By David Andrews
Bob Dylan has never been afraid to venture into every aspect of life, and for this of course he can as easily be praised for his willingness to confront the total reality of the everyday experience, as much as he can be criticised for giving voice to aspects of life that some people really don’t like – or at least really don’t want to know very much about.
Thus arises the analyses of Bob’s music in ways that can suit all tastes – just pick out the bits you like and ignore the bits that don’t fit.
‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ takes us into a world in which a lady invites you up into her room. Many songwriters would skate over such situations, not because anything illegal is going on, but rather because the notion of an agency such as London Escorts isn’t mentioned very often in popular song.
Yet Bob from the very start turned the whole world of what we can and can’t say inside out. So we can now speak of “Sweet Melinda” and why not? Although it could be argued that by the time we get to “Key West” we really are going to places that no one else has ever been before in song.
Indeed trying to work out what Bob thinks is a good idea and what he doesn’t really can be incredibly difficult to work out.
For example, if you take the lines
Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers
what are we to make of that? Is Leviticus – the Book of Laws – really a book of laws, or is the law of the jungle something that can be followed? Or indeed are there really no rules at all except for your own rules? Be consistent to your own rules, and everything is fine… that sort of thing.
Indeed it is surely worth remembering that the Elvis song “One night with you” was originally called “One Night of Sin”.
What Bob has done has taken the fact that there really are no limits and offered the thought that everything is possible. Go where you like, do as you please.