canonized once set down permanently.

The artist gets labelled by listeners and by music critics as a folksinger, a bluesman, an electric rocknroller, a gospeller, whatever.

Allegorically speaking, it’s really just the sound that matters – the gliding arm of the record player considered figuratively broken should the artist change his style to the chagrin of any particular group of followers.

The second king in the humorous allegory below, with his broken arm, might well be considered a portrait of the “Sound School” of Dylanology (the “Autobiographical School” is another breed altogether) that considers lyrics to be secondary to any recorded production:

The first had a broken nose, the second, a broken arm, 
   the third was broke ....

(Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding ~ liner notes)

In the following song lyrics, the shiny Edenic ‘spirit’ of a live performance is considered diminished somewhat when entrapped in a vinyl recording:

With his candle lit into the sun, though it's glow
is waxed in black
(Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)

Frankly, according to the lyrics beneath, renewed inspiration is the key that’s needed to keep the record’s needle from getting stuck:

Goodbye Jimmy Reed, goodbye, good luck
I can't play the record 'cause my needle got stuck
(Bob Dylan: Goodbye Jimmy Reed)

The artist is likened in the song lyrics  below to a western cowboy who’s forced to balance himself in the saddle of the black plastic horse provided to him by recording marketeers:

Black rider,  black rider, tell me when, tell me how
If there ever was a time, let it be now
Let me go through, open the door
My soul is distressed, my mind is at war
Don't hug me, don't flatter me, don't turn on the charm
I'll take a sword, and hack off your arm
(Bob Dylan: Black Rider)

The following satirical song lyrics warn artists that they are at risk of having the recording industry pour them into a single mould:

Neither one gonna turn and run
They're making a voyage to the sun
"His Master's Voice is calling me"
Says Tweedle-Dum to Tweedle-Dee
(Bob Dylan: Tweedle-Dee And Tweedle-Dum)

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