Mixing-Up The Fluids: Red Crimson And Yellow Dylan

By Larry Fyffe

The Sound School of Dylanology tends to wash away the historical meaning of words by focusing on the sound loosed by the alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme, and the beat and tempo of the music that accompanies them.

The School is hallmarked by its pointing out Dylan’s comments on the sound in his lyrics and music as if the singer/songwriter/musician intends that any inherent meaning of words doesn’t mount to a hill of beans.

Comparing Dylan’s “Gates Of Eden” and King Crimson’s “Court Of The Crimson King” clarifies matters somewhat. Crimson out-Dylan’s Dylan whose diction can be described as Baroque with extended and, at first glance, rather odd metaphors that are quite often black in tone.

The poetry of William Blake is brought to mind in many of the works of both artists.

Out-Dylaning Dylan however does not make the Crimson song senseless; words, regardless of what the writer’s or speaker’s intentions may be or not be, take on a life of their own. The brain of the reader or listener to the songs will more likely than not seek out a unity in the fragmented, seemingly sometimes meaningless, diction chosen by the artists.

You do not have to be a Structuralist to know which way the words are flowing.

Dylan’s lyrics can be considered Baroque while Crimson mixes Baroque-like music with the light-scattering and sensory images of the Rococo diction style:

The gardener plants an evergreen
While trampling on a flower
I chase the wind of a prism ship
To taste the sweet and sour
(King Crimson: The Court Of The Crimson King)

In his version of “Gates Of Eden”, DM Stith goes completely Baroque in both the way he emotes the words, and the music he chooses to accompany them, choices not necessarily pleasing to the ear of a  listener of modern-day pop music.

In King Crimson’s court, the “yellow jester” might even be a reference to a rival of the buzzing, purplish “Lord Of the Flies”.

With an acoustic guitar and harmonica, Bob Dylan introduces a mixture of folklore, folk songs, the blues, literary works, the Bible, and classical mythology into the popular music industry of the day.

In the ancient voices of the “humour”-pseudo- scientists of yore, yellow coloured bile be linked to the four supposed basic elements: earth, air (wind), fire, and water. As well as to summer, yellow bile is related to fire, and if there is too much of the fluid within the body, to anger:

The yellow jester does not play
But gentle pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king
(King Crimson: The Court Of The Crimson King)

Black bile is connected to earth, autumn, and sadness; crimson blood to air, spring, and optimism.

Words come laden with meaning from historical times  – rusty is a reddish-brown colour, crimson faded with the passing of time:

The rusted chains of prison moons

As shattered by the sun
I walk around, horizons change
The tournament's begun
(King Crimson: The Court Of King Crimson)

Earlier, so indicated in the following lines:

With a time-rusted compass blade, Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks, sidesaddle on the Golen Calf
And on their promises of paradise, you will not hear a laugh
(Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *